Shell team working together to improve refinery technical services

Why Refinery Technical Services Rely on Dynamic Teams

Don Campbell, hydroprocessing/hydrocracking business manager for the Americas, discusses why mentorship and diversity are key for best-in-class customer support.

By Don Campbell on Jul 27, 2020

I’m a hydroprocessing/hydrocracking business manager for the Americas at Shell Catalysts & Technologies, based in Houston, Texas. I like to solve problems, whether that’s clearing roadblocks for my team or collaborating with customers on cost-effective solutions to adapt to current demand reductions.

I’m motivated by working with dedicated colleagues and applying my experience to coach internal teams. I love to work with people and help them develop their skills to build relationships, think long-term, and respond to various market and supply conditions.

This helps us benefit not only at Shell by creating a strong culture, but it benefits our customers by receiving best-in-class support and unique solutions that add value to their business.

Responding to Market Challenges with Creative Solutions

At Shell Catalysts & Technologies, we’ve always had a cross-functional approach among the application, sales, and technical services teams to find optimal solutions for customers.

Recently, we’ve been thinking outside-the-box to help refineries reduce cash outflow. Even though many refineries are lowering their rates, units continue needing catalyst change outs. In the current environment, where cash preservation is key, our team is heavily involved in helping our customers realise options for fill-cost minimisation.

For example, we proposed a fill-cost minimisation solution for a two-stage hydrocracker that our technical services team was monitoring, to help the customer reduce costs for the catalyst change out.

After considering several options — like regenerating the catalyst with what is available on the open market — we came to the consensus that the hydrocracker’s second stage could forego a change out and run for another three years, which would result in substantial savings of about six million dollars for the operator.

These kinds of solutions are needed so refineries can make it through the rest of this year and into 2021. When demand gradually increases, they can potentially do another change out with a full, fresh load.

I remember working through similar challenges during the oil shock in 2008 and 2009, when refineries faced surplus production capacity combined with significant demand reduction.1 Through that experience, I recognised the importance of maintaining a long-term perspective and to continue being a trusted partner.

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Coaching High-Quality Commercial Talent

I’ve been in the catalyst business for most of my career. I’d started out over two decades ago as a catalyst research chemist. Throughout my experience from engineering to sales, I’ve valued how important mentorship can be to create dynamic, dedicated teams.

I strive to be the best at whatever I do, and I always push myself to grow in any role that I have. I share this outlook with my team members and encourage them to stretch their capabilities. As a leader and a coach, my goals are to identify high performers and coach them to get to the next level.

Together, we work on their diagnostic skills. I teach them about maintaining relationships with our partners all through their organisation, not just with the people directly involved in decision making. It’s good to have a network.

We analyse long-term strategies not only for their accounts but for their career development. We look at where there may be gaps in their planning, what they want to work on, and where they want to be in five years. Then we make a plan on how to get there.

My philosophy is that if you are comfortable in your role, then you are not growing. When managing teams, my thought is to work closely with high performers, train them for their next role, and then let them fly. It’s been rewarding to see my team members get promoted.

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Supporting Diverse and Innovative Thinking

Looking forward, I’d like to support initiatives that encourage more diversity in leadership. Our organisation has made gains in promoting more women into leadership roles in recent years, and I think it’s very important to continue supporting career advancement for people of colour.

From my experience, if you have teams full of people who are similar to you and your way of thinking, your team can get stuck in a rabbit hole when problem-solving. People from different backgrounds and cultures have a different way of thinking about things, which reduces skewed views and improves a team’s approach to complex issues.

It’s important to show action behind views. I’ve made an effort when putting together teams to choose the best candidates while having a balanced mix of people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Then, we work together on building their skills. When they get promoted, I hope to see them continuing to push change through the organisation.

We have people all over the world who work for Shell and in our group, and this global reach makes it important for our teams to be diverse and to better relate with our partners.

For my long-term goal, I’d like to leave a lasting legacy at Shell Catalysts & Technologies. I’d like to become a general manager, or how I see it, a leader of communities at Shell. I look forward to contributing to the organisation’s great work environment, open career development opportunities, and progressive thinking.

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1 https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/steo/archives/feb09.pdf