# Tony's Traveling Thoughts

## I Had a Good Flight

So, I’m flying to Denver the other day, have my nice aisle seat picked out, and I’m settled in as the captain announces they’ve closed the cabin door. The middle seat next to me is still empty, and a mother is headed toward me with her young daughter in her arms. The daughter looks like she is on the verge of tears or just finished emptying the waterworks before they boarded the plane. Mom seemed a little stressed as she searched for their seats.

A flight attendant was helping them navigate, and it became clear one of their seats was the empty one in the middle next to me. I stood up and asked where their other seat was, offering to let them sit together in my row, and you would think mom had just won the lottery from the look on her face. The flight attendant said something to the effect of, “Thank you, we’ll comp you whatever you’d like for switching!”

Now, this isn’t a story about how nice or chivalrous a guy I am. I’ve flown enough to realize that the more generous we can all be towards one another, the easier it makes the journey for all of us. One cranky guy arguing that his over-stuffed carry-on really will fit in the overhead bin, or that he wants the keep the seat he picked out at check-in, can put a few hundred people on edge as they anxiously await him to concede so the plane can leave. By comparison, being kind to a fellow passenger, and offering that kindness freely, makes everything go smoother for everyone. The flight attendant could go back to more important things than trying to help negotiate a seat swap amongst reluctant passengers, the mom could get her daughter settled and happier more quickly, and we could get away from the gate and on our way sooner rather than later.

What struck me from this episode was how surprised everyone seemed by my willingness to change seats so quickly. Another flight attendant came and asked if I wanted a travel credit or mileage credit in exchange for switching seats. Of course, I appreciated this gesture on the part of the flight crew, but it really wasn’t necessary. Changing seats seemed like the natural thing to do, not something done in exchange for a perk on the flight. How terrible are airline passengers these days that my behavior seemed above and beyond?

So, I ended up in a middle seat three rows back next to a guy who a) didn’t bother to wear deodorant today and b) ordered a Bloody Mary mix for his drink. The entire crew suddenly knew me as “Mr. Allison” as opposed to “the guy in 31D”. Later, I saw the mom and daughter on the train to baggage claim, and both were in a 100% better mood than when we first met.

I had a good flight that day.

## You Really SHOULD Read This

May, should, and shall. These three words can be found sprinkled across industry standards, recommended practices, and internal company procedures and guidelines. But, what do they really mean?

Most of my work with industry standards happens with the American Petroleum Institute (API), so I will admittedly approach this topic mostly from that perspective. The definitions that follow come from API’s Procedures for Standards Development:

• May: Denotes a course of action permissible within the limits of a standard.
• Should: Denotes a recommendation or that which is advised but not required in order to conform to the standard.
• Shall: Denotes a minimum requirement in order to conform to the standard.

Let’s work through these terms in increasing order of important. The term “may” describes an action that you can take, but there is no requirement that you must do this. For example, API 11B (the standard governing sucker rods) states in section 7.2.2 that calibration intervals, “may be lengthened or shortened based on calibration history.” So, once you establish sufficient calibration history as required by the standard, you can extend the calibration interval if you want to. If instead you prefer to always follow the specific interval written in the standard, you can do that too. May statements leave the choice entirely to the end user if they follow that course of action or not.

“Should” describes something that is strongly recommended but still not a requirement of the standard or procedure in question. The API standard for surface pumping units, API 11E, states in section 6.4.9 that, “the tensile preload in the bolt, stud, or cap screw should be 70 % of the yield strength of the material …”. Now, there are other ways of determining the proper preload on a connection, but the standard is recommending this one possible way to do so. If you do it this way, great! You will be in compliance with the standard. If you would like to specify the connection requirements in a different way, and can demonstrate that method performs as well or better as the should statement in the standard, great! You have the flexibility to apply whichever you believe works best for your product and manufacturing processes.

Now we come to the heavy lifter, the “shall” statement. Shall statements say you absolutely, positively, must follow this statement to comply with the standard or procedure in question. The twenty-seventh edition of API 11B has 544 instances of the word shall spread throughout it! Section 6.3.2.2 covers material test reports, and has some requirements for how long these records must be kept. “These documents shall be maintained by the manufacturer for a period of at least five years.” If someone trashes a pile of MTRs after four years and 364 days, they are not in compliance with the standard.

