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This week’s Pipeliners Podcast episode features Ace Astala and Joel Clancy from the American School of Gas Measurement Technology discussing the value of the school with host Russel Treat.

In this episode, you will learn the history and purpose of the American School of Gas Measurement Technology and what they offer to their students at each year’s school in Houston.

You will also learn more about the backgrounds of Ace Astala and Joel Clancy and what led them to become involved with the American School of Gas Measurement Technology.

ASGMT: Show Notes, Links, and Insider Terms

  • Ace Astala is the President of the Board of Directors for the American School of Gas Measurement Technology.
  • Joel Clancy is the Chairman of the General Committee for the American School of Gas Measurement Technology.
  • American School of Gas Measurement Technology is the largest gas measurement school in the United States that is devoted to natural gas measurement, pressure regulation, flow control, and other measurement related arenas. Find out more at ASGMT.com.
    • ASGMT 2019 runs September 16-19 at the Marriott Westchase Hotel in Houston, Texas. [Register Today]
    • The 2019 keynote speaker is Corey Grindal, the Senior VP for Gas Supply at Cheneire, a liquefied natural gas (LNG) company headquartered in Houston.
  • CEESI (Colorado Engineering Experiment Station, Inc.) performs NIST traceable primary and secondary calibration for numerous types of flow meters and fluids. In addition to quality calibrations, CEESI offers calibration-related engineering services, valve testing, and a wide range of flow measurement training services.
  • Gulf Coast Gas Measurement Society started the measurement school in 1966. The school eventually became the American School of Gas Measurement Technology (ASGMT) in 1991. The society remains an affiliate of ASGMT.
  • NPR is an American privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization based in Washington, D.C.
    • Auto Guys, known as Car Talk is Car Talk, is a Peabody Award–winning radio talk show that was broadcast weekly on National Public Radio stations and elsewhere.
  • SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) is a system of software and technology that allows pipeliners to control processes locally or at remote location. SCADA breaks down into two key functions: supervisory control and data acquisition. Included is managing the field, communication, and control room technology components that send and receive valuable data, allowing users to respond to the data.

ASGMT: Full Episode Transcript

Russel Treat:  Welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast, episode 88, sponsored by Gas Certification Institute providing training and standard operating procedures for custody transfer measurement professionals. Find out more about GCI at gascertification.com.

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Announcer:  The Pipeliners Podcast, where professionals, Bubba geeks, and industry insiders share their knowledge and experience about technology, projects, and pipeline operations. And now your host, Russel Treat.

Russel:  Thanks for listening to the Pipeliners Podcast. I appreciate you taking the time, and to show that appreciation, we’re giving away a customized YETI tumbler to one listener each episode. This week, our winner is Vickie Kazmierczak with Williams. Congratulations, Vicky, your YETI is on its way. To learn how you can win this signature prize pack, stick around to the end of the episode.

This week, we’re going to do something a little bit different. I’m going to share with you something that I have a great deal of passion for. That’s the American School of Gas Measurement Technology.

Joel Clancy and Ace Astala ‑‑ Ace being the President of the Board of Directors for the American School, and Joe being the Chairman of the General Committee ‑‑ are going to join us, and we’re going to talk about the American School of Gas Measurement Technology.

Ace, Joel, welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast.

Joel Clancy:  Thanks, Russel. Glad to be here.

Ace Astala:  Thank you.

Russel:  Maybe a great place to start is for each of you to tell us a little bit about your background. What you’ve done in your career and how you got involved with American School. Ace, if you don’t mind, why don’t you start?

Ace:  That’d be my pleasure. I’ve been in the gas business for about 35 years now, particularly in the gas measurement and regulation side of it. I have had a representative company for that long dealing mainly with pipelines and distribution companies.

This is a good avenue to learn more through this school. I started attending the school first, and then became part of the General Committee, and then moved through the ranks up to President of the Board of Directors this year.

Russel:  We’ll talk a little bit later about how the school works. Ace has been with the school probably more years than he cares to admit, and it’s really been a force to be reckoned with.

Joel, why don’t you do the same thing for us.

