Refining Without Compromise

By Frank Clouse
Wednesday - April 12, 2006
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Hardworking Tesoro Refinery employees: Theodore Metrose, Darryl Asato, Nolan Keauli, Darryl Parran and Frank Clouse
Hardworking Tesoro Refinery employees: Theodore
Metrose, Darryl Asato, Nolan Keauli, Darryl Parran and
Frank Clouse

We may not have many manufacturing plants in Hawaii, but we do manufacture something in the Islands that we use every day - refined petroleum products. These products include gasoline for our cars that get us to work or to take our kids to soccer games, jet fuel for visits to see family and friends, fuel oil to generate electricity for our homes and businesses, diesel to operate machinery, and even ship fuel for interisland cruises.

Tesoro Hawaii’s refinery touches all of our lives. In fact, Hawaii derives nearly 90 percent of its energy needs from petroleum products. That’s why the role of our team of employees is so vital. All 260 of us at Tesoro’s refinery work in shifts around the clock, seven days a week, all year long to keep our Islands moving.

People typically don’t consider gasoline or jet fuel to be “manufactured” products. Tesoro imports crude oil - the raw product - from all over the world because there are no underground crude oil sources in Hawaii, and then we turn it into useful products at Campbell Industrial Park in Kapolei. Before the refinery started operating in 1972, Hawaii did not have a steady, secure supply of energy. Building a refinery right here in Hawaii was a way to address the precariousness of our energy supply.

At first, we brought in crude oil from the Alaskan North Slope, but crude oil supplies from that region have dwindled. Since demand for refined petroleum products continues to increase, we’ve had to bring in crude oil from other places in the world such as Africa, Norway and Russia. These types of crude oil require more complex refining processes that add to manufacturing costs. Tesoro has been reluctant to invest in upgrades to more efficiently process these types of crudes because of the gasoline price cap law and other state regulations that can impact our business.

As you can imagine, the complexity of our refinery requires specialized expertise. There are many units and each moving part is critical to our operations. In the same way, every employee is important to the refinery, and having the right people in the right places is very important. In a work environment like this, there can be ground-floor decision-making and we can trust each other’s judgment. Over the past 25 years, I’ve held different positions at the refinery, including serving as technical director, so I know how important it is to have the ability to make responsible decisions quickly.

No matter what role we may have, safety is everyone’s top priority. We encourage every employee to look after each other. Even with all the products that we make, we remind each other that safety is our No. 1 product. We will not jeopardize a person’s safety over production, and have no qualms shutting down a unit, even if that means losing thousands of dollars a day.

We are fortunate to have experienced employees who have been with us for many years, some even from the refinery’s earliest days. These longtime dedicated employees will definitely be missed and will create a challenge for us when they retire. In anticipation of these changes, a few years ago, we stepped up our succession planning efforts by recruiting new operators. Since they will become our fellow team members, our existing operators and managers rigorously screen all new applicants. The candidates must pass multiple written and physical tests, including ones that involve climbing the refinery’s tall towers and operating heavy equipment. For those who do pass, there is an intensive 12-week boot camp of training. The result has been extremely good people on our team, who continue to receive on-the-job training at our refinery.

In addition to highly trained individuals, we also seek people who take our values seriously, such as being environmentally responsible. This value is personally important to me because I enjoy Hawaii’s natural beauty. When I’m not working at the refinery, my wife, a native of Korea who has lived in Hawaii for 25 years, knows that I’m probably hiking on the Island somewhere. I’ve created a website to share my hiking experiences,

As long as we have a great team at the refinery, I know that we can continue to make the products that people in Hawaii need without compromising our values of safety and caring for our Island home.

Next Week: Corey Matsuoka, Executive VP SSFM Planning and Refining

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