Let’s relate this back to something more applicable to everyday life. You want your kids to brush their teeth every night before bed, right? Which of the above terms best describe your desire for them to follow this routine? Would you prefer that they may brush their teeth, they should brush their teeth, or they shall brush their teeth?

## How NOT to Communicate as a Business

It’s 2020, you operate a business, and that business has a website. Your website conveniently has a page with contact information with the relevant details such as your physical address, phone number, and email address. What follows is how not to respond to a potential customer reaching out to you for information.

Here is a condensed version of a recent email exchange I had while trying to find a local source of filter media for my well water acid neutralizer:

• me: Can you please provide pricing for calcite and Corosex media?
• business: If you could please call our office at ### we will be happy to assist you.
• me: I would prefer if you could send pricing via email instead of requiring a phone call.
• business: Ok. I will need a little more information. What kind of system do you have? Could you send me pictures of it?
• me: This is the acid neutralizer we currently have (link to product page).
• business: Would you like us to come to your house and change the media? Are you looking for the media to change it yourself?
• me: I am only wanting to buy the media and change it myself.
• business: Ok. My service manager said the price is $375.00. You would pay us and pick it up from our office. • me:$375 for what exactly? How much of each media does that include? What is the price for them individually?

This entire exchange went off the rails in a couple of ways. First, when a customer emails you with a question, your first response should not be to ignore the question completely and ask that they call you. In this case, I have already looked at the options you presented and chosen email as my preferred way of communicating with you. If I wanted to discuss my problem over the phone, I would have called instead.

Next, we get into asking about details on my system, which is fine (and probably should have been included in their original reply). It makes sense they would want to confirm that what they sell is compatible with my filter.

From this point forward, everything goes downhill. Do I want them to change the media? Did anything in my email convey I wanted anything but just a price on two specific items? No, I just want to come buy the media.

Finally I get my price: $375. I have no idea what this$375 gets me. Is that for both products I asked for? Is it for half a pound of media or forty pounds? Nobody knows …

Everyone has different preferences when it comes to how they communicate with others, and those preferences may change depending on their daily schedule. If I already have several hours of calls and meetings scheduled for the day, I probably don’t want to add another phone call to my plate. I generally prefer the asynchronous nature of email for something that isn’t urgent anyway.

How could this have gone smoother? Start off by providing the price for the specific things I asked for. Ask a clarifying question if necessary, but don’t waste time trying to shift the communication medium if it isn’t necessary. If you want to offer the service to install the media, mention that after you’ve provided the information I asked for. Something along the lines of, “If you are interested, we are able to come and install the media for you. Please let us know if you’d like a price for this option.” That’s an easy way to offer that upsell for a customer who might want that convenience, but also gives someone who plans on doing the work themselves a graceful way to decline the offer.

## 2020 API Winter Standards Meeting

The American Petroleum Institute holds two main meetings each year, where its members gather to work on standards development. The winter meeting was held from 20-24 January in Fort Worth, TX, and brought together representatives from manufacturers, distributors, and end-users of products that are affected by API standards. I have the honor of chairing Subcommittee 11, which oversees standards that cover rod pumps, sucker rods, pumping units, plungers, and reciprocating compressors. Several of the task groups that fall under SC11 met that week and are actively working on updating many of our standards. A summary of each group’s activities follows below.

If you are a user of the products covered by these standards or are involved in the manufacturing and distribution of those products, I would encourage you to get involved in SC11 and the development of these standards. The work of these task groups materially impacts your business, and your voice should be part of guiding their work. For some, I’ve heard it is an issue of cost to travel and take part in these meetings. For some perspective, my expenses for a week in Fort Worth were less than what my company spends on one downhole rod pump. I think that’s a small price to pay to be able to impact how that pump is designed and built before it makes it to my location. For more information on getting involved with SC11 or any of these individual task groups, please reach out to me on LinkedIn (please be sure to include a message as opposed to just sending a request to connect).

Recommended Practice 11AR covers a variety of topics related to the teardown, assembly, and operation of rod pumps. This document has not been updated in many years, so a major task to be completed is reviewing all of the teardown and assembly procedures. The pictures that go along with those procedures need updating as well (anyone still wearing lab coats in their pump shops 🤔?).

