“Preparedness is part of everything we do,” explains Joseph Chaney, ExxonMobil’s emergency planning and response supervisor. “We’re always training and updating response plans so that our employees working at any of our offshore and onshore locations know what to do in the event of a severe weather event.”
The company’s Gulf Coast refineries and petrochemical plants – in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Baytown and Beaumont in Texas – are resilient facilities that have been designed, managed and operated with the single goal of mitigating the impact of hurricanes and other adverse weather events. As such, they each have procedures in place detailing what actions to take as a hurricane approaches, including a step-by-step procedure to safely take the operation off-line. If a plant is partly evacuated, a group of employees known as storm riders will stay behind to ensure the operation is safe and to monitor and repair whatever can be fixed during the storm.
Refineries operate 24/7, constantly manufacturing gasoline and other commercial products from crude oil. That makes full shutdowns rare. However, when they do occur, they are managed by processes designed to keep both employees and surrounding communities safe.
For offshore operations, the threat of a hurricane starts a number of actions, culminating with full evacuations in the most severe scenario. First to leave are so-called nonessential staff, including cooks, electricians and other support workers. Meanwhile, a dozen or so employees stay behind to prepare the platform to withstand winds and heavy seas; this includes stopping production and ensuring that everything is secured from the impact of the storm. Once the facility has been fully secured, they’ll be taken by helicopter back to the mainland as well.
“If a hurricane heads our way, we’ll meet daily to review weather forecasting models and organize logistics to ensure that back onshore everyone is safe,” explains James Magouirk, who’s currently deployed on the Hoover-Diana platform in the Gulf of Mexico.
Even at ExxonMobil’s Houston campus, office-based employees are impacted by hurricanes and are regularly updated with preparation best practices. For example, it’s always a good idea to keep a “go bag” packed with basic electronics, a change of clothes, personal medications and any items that will help them ride out a storm and its initial aftermath.
Preparedness shapes ExxonMobil’s response to hurricanes and other severe weather events. It’s what helps protect refineries and offshore platforms and, most importantly, it keeps workers and communities safe.