Behind the Scenes: Emergency Response Reactor Repair Project at Sonneborn LLC

About a week before Christmas, a process upset on a reactor at Sonneborn LLC (a subsidiary of Holly Frontier) in Petrolia, PA left the facility unable to produce one of their main oils refined for use in skin products. Project Manager John Dudo took the urgent call on December 16, 2020 at 3:30 pm. He responded with an immediate site visit to determine the scope of work necessary to fabricate and install a reactor bypass line to bring the facility back on-line quickly.

Every day the facility was losing substantial revenue with their main product out of production. The pipe routing itself was determined to be straight forward although in a difficult location high on top of the reactor; but the first challenge was finding pipe and fittings. The process required a chrome-moly alloy with a heavy wall schedule. Finding a source was a great first step. By 9:30 pm on December 16, the materials were secured in Houston, TX. Because of the urgency, the material was shipped from Texas using tandem drivers to drive through the night. While Fabrication Manager Colton Forbes found the correct weld procedure, John Dudo and technician Larry O’Toole scrambled to line up the other important resources. The nature of the material and weld procedure required both pre-heat and post-weld treatments, 100% X-ray, and the material thickness made machined beveling necessary.

As these specialty subcontractors were worked into the pre-planning efforts, McClure had to hire welders to test out on the weld procedure and work through weekends and on Christmas Day. The schedule required work around the clock, coordinating the time needed to pre-heat, complete welds, post-weld heat treat and then x-ray the completed welds. Fortunately, most of the welds could be done in a make-shift shop at the facility. However, there were two challenging position welds done in the absolute cold, rain, snow and wind at the top of the reactor into the late evening on Christmas Eve. Despite some unforeseen obstacles along the way, installation was successfully completed and the system turned over to operations on December 26, three days ahead of schedule. Due to the schedule pressure, emergency situation, long hours, and challenging work obstacles we utilized MAC Safety’s NIXN Job Safety Analysis program to address and minimize risk factors. All work was completed safely with no injuries or incidents. We’d like to extend a special thank you to welders Steve Plavi and Andy Marshall for answering the call.


McClure Company is no stranger to quick response projects. We take pride in delivering the most reliable customer service and quality craftsmanship under any challenging circumstances. Contact our team to learn more about how we can provide your manufacturing facility with over 65 years of expertise in mechanical construction, pipe fabrication services, and maintenance. See more of our industrial work.

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