Joel:  Thanks, Russel. I’ve been working for a company called CEESI Iowa ‑‑ CEESI, Colorado Engineering. I’ve worked for CEESI for over 23 years now. CEESI calibrates and certifies flow meters. They do various research on flow meters, valves, a variety of other measurement devices. CEESI has been around for about 60 years.

As I said, I started with CEESI about 23 years ago. Probably about 19 years ago, I was asked to become a part of the committee by Kenny Blackburn, who was the General Chairman at the time. I’ve been with the committee that long, and worked through some of the various committees within the committee, it’s a good committee to be on.

Russel:  I would concur. I’ll do the same thing, because I’ve never really talked about this on the podcast. I started out in the measurement business in ’93. At that time, we were doing computers that were hooked up to what were called chart integrators, basically a disk where you could spin an old paper chart, trace it with some markers, and electronically calculate a volume.

Because I got into that business, I started going to the measurement schools. I would tell you that probably within three months of being in that business, I made a comment, “I’m going to retire here.” I just really liked the people and the technology.

What I found very interesting ‑‑ it’s one of the things I want to talk about the school ‑‑ is how collaborative everybody is, how much they work to help one another out. One of the things that’s interesting to me about the school is it’s all volunteers that are doing this, people who are measurement professionals that are trying to pass their experience along.

Let me ask this question. How would you guys define the purpose of the American School?

Joel:  I’ll go in and take that. This is Joel.

Ace:  Okay.

Joel:  The school is the largest measurement gas school in the United States devoted to natural gas measurement, pressure regulation, and flow control, and other measurement devices and areas. It’s a school that we put on annually, every September in Houston.

It’s a mixture of hands‑on and lecture courses. Some of the topics include fundamental measurements, distribution, transmission, gas quality, general advanced measurement, office procedures and accounting.

It’s a great venue for those in the industry that are trying to advance their general understanding of measurement as a whole. Those that attend the school are typically technicians, engineers, office personnel, anyone in our industry that’s wanting to further their understanding of measurement as a whole.

Russel:  I would say, I don’t know about you guys, but for me, I learned the measurement business by going to measurement schools. I learned a lot by going to the classes, but I also learned a lot by just wandering around and having conversations.

Joel:  I absolutely agree with that, Russel, that the classes and the course are great and a key part of the school, of course, but we’ve got over 150 exhibitors that are there. Just networking and interacting with all of those folks that are at the school is invaluable.

You pick up things in general sidebar conversations or going around the exhibitor hall and just visiting with folks. I’d agree with that.

Russel:  Ace, what would be your take? I would expect you to say the same thing.

Ace:  I would probably say the same thing. One of the things that I’ve heard over and over again is people discussing problems that they had, unique problems they thought they had only, only to sit and talk with other people and say, “Oh, yeah, I solved that problem by doing this or that.”

The longevity of the people that are going there, and the willingness to share that knowledge with the younger people is really invaluable, and it’s hard to pick up anywhere else than at a school or a trade show like this.

Russel:  That’s so true. It’s almost you don’t know what you don’t know until you go around and start having these conversations or listening in to others having these conversations. I’ve been going to this school since ’93. Every time I go, I’m learning something new.

There’s always somebody who’s got a new technology, or they’ve come up with a new and creative way to solve a problem, or make measurement better. I’m always learning something.

How long has the school been around? How did it get started?

Ace:  It’s been around. This is our 54th year. We’ve been here for quite a number of years. We’ve had three different locations. In the beginning, it was just a matter of some people wanting to get the knowledge they have out, and they were seeing the same thing we see today.

They wanted to let the knowledge they have be spread out amongst the other people that may or may not have the opportunities to go through that part of it, and the training of the employees that are in all three areas that we talked about, the office staff, the field staff, and then the engineers, and all the way up to vice presidents and presidents involved in that school.

The school is very well‑founded with the knowledge that you could probably find second to none. We’re probably second to none as far as the knowledge that we have on the people that are attending this school and that are sitting on our committee.

Russel:  There’s an organization in Houston called the Gulf Coast Gas Measurement Society. They do an annual golf tournament and they do monthly luncheons. That group started back in the early ’60s and met downtown once a month. They would share information. There was a group of people in that society that actually started the American School.

What’s interesting to me about that conversation as a society is, it still has good membership and attendance and all that, but over the years, it has become dwarfed by the school. The school has created a life all of its own.

