Pure Technologies Solves Large Infrastructure Issues

Mark Holley

Mark Holley, President of Pure Technologies, talks about the focus and investment needed to overcome the infrastructure crisis in the U.S., and how his company guides utilities to cost-effective solutions. 

Todd Schnick: We’re coming to you live from Dallas, Texas. This is day three of AWWA ACE 2012 and Water Online Radio. I’m your host, Todd Schnick, joined by my colleague, Todd Youngblood. Todd, we’re off and running. Day three is rocking and rolling already.

Todd Youngblood: Here we go.

Todd Schnick: Here we go.

Todd Youngblood: I mean, I feel like we had no break from yesterday at all. Just a smooth transition right into it. And the guests are even better today. How hard to believe.

Todd Schnick: I got to tell you, I agree with that. Let’s get with our next guest. I want to welcome Mark Holley, who is the President of Pure Technologies US. Welcome to the show, Mark.

Mark: Thanks guys, appreciate being here.

Todd Schnick: Oh, it’s great to have you. Before we get into it, Mark, do take a second and tell us a little bit about you and your background.

Mark: I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years, originally on the corrosion engineering side of the shop, looking at extending the remaining useful life of pipelines for over 20 years. And I guess the last 15, joined Pure Technologies and operating their division here in the Americas, and focused on condition assessment and rehabilitation of large-diameter pipelines.

Todd Schnick: Well, go into more depth with Pure.

Mark: Sure.

Todd Schnick: Tell us more about what you guys are out there doing for your market.

Mark: We’re actually trying to extend a utility’s capital budget by using targeted condition assessment tools and engineering solutions to better assess and address their varied infrastructure. And, of course, you’ve all heard the infrastructure crisis in the U.S., so we’re trying to address it the best way we can with cost-effective solutions.

Todd Schnick: You understand that we live in Atlanta, so we are well aware.

Mark: We were down there last week.

Todd Youngblood: Well, on this aging infrastructure issue, I mean easily three quarters of our guests are bringing that thing up. If I saw the numbers correctly, I think our host for the show here, AWWA, is talking in terms of a trillion-dollar expense that we’re looking into. Is that a market opportunity for you? Does it scare you? How is Pure positioned to deal with that?

Mark: Well, it’s a very exciting prospect for us. It’s essentially right in our sweet spot. Obviously, we can’t continue to throw the baby out with the bathwater. These pipelines need to be extended. It’s too expensive to consider replacing everything. So what we’re trying to do is target state-of-the-art technology solutions to better address what needs to be repaired and when.

And we’ve been quite successful in doing it, and essentially it translates into millions of dollars of savings from the capital program of these utilities.

Todd Schnick: Mark, there’s a lot of organizations out there that are offering services in leak detection and manned inspection. How’s Pure different?

Mark: So our focus has been on the higher consequence pipelines. Those large diameter pipelines, both on the water and wastewater side of the shop. And unlike traditional  leak detection, where it’s been well established for the small diameter—six, eight-inch diameter pipes—we’re developing solutions for the larger diameter pipes, which haven’t readily been available to the utilities, but are now certainly taking form.

Todd Schnick: One of the things that I’ve observed—and you're closer to the industry than I am—but I see a lot of reactive stances from a lot of water utilities. And everybody knows you’ve got to move to a more proactive stance. What kind of things is Pure doing to help utilities get into more of a proactive mode?

Mark: We’ve moved away from being strictly a technology vendor, if you will, providing technologies that give us indications of the condition of the pipe, into more of a solution-based company. And we’ve really expanded our engineering services capability, so we can actually walk a utility through not only the condition side, but the prioritization.

Helping them identify what pipes need to be looked at first, developing unique strategies specific to their needs, and bringing these technologies to bear.

Todd Youngblood: Are you seeing utilities move to a more proactive stance?

Mark: No question about it. At 10, 12 years ago when I was out there, it was a lot of missionary work. We were kind of preaching the gospel according to condition assessment. But in the last 10 years, I’ve seen utilities adopt proactive asset management strategies through implementing condition assessment programs.

Even the utilities have gone as far as to set up infrastructure or engineering groups within the utility to focus specifically on these needs.

Todd Schnick: One thing I always observe when an organization starts getting more proactive, particularly when there’s a lot of capital investment required, that the short-term costs—

Mark: Right.  Right.

Todd Schnick: Capital investments primarily, skyrocket. They go way up. That’s a heck of an issue if I’m a municipality. And now I become proactive, which is a good thing. But the impact on my balance sheet is really negative.

Mark: Yeah.

Todd Schnick: How are you helping your customers deal with that?

Mark: We take a long approach to the issue. Obviously, there are some upfront costs in implementing these proactive condition assessment programs. But we’ve been focused on a lot of the return-on-investment calculations. And it’s clear, based on our work and others’, that for three to five percent of the capital, you can actually extend the useful life of your pipe.

Therefore, the utility keeps the monies in-house to do other things, while managing and reducing the risk of failures of their pipelines.

Todd Schnick: Let’s shift our focus a bit, a little bit more global, go up to 10,000 feet, look down on the water industry.

Mark: Sure.

Todd Schnick: What trends are you seeing coming down the pike, the next three to five years?

Mark: I think, internationally, we do have subsidiary offices in Australia, Libya, Europe, and Asia. So we do get a sense of what’s happening in other parts of the world. I would say the U.S. or the Americas here are kind of focused on condition assessment. Now, they're a little bit ahead of the curve, compared to other international countries.

But non-revenue water is a big driver overseas. Saving and preserving water, or making sure your pipes aren’t leaking, that seems to be the main focus of what a lot of the international countries are doing now.

But there is a turn to condition assessment, and it’s slowly picking up from where it was, say, just a couple or three years ago.

Todd Schnick: Mark, I’m really interested in your perspective on a different kind of issue.

Mark: Sure.

Todd Schnick: The water utility industry—and a lot of times you can look at it and say they’re a little bit conservative and not ready to really quickly adopt new technologies, new processes, new methodologies—what’s your spin on that? Is that true? Is it changing?

Mark: I could show you the scars on my back. We’ve been at this game for a long time. I think it’s clear that the utilities are slower to adopt, especially new and emerging technologies.

I think it’s probably a seven-year cycle from introduction, to pilot testing, to working your way through that to get to a point where you’ve actually got some critical momentum and the utilities are buying into your message, and actually implementing on some of your approach. So, seven years has been our experience.

Todd Schnick: Mark, I hate to say it, but we’re out of time. Before we let you go, how could people get in touch with you, and where can they learn more about Pure Technologies US?

Mark: Sure. Well, I’m located out of our Columbia, Maryland office. Phone number there is 443-766-7873, and my email is mark.holley@PureTechLTD.com.

Todd Schnick: All right. Mark Holley, President of Pure Technologies US, it was great to have you. Thanks so much for joining us.

Mark: Appreciate it, guys. Thanks for having me.

Todd Schnick: All right. Well, that wraps this segment. On behalf of our guest, Mark Holley, my co-host, Todd Youngblood, all of us at Water Online, I am Todd Schnick. We’ll be right back with our next guest.