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Russell Taylor Group recruitment powers up Essar Oil UK’s ambitious decarbonisation plans

Posted by on 5/06/2023
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​In preparation for the 2023 Essar Oil UK shutdown at Stanlow refinery, Russell Taylor Group have conducted a review of the highly successful 2022 shutdown supply outlined in this case study. We supplied our client in excess of 100 industrial cleaning operatives over the duration of the project and we are proud to say we will be working with this client again on this year's scheduled shutdown which is expected to be even more demanding than last years.

Teams of technical specialists were put in place for the 2022 maintenance shutdown operation at Essar Oil UK’s Stanlow site in Ellesmere Port, on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal. The round-the-clock operation played an important part in the plant’s far-reaching commitment to future-proofing jobs in the energy industry as well as protecting the environment through Essar’s decarbonisation strategy, placing Stanlow at the very heart of the country’s energy transition. Plans to build a £360 million major new carbon capture plant at Stanlow are in line with the ambition for it to become a leading low carbon refinery by 2030, creating thousands of new jobs in the North West and North Wales.

A home-grown energy sector, cutting the reliance on fossil fuels and reducing exposure to wholesale energy prices, relies on the smooth and safe running of the UK’s power stations. And it’s the supply of highly qualified and professional teams that ensure plants like Stanlow are run to maximum performance and efficiency, contributing to the national plan of providing sustainable fuels for the future. In a world fully dependent on oil and natural gas, annual maintenance shutdowns are an essential element of the refining process, needing specialist technical operators - from engineers and mechanics to industrial cleaning experts - to ensure on-site operations remain safe, stay competitive and meet government regulations. Stanlow, the UK’s first low carbon hydrogen plant, is a key strategic national and regional asset and each year produces a sixth of the UK's road transport fuels while playing a key role in Britain's broader petrochemical industry, leading the transition to low carbon by 2050. When fully operational, the plant will each year capture the equivalent of taking 250,000 cars off the road.

The role of the specialist recruitment teams in our Industrial Trades and Engineering Division is to source qualified professionals to work in the industrial manufacturing, refining and industrial construction sectors. Our portfolio comprises many of the UK’s leading operations in Industrial Services and Mechanical & Engineering Installation and Maintenance. The Stanlow project needed their extensive knowledge and expertise of the regional jobs market to find and hire a massive temporary workforce. It also called for commitment to an intense recruitment schedule.

The shutdown events that take place at the refinery are a mandatory legal requirement to ensure the maintenance programmes meet legal statutory minimum standards. Shutdown periods normally occur approximately once every four years but can be sooner depending upon the area. These shutdowns are imperative for the site to perform at its optimum running. This complex task involved recruiting and then managing a large temporary labour force of more than 130 across a wide range of skilled roles, all working to exacting timescales in an environment where health and safety issues are paramount.

Over the shutdown period, preventative maintenance, renovation, upgrading and industrial cleaning were key to the success of the operation. Production unit assets such as vessels, columns and Stanlow’s Catalytic Cracking Unit had to be professionally cleaned, calling for the greatest levels of competence while working in full protective clothing.

Recruitment by the Russell Taylor Group team involved sourcing and hiring not only technical, engineering and industrial cleaning specialists but also supervisory staff, qualified Health and Safety officers and stores personnel. Managing such a big workforce of qualified and experienced professionals across a range of specialisms and trades needed our recruitment consultants to not only make sure they were on duty on site at the right time and in the right place but also to deal with their periods of time off and sickness. An added factor here was overseeing manpower issues and potential absence during the World Cup.

As the second largest oil refinery in the UK – the size of around 300 football pitches - the scale of the programme was immense. Early planning was vital to ensure work to put any faults right and prevent future problems was done quickly, safely and with minimum disruption to the operation of the plant. Close working alongside our client throughout all the maintenance processes was crucial to the success of the project by providing a skilled workforce to sustain existing efficient operating systems and also to set up new ones to keep the plant safe, competitive and be regulatory compliant.

Working to specific start dates made sure the 130-strong workforce was operational with the right number of personnel on site at the right times. Allotted induction spaces allowed by Essar were successfully filled so everyone was ready to go on site and all were vetted – checking Client Contractor National Safety Group (CCNSG), Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) cards and references - to confirm suitability.

Here the personal touch came into play, especially in the early days of the project. For the client, it was constant communication to update them of the hiring process and the numbers and skills of operatives being taken on. For those being hired, it was the detail of matters like making sure they arrived for induction on time – missing their start time would mean them being sent away. In some cases, this even meant helping them with directions to the Stanlow site. Once on site, building relationships with this temporary workforce was vital too, being there before and after office hours, servicing both day and night shifts, to answer any queries. Quick response to any issues arising for both client and labour force was essential to the running of the site during this maintenance shutdown. The Russell Taylor Group team was in place to take calls for absence and sickness, to speedily source new personnel to replace those leaving the project or declining a position at the last minute as well as finding candidates with vital transferable skills. Payroll queries were always dealt with promptly and efficiently while a new communication structure was put in place to ensure the smooth running of the clocking-in system and solve any payment issues. With such a large number of personnel on site at any one given time - and particularly as the shutdown was during autumn and winter - managing days off through sickness was handled efficiently, again by constant contact between the client and individuals, filling downtime promptly.

Of prime importance throughout the whole maintenance shutdown process was compliance to stringent Health & Safety Executive requirements, from the issue of full briefs to the workforce before the start date and regular communication with them in line with the client’s procedures.

Russell Taylor Group’s client regards its element of the shutdown to have been a success. The Stanlow site is now running at a much higher productivity level than in previous years and production is being maximised. This allows Essar to increase its overall revenue from the refined product and ensure its supply network is being supported appropriately.