Joel:  Yeah. The Gulf Coast Measurement Society started the school in 1966. You’re right. It’s been around that long. In 1991, the board of directors changed the name of the school to the American School of Gas Measurement Technology. It’s been that ever since. The Gulf Coast Gas Measurement Society is still an affiliate of ours today.

Russel:  I was involved with the Gulf Coast Gas Measurement Society. That’s how I ended up involved with the school.

Probably, one of the things we ought to talk about a little bit is the…There’s lectures and there’s hands‑on. There’s such a demand for the hands‑on classes that one of the things that happens every year is we give out tickets and they tend to be all given out in the first 15 or 30 minutes after we open the program booth every morning. People love getting into those hands‑on classes.

Joel:  Yeah. It’s made up of probably about 120 lecture classes and about 40 hands‑on classes. You really get a good mixture of both. If you’re an individual that works on a particular piece of equipment, and that hands‑on class is offered, that’s a great opportunity to get your hands on it and work with the equipment, and work with the experts that are offering that equipment.

The lecture classes offer several different opportunities on a wide variety of subjects in gas measurement. A few years ago, we started bringing on some liquid lecture classes. We’re doing a little bit of that as well this year again on the liquid side. That seems to be real popular with the students, too.

Russel:  I always find it interesting that in many of these lectures, oftentimes, the best part is the Q&A at the end of the lecture. I don’t know if you guys ever watched NPR and the Auto Guys. They used to do this thing called Stump the Chump, where you ask a question that might be hard to answer, but there always seems to be a lot of that.

I’ve always found that to be some of the best part, because the people who would throw the questions, whatever the issue is they’re struggling with.

Joel:  Yeah, I’d agree with that, Russel. A lot of times, when that individual asks that question, the person sitting across the room from them was thinking about it but just didn’t ask the question themselves and says, “I’ve had that same problem, too.” It’s a good opportunity for those questions to get answered.

Ace:  In the hands‑on class, we’ll have a number of pieces of equipment in there. It’s literally, in a lot of classes, you may sit there and see the instrument or whatever it is up in the front of the class, but these, they have them on each table, that instrument.

They can actually put their hands on it. They get onboard, connect up to it, and a better feel of what it is, as opposed to just being lectured at. It makes it really a nice thing where you only have two to three people on a piece of equipment at a time. It makes it a lot easier to understand the questions more freely that way, I think.

Russel:  Who are the people that ought to be attending in your opinion? Who ought to come to this school, and what benefit would they get?

Joel:  Measurement engineers, technicians, office personnel. Anyone in our industry that wants to learn more about measurement, both on a basic and fundamentals level, to some topics that get to intermediate and advanced.

The great thing about the school is that you can go online at ASGMT.com, and you can download the class schedule, and you can take a look at that and look at the over 100 classes that are offered, look at that and pick and choose what classes you think could benefit you.

You get to drive your week and tailor it to what you do in the industry by picking whatever classes you want.

Russel:  Because I’m a Program Committee Chair this year, I’m intimate with those details. The programs actually flag so you can identify where are the fundamentals classes, where are the chromography‑related classes, where are the distribution and transmission‑related classes, and such.

You can actually spend a whole…In fact, if you wanted just to go to fundamentals, you could spend the entire two-and-a-half days just doing fundamentals.

Joel:  You bet.

Russel:  I think that part of it is a little daunting. That’s one of the reasons I like that our business, it is pretty technical. Some of the guys that are teaching these classes, they are world‑class. Nobody is getting paid.

Everybody that’s putting the school together, that’s providing the classes, all of that, nobody is getting paid to do any of that stuff. To me, that’s pretty compelling. It’s a lot of work to put it on.

Ace:  The other thing where we were talking about who should come to that, anybody in the gas business that wants to get a little further, whether they’re actually in the measurement side or in some other part of that, they can attend the school one time and get an overview of what people are talking about.

When they’re talking about measurement and accuracy, when they’re talking transmission or gas qualities, where they could pick up this jargon that comes out so they can actually understand a conversation that they may be having at their office.

That’s a good thing for just about anybody in the gas market or in the gas business to be able to do that, the natural gas business.

