Shell moves to business-as-usual plan for strike-impacted refineries

As the United Steelworkers union (USW) strike enters its fifth week, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, which serves as lead company for National Oil Bargaining (NOB) negotiations, is implementing a plan to return its strike-impacted sites to normal, full-rotation operations without the use of union workers.

As the United Steelworkers union (USW) strike enters its fifth week, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, which serves as lead company for National Oil Bargaining (NOB) negotiations, is implementing a plan to return its strike-impacted sites to normal, full-rotation operations without the use of union workers.

The company will complete the process of returning operations to full rotation by midsummer at its 340,000-b/d Deer Park, Tex., refinery, using only Shell-trained operators, employees, and staff, according to Aamir Farid, Shell’s vice-president of manufacturing for the Americas.

The announcement came in a Mar. 2 letter to Shell staff informing them that the company was transitioning from contingency plans to business-as-normal operations at production sites affected by USW’s unfair labor practice (ULP) strike, which began on Feb. 1 (OGJ Online, Feb. 2, 2015).

The company’s contingency plans, which have been in place at Shell’s USW-represented manufacturing plants for more than 12 months and were activated at Deer Park following USW’s Feb. 1 call to strike, involved the handover of the refinery to Shell-trained operators, as well as the training of new staff, in order to keep operations running smoothly and safely for the immediate duration of the strike.

With discussions between USW International and oil companies now stalled, however, Shell has shifted its focus to a long-term goal of maintaining safe, reliable operations, with or without a union workforce, for as long as necessary.

“We are disappointed that the USW International Union seems unwilling to achieve a timely and reasonable agreement; but, we are also determined to continue running our business—this is in the best interest of our employees, our customers, the sites, and the communities in which we operate,” Farid said.

Meanwhile, the company said it will continue to pursue negotiations with USW in hopes of reaching a mutually satisfactory agreement.

Shell recently activated its strike contingency plan to maintain safe and reliable operations using Shell-trained employees at subsidiary Shell Chemical LP’s plant in Norco, La., which joined the list of strike-impacted sites in late February (OGJ Online, Feb. 23, 2015).

In limbo

Active negotiations between Shell and USW ended on Feb. 20 after the union rejected the company’s seventh offer of resolution.

Despite various media reports that the parties would pick up discussions this week, neither Shell nor USW has confirmed an official date as to when negotiations might resume.

To date, USW has called its members to strike at the following locations, listed by company:

Motiva Enterprises:

• 600,000-b/d refinery in Port Arthur, Tex.

• 235,000-b/d Convent, La., refinery.

• 238,000-b/d Norco, La., refinery.

Shell:

• 340,000-b/d Deer Park refinery.

• Shell Chemical LP’s Deer Park petrochemicals plant.

• Shell Chemical’s plant in Norco, La.

LyondellBasell:

• 268,000-b/d Houston refinery.

Marathon Petroleum Corp.:

• 451,000-b/d Galveston Bay, Tex., refinery and associated South Houston Green Power cogeneration plant.

• 242,000-b/d Catlettsburg, Ky., refinery.

Tesoro Corp.:

• 120,000-b/d Anacortes, Wash., refinery.

• 166,000-b/d Martinez, Calif., refinery.

• Carson portion of the 363,000-b/d Los Angeles refinery.

BP PLC:

• 413,000-b/d Whiting, Ind., refinery.

• 160,000-b/d Toledo, Ohio, refinery.

More in Operations