A new general manager has been appointed at Total Lindsey Oil Refinery after a switch by owner Total has seen Jean-Marc Durand installed at the helm of a plant on the outskirts of Paris.
And while it is a move that sees him return to his home country, it is a first UK posting for Thomas Behrends, having almost arrived on the South Humber Bank more than a decade ago.
The pair worked together in Antwerp for five years, and while the departure is sudden, Mr Durand has full confidence in his successor.
“It is a little unexpected, but the refinery world is a dynamic place,” he said. “We have our ambition plan here, we have finished a turnaround and we are extremely busy with a new bunker fuel for shipping following implementation of new standards on January 1.
“When the group has a need it is part of the game as an executive – if you can fulfil this need it is your duty to do that. I have no particular concern as I know Thomas, I know his qualities and I know the refinery is in very good hands, so it makes my move easier for me. I know someone good is taking over.”
Mr Durand heads to the 102,000 barrels-per-day Grandpuits refinery, to the south east of the French capital, and he takes with him a fondness for North Killingholme’s plant, where he oversaw the 50th anniversary celebrations.
He took over from Belgian Jacques Beuckelaers in September 2017, completing a major restructure in which the plant was turned into a single stream operation with a significant headcount reduction.
“I have put a lot of effort into this refinery, working closely with the team,” he said. “It will mainly be good memories. I have put a bit of my heart into this. We have a good team. We change one man, but the rest stay there.
“The highlight for me is the very strong performance on safety. That is something I am very proud of, and I am very proud of the team for having achieved that. We are a top performer on this and it is a real sign of professionalism.
“We’ve also delivered the transformation plan at the refinery. Jacques started it, and carried out a significant part, and I continued to deliver clearly on the strategy, which stays the same. ‘Refine less, refine better and deliver product for the local market’. We want to increase the quality of product and make the utmost out of every droplet or molecule we have entering the refinery.”
Mr Durand takes up his new role on January 20.
As well as the day-to-day operation of the refinery, Mr Behrends inherits an upgrade project on the HDS3 unit’s feed. “That is a second phase we have got in terms of repositioning the refinery to a more robust position for its sustainability, and we will deliver that,” Mr Durand said. “The team must be proud of that, it is a massive achievement. It has not been easy, we’ve had a difficult turnaround, very hard preparation, long preparation and execution was on some parts very good, and others a bit less good, but it delivered what we expected, and that’s the most important aspect.”
He also expressed his delight in the ambition plan, covering the key pillars of safety, availability, people, cost and value.
Mr Behrends joined Total when it was Elf in April 1997. A German national, his first role with the group was at a brand new refinery, Leuna, west of Leipzig, as head of inspection as construction began on what remains on of the most modern refineries in Europe. As a 29-year-old he described it as a “big opportunity – setting up an oil refinery and learning all processes from a technical point of view”.
He remained there until 2002, as head of inspection while also part of a team working on optimisation, before heading to Antwerp for a first stint in maintenance and then as turnaround manager.
It was in 2007 when an opportunity to come to Lindsey emerged, but there was a role at Leuna too. “I had to go back for a big turnaround,” he recalled, working in a combined role of maintenance manager and technical manager.
His second posting at Antwerp came in 2013, with a huge investment project, and he latterly became plant manager there.
Of the move, the father of three said: “I have had a very warm welcome. Jean-Marc has made quite an effort to get around with me. People are so important to me, as they are to Jean-Marc, and they seem very open-minded with lots of support in the field. They are the biggest capital we have, we need to rely and count on them every second and every hour.”
Reflecting on time spent walking the site, he said: “I know Jean-Marc, so I know what I am getting. I wanted to see the housekeeping and meet people on the floor. I can see it is very positive. I have seen many, many good things, some I have seen at other sites and some I have not. In my head I have ideas we can implement, and I like the ambition plan, with people in the centre.”
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