I recently took my car into the dealership for service. I needed to have my tires rotated, the oil changed, and I asked my service technician to check a noise I was hearing that sounded like my brakes. Having a reliable car is important to me (and I would argue it’s important to most of us) and I know that I need to make the time and plan ahead to do the required preventive maintenance to keep it running great. As a mom, too, I think about this because when I’m driving around with my children, I rely on the reliability of my car—I never want to be stranded or not have my car operate at its best, especially when I have my children with me.
This sense of making sure I had reliable transportation began when I turned 16 and had my own car. My parents bought me my first car and instilled in me the need to take care of it and maintain it properly. My father’s words about “changing the oil every 3,000 miles” are tattooed on my brain. In fact, when I purchased the car I’m driving now and the dealer told me that I didn’t have to bring it in every 3,000 miles because of its performance engine and how it was made, I couldn’t believe it. I can actually go about 8,000 to 10,000 miles before changing the oil? You’re kidding me!
What’s interesting is that a refinery is much the same as our cars. Preventive maintenance and planning the care of our units, vessels, piping, pumps and rotating valves are key to running reliably. And running reliably is ultimately what we want. In the refining world, there are even measurements we can calculate that tell us how we’re doing and how reliably we are running our facilities. Mechanical availability is a way to tell if the equipment we rely on for safe and efficient production is consistently running well. An example of this is the time between pump repairs. Just as you want your car running smoothly as long as possible between servicing, we aim to do the right repairs at the right time to keep all of our pumps running well, and in Commerce City refinery alone, we have more than 840 pumps. The more time we have between repairs the better...the more reliably we're running. It takes a lot to keep these humming, but it’s critical.
When our plant is running reliably, a whole chain of other things work well, too. Just one of those is consistent supply and providing the quality fuel products for our customers. If you’re like me, I sometimes take for granted that when I pull up at the pump to fill up my car with gasoline and expect it to be there, it’s there. The availability of quality fuel supplies is pretty invisible (unless you’re in the industry). I would submit a lot of us probably take for granted the reliability of fuel supplies. But, it really does take a lot of work through a series of processes to have it show up at the end of the nozzle when you need it to keep your car running. So, we’ll focus on running the refineries reliably. We’ll rely on you to do the preventive maintenance on your car!