My team works all year to prepare the shutdown of a plant. I’m part of a team that oversees the turnaround process at ExxonMobil’s Baytown facility, one of the country’s largest refineries. My role specifically involves directing the “how” in bringing our unit down and preparing it for maintenance.
“Turnarounds” are basically a total shutdown of a refinery unit for maintenance, repairs, upgrades and testing. This is a complex undertaking that doesn’t just involve turning off a pipeline. Refineries are 24/7 operations, and so ramping down production is a high-intensity procedure that can take anywhere from a year to two years to plan. Also, the shorter the turnaround the better since every day the unit is offline costs money.
Prior to ExxonMobil I served in the Marine Corps infantry, where I completed deployments to the Middle East and Djibouti, Africa. I also worked for the federal government, returning for my second tour in Iraq, and to Afghanistan with the U.S. State Department. These were unique experiences where I was tasked with guarding State Department diplomats, politicians and VIPs who found themselves in a high-threat environment.
It was here that I found myself planning and overseeing missions designed to re-establish positive relations with and aid in the humanitarian effort to Iraq on behalf of the United States. Specifically, I was credited with developing innovative strategies that enhanced mission planning and execution. As a tactical commander I was able to implement and train other State Department personnel as well as locals to run safe, well-planned missions.
This proved extremely beneficial during the Syrian refugee crisis, where I escorted refugees as they crossed the border into Iraq, and also during the week-long protection of two Olympic gold medalists from the women’s U.S. soccer team, who were promoting women’s rights throughout Iraq. While the situation on the ground was still very tense, I was able to convert my ideas into action to keep some truly amazing people out of harm’s way. I will always look back on this time in my life as a significant time of growth and service, which I have carried over to my career here at ExxonMobil.
Whether serving in the armed forces or working in Baytown, I am always driving toward improving and streamlining processes. For example, I recently digitized our normally paper-driven shutdown procedure into a 3-D time-lapse system to speed up our process and make it safer.
Thanks to this new system, whether it be turnarounds or any type of emergency process, we have a new resource that can be used to instantly implement solutions and resolve problems. Actually, a few weeks ago, a storm right here in Baytown caused a forced shutdown of one of our units. My supervisor asked me to put our turnaround plan into action, which we were able to do in record time thanks to our new digital applications.
Our digitally powered turnaround impressed even the most seasoned operators we have here. I can’t say enough about my coworkers and supervisors who, in actuality, were the ones that executed the plan. Digitizing the event made this unexpected week-long project even shorter.
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