To turn Cook Inlet crude oil into value added products produced in Alaska for Alaskans was the vision that brought Tesoro to Alaska and the reason why they are still here today, Cameron Hunt, Tesoro vice president and Nikiski plant manager told a joint Kenai/Soldotna Chamber of Commerce meeting recently. Hunt came to Alaska from Hawaii where he managed a Tesoro facility and said it didn’t take him long to understand that there was something special about the Kenai refinery, “It’s the workforce team that is special at the Kenai refinery. It’s something that I haven’t experienced anywhere else, not that I haven’t been part of other great work forces, but one Kenai is a high performing culture and one in which people are very engaged at every level with a sense of ownership in the success of the refinery. It’s a common refrain you’ll hear at the refinery asking what they can do to help the plant be more successful and its heart felt. I don’t know how that came about, it didn’t just happen in the last couple of years that I’ve been here but it’s really something that has been created over the last 47 years in the continuous operation of Tesoro’s Kenai refinery and it’s something we want to model elsewhere that produces this high performing culture,” said Hunt.
Underscoring Tesoro’s operating procedures and mission statement Hunt also had good news for local businesses of the coming economic impact with a planned spring turn-a-round, “There will be an uptick in what is generally a shoulder season economically on the Peninsula of about $2 million dollars that will be spent in our local restaurants, hotels and retail stores from the turn-a-round workforce of approximately 800 that will be coming into the community as we work around the clock to fix, upgrade and repair things that can only be replaced or changed during a plant shut down,” Hunt explained. An additional $17 some million dollars will be spent by Tesoro in the State to complete the turn-a-round. He also said that Tesoro while acquiring some Flint Hills oil importing facilities they had no plans to acquire Flint Hills’ dormant refinery and storage tank complex in North Pole. “What we see there is an opportunity to provide fuel to the interior at a low cost,” Hunt said.
Speaking to Tesoro’s efforts to be a good community neighbor Hunt told the Chambers about the Community Advisory Panel or CAP that was formed a little over a year ago to model transparency of refinery activities and to hear concerns from the community, “This is an ongoing forum where we can hear about what matters to the community as well let people know what we do at the refinery from how we partner with the Nikiski Fire Dept. for emergencies, to drills and training which can eye opening for our CAP members but also for Tesoro to learn things that we may have missed that are important to the community and a direct link that keeps misunderstandings from occurring,” he said. The CAP is a broad based panel that includes local businessmen, educators, students, ranchers, resort owners and fire fighters, some of which were in attendance at the meeting and introduced by Hunt. To learn more about the CAP and its members log on to tesoroalaska.com. Regarding the effects of the low price of oil Hunt commented, “I think there’s a conception that lower oil prices are good for a refinery. That’s not necessarily the case. As the oil prices get lower, our markets get very much compressed. We’re not able to make as much money off the barrels that we run. We supply fuel to the Alaska market, and a lot of that fuel goes to oil and gas workers, to oil and gas on the North Slope. We’re supporting that economy. So where the Alaska economy goes, we go. That said, I think we’re a very healthy company right now.”