Bonded Together: Not Even 20 Feet of Water Could Stop the Deer Park Family
Sep 18, 2017
To call Harvey a ‘huge storm’ would be an understatement. This is the story of the Shell Deer Park team coming together to safely shut down and stabilize the plant in the wake of an extraordinary weather event.
Colleagues working together to bring site back up and running in the wake of Tropical Storm Harvey
The storm was so intense that bands of rain were coming down sideways. Rain gear did little good in the teeth of Tropical Storm Harvey. Yet there they were, members of Shell Deer park’s emergency response and operations teams, out in the elements doing everything they could to safely shut down and stabilize the plant.
“I looked around at a group of my colleagues and not a single person was dry,” recalls Tom Dickey, a Pressure Equipment Inspector. “But we knew that we just had to keep doing what we were doing. We truly worked together because we are a family.”
That family responded to the extraordinary challenge of this massive storm with the care for community, and commitment to safety, that have long characterized Downstream’s largest assets.
Members of the Shell Deer Park team have also spent countless hours helping neighbors in need. One example comes from Raul Pena with Finance. He’s worked with neighbors in flooded homes, pulling out furniture, and stripping out insulation and sheetrock.
“I’m struck by the willingness of people to help each other out and come together as a community,” he says.
“I continue to be inspired by the employees and contractors at our site,” says Barry Klein, Shell Deer Park GM, “that in the face of personal adversity stemming from Harvey, they are also working diligently and with tremendous teamwork to get our site up and running again.”
The Deer park site was severely flooded in a storm system that dumped trillions of gallons of water on Texas and Louisiana. That flooding necessitated the controlled, planned shutdown of the refinery and chemical plant.
“During a huge storm event, it’s all about safe, stable operations with minimal distraction,” notes Maintenance Supervisor Dale Auterson. “And it’s all hands on deck.”
Sharing reflections while working as a family at Shell Deer Park: (L-R) Nicole Blythe; Tom Dickey; John Gray; Raul Pena; Luis Macias-Navarro
To call this storm event ‘huge’ might be an understatement. Tom, who has weathered many storms on the U.S. Gulf Coast, can’t recall a worse weather event with as much impact on the site.
“We had water everywhere,” he says, “probably 20 feet deep in some of the areas around the north effluent treaters. We manned it with the people who could get here and did the best we could.”
It was all about staying connected and asking the right kind of questions.
“It’s figuring out what we need to get back up and running.” Remarks Nicole Blythe, Construction Scheduling and Cost Analyst. “We ask ourselves what are our roadblocks, what can be done to get rid of those, and how many activities do we have to complete each day to get back up and running.”
They were working, as well, to protect their neighbors.
“We’ve got a commitment to the community of Deer Park,” explains John Gray, a Machinist on the night shift.
“I don’t want a release to impact my wife and my dog and my friends. We worked hard to save our lower dock road from the wall collapsing out. It was coming together with on goal – keeping everything in containment, no matter how hard it’s raining.”
Global manufacturing EVP Lori Ryerkerk and U.S. Country Chair Bruce Culpepper saw that kind of teamwork first hand on September 7. It was an opportunity for the two to check in with the team, see about people’s well-being, and get an update on operations.
“Bruce and I are grateful for the chance to visit Shell Deer park and thank everyone for their tremendous efforts,” says Lori. “The progress is apparent, thanks to extraordinary efforts by extraordinary people. There is a special sense of unity and collective purpose here in putting safety first while bringing this site back up. It’s truly inspiring to see.”
As work continues, the lessons of this experience are becoming apparent.
“It showed how quickly things can change for you,” says Luis Macias-Navarro with Finance. “It also showed the importance of asking for help. You can’t do it yourself. Everyone involved has to step up.”
That’s exactly what John witnessed.
It didn’t matter if you were an electrician or a pipefitter or a millwright,” he says. “This experience has bonded us and helped me understand a lot of people’s roles. It reminds me of when I was in the U.S. Marine Corps. You keep driving through. You don’t let anything stop you.”
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