USTI ON THE MOVE

AEP´s United Sciences Testing, Inc. (USTI) is moving upward and outward.

Upward, as in growing revenues and new customers. In 2004, USTI had revenues of $4.3 million, exceeding 2003 revenues by more than 18 percent and forecasted revenues by 10 percent. Net income doubled in 2004 compared with 2003.

"USTI has exceeded the financial projections developed by the management team that recommended AEP´s purchase of USTI every year since the acquisition in January 2002," said Mark Marano, senior vice president --generation business services and president of USTI.

Outward, as in expanding its base of operations. Headquartered in Gibsonia, Pa., just north of Pittsburgh, USTI recently opened its first satellite operation -- a small office and workshop in the Tulsa (Okla.) Power Station (TPS).

"Operationally, it´s obviously more convenient to service AEP plants in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas from Tulsa," said Mike Brown, USTI general manager. "If you look at a map of the U.S., it´s also more efficient to service our customers in Kansas, Missouri and southern Illinois, for example, out of Tulsa than Gibsonia."

USTI technician Blaine Albertson performs maintenance work on an AUTO-PROBE Q2000.

Photo By: Stan Whiteford

USTI conducts testing at five AEP plants in the Southwest:

  • Flint Creek
  • Northeastern
  • Welsh
  • Pirkey
  • Oklaunion

Also in the Southwest, USTI signed up new stack testing business with Texas Genco, Kansas City Power & Light, Xcel Energy and an electric co-op in Missouri.

USTI´s service involves performing relative accuracy test audits (RATA) to calibrate and certify the continuous emissions flow monitoring (CEM) equipment installed on the smokestacks of power plants, as required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The CEM flow monitoring systems measure volumetric flow rates. These measurements are used with other emissions data to determine the total quantity of various pollutants emitted. During the RATA process, USTI measures the volumetric flow rates in the stack, and the data are compared with the plant´s CEM readings. If there is a large enough difference, the plant´s CEM equipment is recalibrated to match USTI´s data.

The new USTI shop at Tulsa Power Station provides Matt Bissell a good place to service and repair testing equipment.

Photo by: Stan Whiteford

The accuracy of USTI´s probe technology helps utilities avoid over-reporting emissions. With lower actual emissions reporting, power plant operators can meet their permit limits or purchase fewer emissions allowances.

"Most companies save money -- some of them large amounts -- by having us perform accurate RATA audits," Brown said.

Working out of Tulsa, technicians Blaine Albertson and Matt Bissell conduct on-site RATAs on the CEM flow monitoring equipment at AEP plants and other utilities. The shop at TPS provides a base of operations and a place to maintain and calibrate USTI´s equipment.

Each year has seen exciting growth for USTI. Employees tested 114 stacks in 2004, a 16 percent increase over 2003, during which 98 stacks were tested. In 2002, the year of acquisition, USTI tested 86 stacks. In the past year, USTI has also added to its customer list Minnkota Power in North Dakota, Hoosier Energy in Indiana, the AES-Cayuga generating station in New York and the J.M. Stuart plant in Ohio, of which AEP owns 608 megawatts.

USTI also leases its patented emissions monitoring equipment to other parties, mainly utilities. Detroit Edison recently joined the list of companies that lease USTI´s emissions flow rate monitoring system, the AUTO-PROBE Q2000.

USTI´s patented technology is the AUTO-PROBE Q2000. Because of its computerized control, the probe can be positioned precisely at specified points in a stack to accurately measure stack gas volumetric flow rates. Flow rates are used in conjunction with measured pollutant concentrations to calculate total emissions from a power plant.

"All of USTI´s competitors in the field of emission gas monitoring and calibration control their measurement tools manually," Brown said. "They simply cannot be as consistently accurate as our AUTO-PROBE Q2000 technology."

Companies are taking advantage of this accuracy.

"In 2002, our equipment tested 155 stacks," Brown said. "In 2003, a building year for USTI, the number increased to165 stacks tested. And in 2004 our equipment, either leased or used by USTI, tested 214 stacks. We´re growing. We´ve built greater awareness in the market. Everybody in the industry knows who we are now. USTI has captured about 18 percent of the RATA audit market."

The company has 18 employees, most of who are based at the Gibsonia office. Staffing has increased from 10 people when AEP acquired USTI in 2002.