Back in 2019, before the days of COVID-19 and the lightning shift from in-person to virtual industry gatherings, this editor used the current forum to pen something of a love letter to what—at the time—he recognized as the finest downstream conference in the business.
While much about our industry and the way we work has changed in this post-pandemic era, it’s comforting to know that some things have remained the same. In May 2023, I had the opportunity to return to that event, and the words I wrote back in 2019 are as true today as they were back then: “With so many events to choose from, it’s hard to sift the diamonds from the glass…in the downstream sector, this editor has found at least one diamond of an annual conference and training event. It’s called RefComm Galveston.”
Truth be told
Where many post-pandemic downstream events have fallen into the make-up-the-lost-revenue-by-peppering-the-agenda-with-uncomfortably-pay-to-play-sales-presentations or gratuitous speeches from higher-ups better suited for boardrooms, RefComm Galveston delivered practical, no-nonsense knowledge to its on-the-ground and in-the-plants mix of attendees. And it was hard to find a presentation that didn’t include an actual refiner attached to it.
These days, finding that in any downstream conference would be just short of a miracle. But the RefComm team knows what it’s doing.
That said, let’s finish with what could be endless praise for the RefComm team’s accomplishment because, as any attendee knows, the worth of a conference is what one takes away from it.
In terms of RefComm’s May gathering in Galveston, that list could go on for thousands of words regarding knowledge-sharing alone. And when it comes to expanding one’s network, with 642 attendees (including 233 from refiners, making up 36% of the total audience) from 22 countries, and 55 technical presentations across three separate tracks, you walk away with more than your corporate expense account would ever be able to cover were you to attempt garnering this amount of industry wisdom and growing so many meaningful contacts on your own.
As this editor has said before, however, RefComm’s true worth comes in how it creates the ideal setting for all the right people to come together to share, discuss, and solve shared issues faced in their daily work openly and collectively. Amid—and even despite—the conference’s well-structured tracks, this editor regularly experienced the synchronicity of conversations between attendees on different tracks from completely different parts of the world somehow discovering a shared operational problem and the ways they’ve approached solving it.
Appropriately, this year’s conference theme was adaptation, and given the task refiners are facing in tackling the global energy evolution while continuing to deliver affordable products to keep life as we know it going, it was clear from both the conference presentations and side discussions that collaboration will be key to evolving. In an era where other downstream conferences offer little to no genuine chances for interactive knowledge partnerships, it’s reassuring to see RefComm has remained true to its priorities of ensuring industrial safety, showcasing innovative technologies, and implementations, and above all, fostering opportunities for refiners to cooperatively explore and discuss their best practices.
For engineers, unit operators, plant managers, and anyone with their feet on the ground at any refinery, RefComm is simply the best event going.