Other areas of work by the task group include:

• Documenting the advantages and disadvantages of different arrangements of the tubing anchor, pump intake, and perforations
• Adding downhole dynamometer examples used in troubleshooting downhole pump problems
• Recommendations for how to safely work with pumps with the plunger stuck inside the barrel

This group is starting to meet online once a month, as well as holding additional in-person meetings outside of the biannual API conferences. The next in-person meeting is currently planned for 7-8 April 2020 in Frisco, TX.

## 11AX: Specification for Subsurface Sucker Rod Pump Assemblies, Components, and Fittings

A big task for the 11AX task group is updating the document with additional components and assembly examples that are common in the industry today. Many contracts require the delivery of a monogrammed pump, and a pump cannot be monogrammed unless it is assembled from only monogrammed components. For example, a pump built with an insert-guided cage could not be monogrammed because that cage is not specified in 11AX.

Another significant change to this standard will be the shift from American National Standard threads (N-series) to Unified Inch Screw threads (UN-series). In many cases, the two threads are compatible with one another, but there are cases where gauges manufactured to one standard may improperly pass or fail a part threaded to the other standard. Given that the N-series threads have been considered obsolete since 1949, it’s probably time for our pump standards to move on as well.

There are also a few items related to barrel and plunger coatings and additional materials for barrels under discussion. This task group meets in conjunction with the 11AR task group.

The 28th edition of 11B passed in September 2018 but has been undergoing a lengthy comment resolution process. It is currently being circulated to ensure all of the subcommittee members are in agreement with how the comments were resolved, and I expect it to be published later this year.

## 11E: Specification for Pumping Units

The most recent addendum to the 19th edition of 11E added requirements to the construction of walking beams. Specifically, the design and construction of these beams must now conform to the American Welding Society standard D1.1/D1.1M, Structural Welding Code–Steel.

The next edition of 11E will expand those welding requirements to all structural beams of the pumping unit, not just the walking beam. Additionally, chain reducers will be removed from the standard (I bet most of you reading this have never even seen such a thing).

The 11E task group will next meet the week of 29 June 2020 at the API Summer Standards Conference in Washington, DC.

## 11P: Specification for Packaged Reciprocating Compressors for Oil and Gas Production Services

This task group is our busiest of all. It currently has over 30 people working on updating 11P to the 3rd edition. They expect to have their draft text finished later this year, with publication planned for 2021.

## Why am I here …

So, it seems obligatory that everyone’s site starts with a post such as this detailing why they thought this thing needed to exist. Over the past year, I’ve made a handful of posts and written one article on LinkedIn that seemed to attract more attention than I expected. That got me thinking that I would like to have a place to share my thoughts on technology, home improvement, traveling, life in the oilfield, and whatever else has captured my attention for the moment.

## Ok, but why HERE specifically?

I could continue posting my thoughts on other platforms such as LinkedIn (and I probably will for shorter musings), but I really wanted something that was MINE. LinkedIn’s content policy is better than most, but that content is still dependent on their platform. I also have limited control over the look and feel of how my ideas are presented there. So, I decided to build this site in order to give myself that kind of control and learn some bits of how the internet works that is of questionable value to my day-to-day life.

Aside from having somewhere to share my thoughts, I’ve been curious about all things web-related for a few years. We live in a world that is increasingly connected together, and I want to learn more about how those technologies work. I’ve dabbled a little with fairly simple JavaScript pages for some projects at work, but this is my first foray into managing the server that runs my site, the platform it runs on, and the design around how the entire thing looks.

## What’s so wrong with hosting content on LinkedIn (or any other service for that matter)?

Realistically, absolutely nothing. I imagine most people have absolutely zero desire to learn about setting up a VPS, static site generator, Markdown syntax, or the various other things I haven’t yet realized I need to learn to make this work. It’s amazing to me how many different platforms exist that allow people to easily share their message with the world with minimal technical expertise required. So, if you have something you want to share with the world, find what works best for you and just focus on getting it out there!

## Here we go!

I hope people enjoy the things they find here, and that maybe we can laugh and learn a little together along the way. I will likely share links to things I’m writing here on LinkedIn, and I would love to get your feedback in the comments on those posts. Otherwise, I can sometimes, sorta, randomly be found on Twitter at @anthonyallison_ or my LinkedIn profile here1.

1. Please note that I rarely accept LinkedIn connection requests from people I have not previously met that do not include a short message explaining why they wish to connect. ↩︎