5 Questions with Chase Dube, Assistant Director of Power Plant Maintenance

February 16, 2024
Chase Dube poses for a headshot on a white background.

We often take comfortable room temperatures in our campus buildings for granted, but there’s an intricate system at the University that makes comfy conditions possible. As the assistant director of plant maintenance in Utilities and Energy Management (UEM), Chase Dube leads a team of team of 46 workers who ensure that heating, cooling and electrical needs are met for the Main Campus and the J.J. Pickle Research Campus. His team, which fills one of many key components that make up UEM, includes mechanics, welders, insulators, and workers who maintain equipment — the turbines, water chillers, and boilers — responsible for cooling, heating, and generating power. This includes five chilling stations and three buildings that generate electricity on the Main Campus, four buildings at Pickle, and a 6.5-mile tunnel system that houses the pipes responsible for transporting the chilled water and steam that cool and heat UT.  

What is something about your job no one knows? 

One role I serve is planning and coordinating work between UEM shops so that our work is done in a safe and efficient manner without creating a risk to campus operations. There are different degrees to this planning as there is a focus on the next seven days, the next three months, and then the next five years of work. When meeting the campus power and cooling needs, it is imperative to keep an eye on the future, as many required parts are not readily available for the large-scale equipment we maintain. 

I am also involved in construction projects on campus. Every building tied into the campus utilities must be built so it receives reliable service and doesn’t pose a risk to the surrounding buildings. For this reason, UEM is very active in planning, design, and construction projects from initial design through substantial completion. 

What appeals to you about your work? 

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is when I’m able to troubleshoot systems within our power generation, heating, and cooling facilities. An issue in any of these areas can be the result of multiple factors aligning to indicate a problem. Analyzing system data trends and evaluating the process flow to find a solution that improves campus operations is the caffeine of my week! A recent example of troubleshooting efforts bearing fruit involved the lube oil system on our Siemens steam turbine. By gathering input from personnel, system data trends, and design documentation, I confidently adjusted orifice settings that created a more desirable system operating condition and restored reliable generation. These efforts support our mission of providing reliable and resilient campus utilities. 

What did you do prior to joining UT?

Before joining the University, I worked for Luminant (a major power producer in the ERCOT market). I joined Luminant directly upon graduation from Texas A&M University and focused on their Gas Plant Operations. In this area, I started as an engineer and was promoted to a plant maintenance manager position. The Gas Plant Operations fleet was made up of all three major types of power generation (gas-fed power boilers, simple-cycle machines, and combined-cycle machines), and I had the opportunity to work at each of them.

What is something you’re most proud of in your work at UT?

Our ability to meet the needs of the campus regardless of the weather conditions gives me my greatest sense of pride. We have had some real tests of our system over the last few years, from frigid conditions to boiling summers. Through all this, UEM teams kept a focus on doing our jobs safely and reliably, and that teamwork paid off. 

What is one of your favorite places on campus, and why?

My favorite place is the walk along Waller Creek. I grew up in the small town of Lexington, Texas, and spent my youth on more dirt than concrete. This scenic walk reminds me of the joys of nature and is a real gem to the University.