MRO Magazine

How Shell restarted Europe’s largest refinery

May 7, 2018 | By Rehana Begg

—Sponsored article by Operational Excellence in Energy, Chemicals & Resources

Ahead of the Operational Excellence in Energy, Chemicals & Resources Summit, our partner IQPC caught up with Ýr Gunnarsdóttir, Operational Excellence / Continuous Improvement Leader for Shell. In this new and exclusive interview, Ýr discusses how Continuous Improvement (CI) can act as a key enabler for business performance and outcome and how CI ways of working enabled Shell to start-up the Pernis refinery in less than a month after a full shut-down due to a power failure.

Ýr, tell us about your role at Shell?

I began my career in a global team called Process Leadership, driving Continuous Improvement, efficiency mind-set and Operational Excellence across the enterprise. One of my key focus areas was to drive efficiency gains aimed at maintaining competitive advantage and driving innovation within the Upstream International and Upstream Americas Exploration organizations in collaboration with our Technology and Competitive IT (TaCIT) group.


A few months ago, I took up the challenge as Continuous Improvement lead at Shell’s Pernis refinery in The Netherlands, one of the biggest refineries in the world. My role at Pernis requires continuously aligning initiatives to allow a more targeted focus towards successful outcomes, and to drive cultural change where needed to drive this focus. It also requires looking at strategy deployment, ensuring we link our initiatives to our strategy, and then tying those to key metrics to be sure that we’re doing the right things, at the right time all while utilizing the right resources.

My passion is to make a difference and to drive sustainable outcomes and I recognize that human factors play a big role in the success of my approach. You can have the best model in the world, but if you don’t have the right people on board and your leaders leading by example, then you get stuck in a loop of trying to implement models with little success.

Based on your experience, how can CI drive Operational Excellence and act as a key enabler for business performance and outcome…even in times of crisis?

A pragmatic roll-out and use of CI principles and approaches can establish fit for purpose ways of working and a culture of collaboration that drives competitive advantage through relentless business focus.

At Shell, we are continuously advancing our Operational Excellence and Continuous Improvement journeys. Doing this so that they are fit for purpose in today’s business environment requires a deep understanding of what you’re trying to achieve and then tailoring your models to make the most sense of them for the organization.

In times of crisis it’s important to know that you have the methods and tools in place to deliver results in a controlled manner. It’s really about what you know and how you can apply a Lean, outcome focused system to organize your structure in a way that allows a safe startup of your operations.

Dealing with incidents that require quick solutions requires you take employees on a crash course of learning more about Continuous Improvement and Lean ways of working. During this time, different stakeholders learn new things which they should take back to their production units once the crisis has passed. Not only will this help to improve daily operations, but should we have another incident, we will be able to replicate the newly learned ways of working faster and more effectively.

Read the full interview here

This interview was conducted in collaboration with the 2018 Operational Excellence in Energy, Chemicals & Resources Summit – taking place in Calgary this June 4-6. This executive-level event will bring together over 250 Maintenance and Reliability professionals and Operations leaders from Canada’s leading energy, chemicals and resources companies to discuss the latest strategies to achieve the next level of efficiency and operational agility.

The world class speaker line-up includes: Suncor, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell, Veolia, BP, SaskPower, Enbridge, Energy Safety Canada, Toronto Hydro, Cameron LNG, Irving Oil and many more – all presenting at the event and there to show you how to sharpen your competitive edge through asset management excellence.

Download agenda for more information


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