By Org Coach ThomasOct 17, 2016
Operating modern day refineries require different technical organization design.
What ever happened to the good ole days where process engineers actually focused on process optimization? For those who have noticed, those days are long gone.
Incidents such as BP Texas City and Tesoro Anacortes have structurally changed how engineers spend their day to day activities. Not that oil refineries previously neglected process safety responsibilities – it’s just that today this is priority 1, 2, and 3.
Society today has a zero tolerance stance towards refinery incidents. The rules of the refining game have substantially changed over the last decade, but many refining companies have not adopted their organization structure to manage this change.
I am not saying to ignore PSM. I agree that PSM should be Priority 1 for refiners. You cannot make money if you are not reliable - period. What I am saying; however, is that the entire refinery organization should not be focused solely on PSM.
Have we forgotten about reliability engineers, metallurgical engineers, mechanical engineers, project engineers, environmental engineers and the dozens of other engineers supporting refinery functions? It is my firm belief that majority of the refineries out there under-utilize these other engineering disciplines.
Sure, these other engineers may not understand the process as well as process engineers. That doesn’t mean that we cannot teach them. A refinery manager once told me that “you can train any person to do any job in a refinery”. I agree with this principle, and I support efforts to efficiently utilize all refinery resources to manage today’s process safety challenges.
So what does this all mean?
It means to stop inviting process engineers to every meeting in the refinery. The other engineers in business units need to start pulling their own weight. All engineers need to be multi-dimensional, or your organization will just get bogged down.
Train the plant or reliability engineer to facilitate decisions on process safety. Project engineers need to do more than just cost estimates and project management. HES specialists need to contribute more than work standard documentation and compliance assurance reporting.
If refineries do not increase effectiveness of their personnel resources there will only be two outcomes:
Both roads lead to declining net cash margin and overall competitiveness.
You may have gotten away with lower efficiency business during these past few years. However, with the North American midcontinent crude disconnect gone and product demand destruction impacts becoming more visible, your inefficient org capability will be evident.
It will be prudent for refineries to address the prioritization challenges of today’s process engineers quickly. Have an honest conversation with yourself. Do you really believe that your organization is structured the best way possible?