At EET Fuels, we’re leading the energy transition by performing today, transforming for tomorrow, and delivering the UK’s first low carbon refinery. 

Our people are vital to achieving our ambition, and #redefined showcases the work that they are doing to deliver the fuels our community needs, now and in the future.

In National Apprenticeship Week, we wanted to share James Ellison’s contribution.  James began his working career at EET Fuels (formerly Essar Oil UK) as a fresh-faced apprentice.

Five years on, he has worked hard to become a process operator – a highly technical role, which requires, skill, precision and graft to keep the Stanlow Manufacturing Complex safe, online and producing important products for its customers.

How would you describe your day-to-day role?

It’s a really technical and varied role. As a field operator, I’m based outside on the complex and as a team we work 12-hour shifts in rotation to ensure process operators are always available. I finished my apprenticeship two years ago this March and I was given loads of hands-on experience, doing most of my training on the job, which was brilliant.

Now, along with my colleagues, I monitor all the equipment and prepare for maintenance so the wider team can work safely on the equipment. We respond to any incidents on site, alongside the fire teams, to maintain site safety 24/7.  Prior to shutdowns it is our role to safely shutdown equipment and make it safe for work to be completed. Then, following shutdowns, it’s our responsibility to get the machinery back up and running again.

When I think about my day-to-day role, no two days are the same. A lot of tasks take place outside and on a regular day, I would go out and check the equipment, check product samples, take water effluent samples set by the Environment Agency and then deal with whatever the rest of the day brings.

It’s a bit like maintaining a very large car to keep it moving, checking oil levels, maintaining tyre pressures, fuelling the engine.  It’s all essential to ensure that we can keep performing today.

How has your role being redefined to support EET Fuels’ in reaching delivering its goal of being the UK’s first low carbon refinery. 

When I think of the phrase ‘performing today, transforming for tomorrow’ my role currently sits in the ‘performing today’ category.  We need to keep everything moving now, so that we can eventually make the energy transition to net zero.

It’s my job, along with others to keep the units safe so we can run to time and deliver the products our customers need. That said, I started as an apprentice at 16, so I’m only 22 now, and I plan to be working on site in 2030 when we’ve fuel switched to low carbon hydrogen and are using industrial carbon capture to just about eliminate our emissions. 

Products are changing all the time – we don’t make some products that we made when I started as an apprentice, so my role will no doubt evolve as we decarbonise.

What does success look like in your role for 2024?

Put simply, if the equipment is safe, online and making the products our customers need then that’s success.

 As a team, how would you say you are contributing to the UK's energy transition?

We need different people with different skill sets within the team to keep things moving. For example, field process operators along with panel operators communicate information effectively so that all required work can be completed safely and successfully.

Eliminating the emissions for the cracker (through industrial carbon capture) is a big part of our plan and my team will have a role to play on achieving that.

Across the business, everyone has an important role to play though, as an apprentice, I had the opportunity to spend time with all of our teams and got a full understanding of how it all fits together, which was incredibly helpful.

In your role, what do you think will be the key areas of focus or challenges in the next three years?

I see myself staying on the cracker, which is a very interesting department within the refinery, and it will be exciting to see the industrial carbon capture plant being built alongside it to capture its emissions. 

I would like to learn more units on the cracker and progress to be a panel operator in the next three years. Progression within my department is my ultimate goal.