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The End of an Era at Process Combustion Systems

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Photo by Rebecca Hardcastle.

In 1980, Dale Paschinski was lured by the call of the west, moving from Regina to Calgary to take advantage of its red-hot economy. He sensed instability and after only three weeks, he acted on his misgivings and returned to Saskatchewan; he witnessed Alberta’s devastating 1981 crash from a distance.

Things in Saskatchewan were significantly better, and with several promises of contacts from clients, Paschinski decided to strike out on his own. In June of 1981, he established Process Combustion Systems Inc. (PCSI) to provide boiler and burner services to local institutional and small indus-trial clients. The fledgling company worked on hospitals, schools, offices and government buildings and slowly expanded its scope. The company earned a reputation for quality work, striving to live up to its promise of “Igniting Ideas with Innovation” by supplying the most reliable, efficient and technically sound solutions for system upgrades. The company grew as Saskatchewan became a centre for mining and potash while companies throughout the west and into the United States also tapped PCSI’s expertise for their projects. By its 15th anniversary, PCSI had become a well-rounded, diverse organization serving its roster of regular large key industrial clients and as well as its institutional base.

“We decided that maybe we’d take another look at Alberta because our market was mostly West-ern Canada at that time and Calgary was kind of the centre of it,” says Dale Paschinski, founder of Process Combustion Systems.

Unlike the first attempt, this time the move took. In 1998, Paschinski, with wife Sandi, installed as controller, relocated Process Combustion and their family to Calgary, adding a growing number of Western Canadian clients to its established uranium, potash and mining client roster in Saskatchewan and Ontario. As PCSI expanded its offerings and applications across Canada and then into the United States and the rest of the world, the team beat the bushes for opportunities, and with increasing word-of-mouth recommendations the company quickly became the go-to company for all fired equipment needs.
“We had a small but solid group of people, we got some good breaks and we won some very large contracts that gave us the courage to bid on even bigger ones,” he says.

A contract to Y2K-proof the University of Calgary boilers led to three huge projects for the Foothills Hospital. The expertise gained through these projects emboldened Paschinski to bid to rebuild the entire central heating plant at UBC, which paved the way to more large boiler refit work at major hospitals and universities across the west. This augmented PCSI’s impressive list of long-time clients and the team continued to search for innovative ways to exceed client expectations on every project as it became the industry benchmark for combustion.

“We made a lot of good friends and alliances that allowed us to continue to not only play in the field but to lead it,” he says.

That leadership attracted the attention of potential clients as well as product manufacturers look-ing to partner with industry leaders. U.S. boiler manufacturer Victory Energy approached PCSI about representing its product line in Western Canada, and this partnership allowed the company to provide quality products to clients planning extensive expansions. Then after exponential growth in SAGD, PCSI was Victory’s top sales representatives for boiler and burner products in North America for four of the six years from 2008 to 2014.

This partnership paired nicely with the longtime relationships the company enjoyed with Fireye for flame safeguard controls and burner management products, North American Manufacturing (which is now Fives) for combustion technology and process heating solutions, E-Tech Heat Recovery Systems for heat exchanger solutions and Nationwide for mobile boiler and steam plant rentals. Today, PCSI distributes a wide range of products including high temperature and low NOx burners, combustion controls, fuel trains, package boilers, heat recovery products and flame safety equipment.

“Those companies really were the base of our success. We learned so much from the senior people at those companies and we helped them build their businesses too by applying their equipment in very unique applications,” Paschinski says.

Through hard work, long hours and catering to existing clients while attracting new ones, PCSI diversified its business and found great success, the fruits of which was shared with staff. And that success has grown over the decades with the result being a strong company poised for great things in the years to come.
Today, and Tomorrow, at Process Combustion Systems

From burners to boilers, today’s PCSI has everything clients need. For those with specialized requirements, the team designs and builds custom systems and offers best-in-class field services across North America and beyond to ensure clients remain up and running. Also, since 1994, PCSI’s engineers have played a pivotal role in establishing industry standards for safety, reliability, emissions performance and innovation for thermal and fired equipment.

One of the things of which Paschinski is most proud is the team’s focus on research and development coupled with exhaustive onsite testing to ensure they are providing the best possible solutions. Whether it’s building a low emissions scalable system to preheat air down mine shafts or conducting extensive simulations and testing to tailor a system to capture methane produced during mining to use it as fuel, PCSI’s innovative engineers and technicians have spurred the company to succeed.

“The backbone of the company is the people – hardworking and dedicated to clients and dedicated to always looking for the next new application or development that will bring better results,” he says.

The company actively recruits Canada’s top technology schools’ graduates who are eager to build on their education and become combustion specialists. This balance of seasoned experience and new ideas and energy is one thing that attracted DCM Group when Paschinski decided to sell and retire. It was instantly a good fit. DCM has a strong history and was diversifying, and the companies share the same values of hard work, a focus on team and customer satisfaction. The Paschinskis sold some shares to their son, Chris, who is the lead fabrication and construction manager, and to Shane Hay, now the president and CEO, making them the largest minority shareholders in PCSI, and DCM took over the helm with the majority, steering into a bright future.

With mining, oil and gas and hydrogen gaining steam, rare earth minerals in demand to support EV production, the charge toward carbon capture and a boost in food production and processing in Canada as countries sought an alternative to sanctioned countries’ resources, the sky’s the limit for Process Combustion Systems moving forward.

“That’s the thing about combustion – it’s universal, from producing steam for a multitude of applications to infinite numbers of direct and indirect Fired Thermal Processing requirements. Every major industry sector that utilizes combustion in its operation needs our kind of company,” he says. “There’s so many opportunities right now in North America and beyond. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. I tell the new young owners and employees that it will take a lot of investment in combustion applications to accomplish going green.”

Paschinski is watching this future unfold as a contractor for the company he founded, and now that his one-year transition contract is up, he’s happy to help out part time but is looking forward to more travelling with Sandi and spending lots of time with their family and friends. As he welcomes retirement, Dale Paschinski knows that with the incredible team assembled, the relationships built over decades and strong leadership in place, his clients, his staff and his life’s work are all in great hands.

120, 270 Exploration Avenue SE
Calgary, AB T3S 0C3
Phone: (403) 250-1075
www.processcombustion.com

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