Russel:  I absolutely agree. It should be noted, too, that there are some other classes that are not necessarily specific to measurement. There are some classes in things like lightning protection, some SCADA classes, and some other things that are things you would need to know as a measurement professional but might not necessarily be classified as measurement.

120 classes, that’s a lot, and that’s just lectures. That’s a lot of content.

Joel:  You bet, Russel. One unique thing that we started offering at the school, I think it was about three years ago, and we’re continuing that special track this year, is the gas flow measurement fundamentals track.

That’s actually more of a classroom environment. I think we limit that to about 35 students. The instructors are, just like you said, they’re world‑class instructors here, too. This is kind of a sidebar, you might say at the school, to where the normal general school, you pick and choose.

You might go to a lecture class in this hour and go to a hands‑on class next, and look at a variety of different topics.

The gas measurement fundamentals tract is more of a classroom setting. Topics that are discussed are measurement units, temperature and pressure, natural gas properties, gas composition determination, or if it’s flow meters, turbine flow meters, positive displacement meters, rotary flow meters, ultrasonic, coriolis, and other flow meter types.

This is designed to be a little more on the fundamentals side or new to users, maybe a new engineer just out of college, or a new technician, for example, in the industry.

It’s actually more like a class during the two‑and‑a‑half‑day session. They take a test ‑‑ a proficiency test ‑‑ at the end and get a nice book that they can take with them. I’d encourage you, if you’re interested in that, to sign up as soon as you can, because we limit that class to about 35 attendees.

Russel:  I will tell you, the book is worth the price of the admission.

Joel:  Oh, my goodness, that book is tremendous, absolutely.

Russel:  You made a point, Joel, that I think is very true. A lot of us that are in the measurement business, that are measurement engineers, we didn’t go to school and take a class in measurement engineering.

Joel:  That’s right.

Russel:  We took a class in some kind of engineering, and then we had to go learn about measurement engineering.

Joel:  Yeah, OJT.

Russel:  These fundamentals classes and these fluid properties, they will tie back to the things you learned in thermodynamics and fluid dynamics, but they extend them and apply them to the actual equipment that are used in measurement, which is pretty compelling.

You can take it all the way from the classroom science all the way to here’s how you use a piece of equipment in the field and actually get hands on with it.

I actually found that — I don’t know how many times I went to the school before I really felt like I was a master of some significant portion of the content. It was many more times than once, for sure.

Joel:  Absolutely.

Russel:  Ace, maybe you could tell us a little bit about how the school is organized and run. That’s also very interesting as well.

Ace:  Love to do that. This school, our committee is set up and is two different committees. One, what we call the General Committee, and the other is the Board of Directors. We start a month after the school is finished. The school is always the third Monday or third Tuesday of the month in September. We will start in October with the next year’s school.

What we do is go through their review. All the classes that were given, we review those for content, for attendance, and for delivery by their actual trainer and lecturer at that time.

Those that aren’t quite up to our standards, we’ll move those out or change them to a different time zone, trying to always continue to upgrade our school, bring in new lecture classes as new products become available, new technology becomes available on that side of it.

We’ll break down into about…I think it’s five different areas as far as the Arrangements Committee, the Exhibits Committee, our Program Committee.

There’s probably 70 people involved in the General Committee that get the school together, and then another 20 that sit on the Board of Directors, who are past General Chairman of the school that keep the history of what’s going on and know what we’ve done in the past that’s right, and some of the things we tried to do that were not right.

We’re always looking for new members in there. I think we have that on our web page as well, if you’re interested in being involved in a group of men and women that put on a quality school and try to pass forward that information that we have to the next generation of people that are coming up in the gas measurement business.

Russel:  A lot of people don’t understand just how many volunteer hours go into this every year to put this on between the General Committee and the Board. It’s a lot of man‑hours that are invested in this. It’s a tribute to the leadership and the commitment to having this go from generation to generation.

We had a hurricane a number of years back, and we had to completely shut the school down, basically incurred most of the expense and then weren’t able to have the school, and yet because of the leadership and the diligence applied, we were able to work through that and go just as strong the next year.

It’s a great organization, I’ll just say that. I’m dang proud and dang happy to be a part of it, I might say.

Joel:  Absolutely.

Russel:  How would people find out about this school?

