I was asked to go up north to Fort MacMurray to do a power and ground inspection with a colleague who would do a communications audit on an existing heavy-oil upgrader site, owned by Total (pronounced "Toe-tal"). Total was a French company and this location was their big investment in the oil sands. They had an existing PLC-based control system installed but they were having lots of flaky problems with it after only two years and were not getting the service they needed to fix it. They asked Spartan to come in and give a quote to replace it with DeltaV Control System. This was such an important win, even the president of our company, Mike B., made a note of it in an address one day, because displacing a competitor's product is a number one score for any company.

I went to site and met with the Instrument Lead and proceeded to do my inspection. Quite quickly I saw problems that could be causing the symptoms they were seeing, but I would be fired if I fixed the problems instead of making a report that outlined how DeltaV systems would fit in. The system had been sold by that time anyway and my comments would serve no useful purpose at this point. So I didn't consider this any type of ethical dilemma.

At the end of my inspection the Instrument Lead asked me, "Well, how is it?" There were many small issues regarding grounding locations, wire sizes, things like that but the biggest problem I saw was with the HART transmitter wiring. The current PLC I/O was connected to field devices via terminal blocks in one cabinet, but the cabling was NOT the correct spec for HART, which requires shielded twisted-pair cabling (STP) to reduce or eliminate noise that could interfere with the HART signal. I told the Lead, "Well the biggest concern is the current wiring which will not work with DeltaV." He responded that the sales guys had told him DeltaV would work with the wiring, but I countered that and said, no, the wiring has to be changed.

Now there was NOT a lot of wiring to be done and it was all in one cabinet and only about 2-3 feet long. Not anywhere close to the problems at Husky Ram River where the hundreds of wires they replaced were 16 feet long and the plant was running. It was NOT a big deal but the Lead was taking the sales guys comments very literally. I said we'd have to replace that wire and that it was not a big deal.

A couple weeks later, my boss in Edmonton calls me to tell me that two sales guys, PP and DK wanted my head! They wanted me fired and they wanted me fired that day! My response was that I did nothing wrong, that the customer asked me a direct question and I responded. Well my boss agreed with me and got the wolves off my back, but I never forgot this incident because it showed me how ridiculous those fucking sales guys can be. I was practicing due diligence on behalf of Spartan, because consider what would happen if Total had the SAME flaky problems AFTER we installed our better DeltaV system? The shit would have hit the fan, man.