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Semi-coherent and random thoughts about the Billings trip
Posted by: McQ on Saturday, June 07, 2008

Just some thoughts kicking around in my head about the trip to Billings, MT.

First - as with the Chevron people I met in Corpus Christi - the impression you get with the folks from the ConocoPhillips Billings refinery is that of caring professionals who have a real passion for what they do. And while what they do is complicated, fascinating and dangerous, what impressed me most was their love of and belief and pride in what they are doing. What is lost in all of the politics about 'big oil' and prices is the fact that these professionals do this critical job daily in the most efficient and safe way possible and provide the necessary life blood of the country's economy.

A random thought yesterday, as I made the 3 hour plus trip from Salt Lake City to Atlanta, found me realizing I may very well have been flying in an aircraft loaded with fuel refined by the very refinery I had been standing in that morning.

I want to extend my thanks to Mike Wirkowski, the refinery manager, and the entire staff of the ConocoPhillips (CP) refinery for the hospitality they extended a group of bloggers. They spent a lot of time with us during Thursday evening and Friday morning talking about what they do. And, of course, a special thanks to Tim and Jerry from CP for the Montana Brewery stop. If anyone is in that area and likes award winning craft-brewed beers, you'll enjoy the Montana Brewery (and I recommend the Fat Belly Ale and Tim recommends the Wee Heavy Scotch Ale).

I was equally impressed with the community outreach program CP has with the citizens of Billings. The Citizen's Advisory Council (CAC) isn't just some program that sounds good on paper. This dynamic group made up of citizens from the city of Billings meets regularly with the CP staff and has real input in shaping CP's relationship with the community.

The CAC is made up of numerous business people, a city council member, a representative of the county, a professor from the local university, and a Native American member who represents the outlying reservations where pipelines cross.

I had the opportunity to speak with a number of them at dinner the evening prior to the tour, and all were both complimentary and enthusiastic about the Council and the community's relationship with CP. They have a sense of cooperation with the ConocoPhillips refinery that they don't feel with the other two refineries also located in Billings.

Part of that has to do with he location of the refinery. Built in 1949, the refinery is right downtown. So it faces problems and concerns that probably few, if any, other refineries face. For instance, I would be concerned about the smell emanating from a refinery given the chemicals they must use in the various processing procedures. But as I can attest personally, you just do not smell the refinery at all while around town. CP has gone to extensive and expensive lengths to make sure this is and continues to be the case.

That has to do with corporate culture. ConocoPhillips believes in active Citizen's Advisory Councils, and has them at all of their refinery sites. But they also listen to and work with these citizen groups to provide the best quality of life they can for all. CP seems dedicated to being a great neighbor. Keep that in mind next time you fill up.

I want to thank Ann Clancy - who has been the facilitator of the CAC for 19 years and is also a business owner in the area - for the introductions and information about the activities of the CAC.

The bloggers on the trip were a great bunch as well. My old buddy from the Blind Faith trip, Brian Westenhaus of New Energy and Fuel was there (a very smart guy who writes a very smart blog on energy alternatives). I had the pleasure of meeting Courtney Carlisle from GreenOptions and two Vloggers, Clay Hamilton and Luke from Stanford University's School of Earth Sciences who got the tour on tape.

A special thanks to Jane Van Ryan from the American Petroleum Institute (who picked up the tab for the entire trip), Kate Shirley from Edelman and John McLemore from ConocoPhillips Houston for all their hard work in setting the trip up and coordinating all the activities.

I'll have a lot more to say about what I learned as I get my notes together and email queries to various folks I met concerning things I've forgotten or need clarification.

As I mentioned above, I can't help but note that while politically there are fewer industries more unliked at the moment than the petroleum industry, when you get past the generalities and the hype and have an opportunity to meet the people who work in that industry, you can't help but be impressed by them and their dedication to providing the vital commodity which literally fuels our everyday life in the safest and most efficient way possible.

So a tip of the hat and a word of thanks to the ConocoPhillips crew there in Billings for what they do.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

The Aspen Skiing Company said Monday that it will open up Aspen Mountain from June 13 to 15 for skiers and snowboarders.
The company says record winter snowfall has left the mountain covered with snow, leaving behind an average of more than 3 feet of snow on the upper slopes.
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
That’s something we find characteristic of those who identify themselves as “Dems.” They want someone else to pay the price to do things for them they want done. If weaning off of fossil fuels is such a great idea, go ahead. Wean away.
Frankly, fossil fuels are literally the fuel that makes prosperity possible, and in case Dems haven’t noticed, prosperity is what makes it possible for them to go online and write silly things. Try that when impoverished.
Written By: Neo
URL: http://

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