Joel:  They can go to our website. It’s ASGMT.com. There’s a tremendous amount of information on there. Like I said, the class schedules are on there. If you want to find out about what the lecture classes are, and the hands‑on classes are, it’s a good time to see if it will benefit you.

Once you do make that decision, you certainly can register and then just pick your classes, and then we’ll see you in September.

Russel:  What we’ll do, as the listeners well know, we’ll take and we will link all this up on the PipelinersPodcast.com website, and we’ll build some show notes and build some resources so that you guys can find out more.

If you have any interest at all in measurement, I hope to see you at the 2019, 54th American School of Gas Measurement Technology. Come tap me on the shoulder and say howdy. [laughs]

Joel, Ace, anything else you guys would like to add?

Ace:  I was just going to go ahead and give dates to that. There’s still time to register, still time to get in the hotel and those kinds of things. We’re looking at probably attendance in the mid‑teens, probably, 1,400 to 1,500 we’re hoping for this year.

The actual school dates are September the 17th through the 19th. You still have plenty of time to register, get yourself a room near there if you’re from out of town. If you’re in town and don’t have to worry about that, that would be great as well.

I wanted to pass that out and I hope, like Russel said, I hope to see some of you guys there at the school. I’ll be around. Tap me as well, and we’ll try to connect you up with people there that you can get some more further learning and introduce you to people that you may or may not know.

Joel:  Yeah, just a couple of other opportunities and points I’d like to make as we close here. We have a great keynote speaker this year, Mr. Corey Grindal. Corey is with Cheneire. He is the Vice President of Supply.

He is a very dynamic speaker and is going to talk about how LNG is impacting the natural gas industry as a whole in terms of supply and demand, and what’s happening now and what’s happening in the future with LNG and how that’s going to impact us all.

One final thing I’d like to mention about the school. If you get there early on Monday from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., we have an early‑bird cocktail hour in the Exhibit Hall. It’s a great opportunity to visit with the exhibitors and see what’s new with them.

Russel:  One thing we didn’t talk about and probably should talk about is the Exhibit Hall at the school, and who’s there, and how many exhibitors, and the value in the Exhibit Hall beyond just seeing all the cool, shiny objects.

Ace:  In the school, what I always look at the school like a stool that has three legs. There’s three parts of it. One we’ve touched on quite a bit is the training, the hands‑on classes. The other one is the lecture classes.

The third one, which is as important as the other two ‑‑ your stool wouldn’t stand up without that ‑‑ is the Exhibit Hall, which will have about 150 booths in there. I don’t know the number. Maybe Joel can comment with the number of exhibitors we have.

Spending time in that hall with people that have the equipment that’s being used in the field every day, the new equipment that’s coming out, and just being able to sit there and talk to them and let them give you some more information on the good things about it. If you have questions, they’re well‑versed in their answers and look forward to that as well.

Russel:  As a guy who’s been an exhibitor at the American School for many years, and you guys have as well, one of the things I always value is when people come up and they ask challenging questions. It’s one of the ways I learned the business as I’d wander around the Exhibit Hall and I’d ask, “What is that? How do you use it,” go to somebody else and ask the same question again.

The beauty there is everybody loves the questions. It doesn’t matter how basic or how challenging. They love the questions.

Ace, Joel, thank you so much for joining the Pipeliners Podcast. This is a little different to some of the things we’ve done before, but hopefully, the listeners will appreciate that the three of us all have a passion for the American School and we really want to see it go well and we want people to know about it.

Hopefully, you guys will get that, and for those of you that are interested, we look forward to seeing you there.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of the Pipeliners Podcast and our conversation with Ace and Joel. Just a reminder before you go, you should register to win our customized Pipeliners Podcast YETI tumbler. Simply visit pipelinerspodcast.com/win to enter yourself in the draw.

If you would like to support this podcast, you can do that by leaving us a review. You can do that on iTunes, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, or wherever you happen to listen to podcasts. You can find instructions at pipelinerspodcast.com.

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Russel:  If you have ideas, questions, or topics you’d be interested in, please let us know on the Contact Us page of pipelinerspodcast.com, or reach out to me on LinkedIn. Thanks for listening. I’ll talk to you next week.

Transcription by CastingWords

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