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A Phased Approach

Shell and Motiva follow a phased approach for storm season preparations, beginning with pre-season planning activities. When storm season begins, plant management teams monitor storms, and if necessary, implement procedures to secure facilities following specific timelines that are based on the direction and magnitude of the storm. After a storm passes, plant managers implement post-hurricane activities.

In advance of a storm, all critical plant functions are considered, including computing services, communications, utilities, and health, safety, and environment. Shell and Motiva also assess the potential impact on deliveries of crude oil and petrochemical feedstocks, outgoing distribution of products, and onsite inventories. 

The severity and proximity of a hurricane or major storm to the facility will determine actions taken, including orderly shutdowns of facilities and the evacuation of personnel.

Focus on Preparedness

Shell and Motiva’s top priority is to protect people, assets, nearby communities and the environment. If conditions lead to an evacuation, Shell and Motiva are prepared to carry out plans in a safe and orderly way. Shell and Motiva work with the media and other communication channels to notify employees not to report to work when conditions may be unsafe.

Shell and Motiva have a workforce on duty at all times that can operate and maintain a facility safely, or if need be, shut down the units in a safe and controlled manner. The team that stays behind during a storm to maintain legal control of the site has a mix of expertise deemed essential for the situation. This often includes personnel who work on logistics, security, site supervision, and an EMT. This team is then responsible for communicating with Shell’s Emergency Operations Center.

Impossible Predictions

It is impossible to state with certainty what hurricane category level each facility could withstand. There are many variables to consider, such as strength, duration and path of a hurricane, and its proximity to the Shell or Motiva facility. 

The keys to hurricane management for Shell and Motiva are advance notice, tracking, and timely preparation to protect people and property. 

Facts About Plant Shutdowns and Restarts

Each refinery and petrochemical plant has its own specific shut down plan. The shut down could be partial or complete, planned or emergency. Regardless of the circumstance, extreme care is taken to shut down and secure each processing unit. The goal is to achieve a safe shutdown that will protect the equipment and enable a timely restart following a storm.

  • Restarting refinery and petrochemical facilities requires a well-planned and sequential process to ensure safety and success.
  • Each processing facility is unique. The restarting of production units must follow a specific order because some units can operate independently and some must run in conjunction with other units. As a result, the time required to restart each plant will vary.
  • Even if a facility has not been damaged by a storm, it could take from one day to over a week to restart. If there is damage, restarting could take considerably longer.
  • Restarting a refinery begins with a full damage assessment and the creation of a repair plan and schedule.
  • Everything must be inspected, including processing units, piping, electrical, cooling towers, and storage tanks.
  • Power is not restored until the assessment team is confident that nothing is damaged.
  • The process of and ability to restore electrical power depends on a plant’s power system. Some have cogeneration plants that allow them to make their own electricity. Others rely solely on the electrical grid, which can be compromised in a storm. Still others use a combination of their own and purchased electricity.
  • It is critical that all utilities needed for a restart are available. This includes steam, water, hydrogen, and oxygen, in addition to electricity.
  • Access to crude oil— either from a pipeline or a ship— must then be restored.
  • Once the crude is secured, the boilers and heaters are turned on in sequence. Because these run at high temperatures and pressures, it takes a considerable amount of time (approximately 2-3 days) for these to heat up and become fully functional.
  • Before a restart is accomplished, all systems must be tested to ensure they are operating properly and safely.
  • Finally, the process of refining crude oil into gasoline and other products takes from 12 to 24 hours.