The Future of Downstream: Raising the Bar on Turnarounds

About the author : Tracy Gray

Global Sr Director of Strategy & Retention – Sodexo Energy & Resources

Published on : 7/28/22
  • The recent Reuters Downstream Conference was a huge success. With innovative speakers and educational workshops such as our own Turnaround Think Tank, there was a lot to take in around the future of downstream, and more specifically, the turnaround industry.

    In our workshop, Sodexo Energy & Resources brought together industry leaders from companies such as Phillips66, CPChem, PEMEX, and others to discuss challenges, solutions, and innovation to make turnarounds and outages more efficient.

    According to Industrial Info Resources (IIR), we’re headed into the “biggest season for maintenance spending in the U.S. and Canadian petroleum refining industry since 2019,” and our workshop attendees had plenty to share. If you didn’t attend, not to worry. Below is a high-level recap of the discussion.


    Top challenges facing the turnaround industry today

    With a total of over 1,500 projects planned for 2023 and only 32% today are considered successful, there is still significant room for improvement in the turnaround industry (Source: IIR). However, if we’ve learned anything from the Downstream conference, it’s that success remains an uphill battle in the face of a volatile market. Here are the top challenges discussed amongst the turnaround industry leaders:

    • Scope control and schedule discipline. The lack of scope control and a lax schedule discipline continues to put entire projects at risk of being behind.
    • Supply chain disruptions. Supply chain issues are becoming the new norm rather than the exception with some supplies being ordered a year in advance of the schedule.
    • Contractor skill level and availability. In the tight labor market, contractors have options and the most skilled are choosing jobs that better fit their needs, leaving those less qualified to do the work.


    Top ways to make turnarounds more efficient

    When asked about measures to make turnarounds more efficient, attendees shared industry best practices that they were currently implementing or looking to implement in the near future.

    • Early alignment by management on cost and resources that does not change. Although difficult, it’s important for leadership to share common objectives from the onset and firmly agree upon what their teams need to do to accomplish them.
    • Engage skilled contractors and partners early with a multi-year view. Don’t ignore the efforts of skilled contractors. Give them encouragement, treat them with respect and secure their commitment for future work.
    • Define smart ways that technology and automation can increase efficiency in operations and on cost. Smart innovation depends on need, alignment, preparation, and continual assessment of outcomes.


    Innovative ideas to improve turnarounds

    When prompted to transform their thinking about turnarounds, attendees brainstormed innovative (and surprising) new ways to improve the entire planning and execution process.

    • Create one software for all turnaround planning and scheduling. One thing we continually heard was the importance of technology to consolidate and streamline processes.
    • Increase communication among units to find supplies needed. While your unit and local vendor may not have the supplies you need on-hand, try contacting other units to see what they have – or at least get connected with their suppliers.
    • Do away with turnarounds and instead plan smaller outages. One interesting concept we heard from a few owner/operators was to do away with large, extensive turnarounds and instead plan smaller, rolling outages when operations are slower than normal.


    Sodexo Energy & Resources is a leading provider of food, facilities management and operational support services, powering the millions of people who work every day in energy, chemicals and mining. Sodexo Energy & Resources offers a comprehensive package of turnaround support services designed to meet the demands of today’s turnaround. We do the heavy lifting of organizing and deploying the turnaround support services you need onsite, from catering to cleaning and maintenance. We believe that good is no longer good enough. So, we are raising the bar on what a strategic partner should be. With 30,000 employees across 600 sites, Sodexo is driving up service standards by empowering our people to excel at ongoing service and support, problem solving and creating a better tomorrow for all.

    We’re raising the bar. Ask us.


    About the Author

    Tracy Gray photo woman at rig oilWith over 25 years in the oil and gas industry, Tracy Gray is the Global Sr. Director of Strategy & Retention for Sodexo’s Energy & Resources division. Prior to joining Sodexo, Gray was the Global Manager for Strategic Initiatives & Marketing for Halliburton’s Consulting & Project Management service line. Prior to joining Halliburton, Gray worked for seven years at Shell, where she was the Global Process and Quality Lead for Shell Information Technology International. She is also the co-founder and past president-elect for Halliburton’s Women Sharing Excellence diversity group and is Sodexo’s SoTogether Diversity group’s Programs Chair.