Against the backdrop of rapid urbanization and the alarming issue of climate change, cleaner energy has become the norm, for private and public sectors alike.

Shell remains steadfast in its commitment to produce cleaner energy while responding to the rising global demand for energy and supply security. Closer to home, Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation (PSPC) has recently unveiled the successful upgrade of its oil refining facility in Tabangao, Batangas through STAR-TREC (Shell Tabangao Asset Renewal - Tabangao Refinery EURO-IV (PH) Compliance) Project, which supports the national government’s initiative on promoting a greener economy.

At the forefront of delivering energy efficiency, Shell upgraded its Tabangao Refinery as the the company’s direct response to the national government’s directive that mandates energy companies to produce or introduce EURO-IV (PH) compliant fuels to the Philippine market.

EURO-IV (PH) is part of the emission standards set by the European Union which aspires to significantly reduce the sulphur content of fuels. In the Philippines, EURO-IV (PH)-compliant fuels means lowered sulphur content from 500 ppm (parts per million) to 50 ppm.

STAR TREC, the project name coined for the modification and upgrading of the Shell facility, entailed the installation of a new hydro-desulfurization (HDS) reactor, a new pressure swing adsorption (PSA) unit, and additions to the existing sour water stripper (SWS).

Using differentiating technology, all these upgrading activities took place while the Shell Tabangao Refinery continuously delivers operational and safety excellence recognized within by the global Shell community and by prestigious award-giving organizations. Behind the success of the project is the strong collaboration of more than 600 staff and workers from Shell, Chiyoda Philippines Corporation as main contractor, and EEI Corporation as implementation contractor.

This landmark project enables the refinery to produce 110,000 barrels per day of EURO-IV (PH) Philippine compliant fuels. Taking pride of this milestone, Shell companies in the Philippines Country Chairman Edgar Chua said, “This project is a very complex project and one which is very important for Shell and for the country. It is also a testament to the strength of Shell operations in the Philippines, and to the faith of the company in the country and its people.”

Start strong, Stay strong, Finish strong

This had been the rallying point that fuelled the team’s spirit and inspired them to tackle the modification process with confidence and positive mind set.

Bringing the project to its completion was no easy feat, with the Shell team committed to deliver a world-class quality refinery that produces EURO-IV (PH) compliant fuels despite setbacks and challenges encountered during the construction phase from 3rd quarter of 2014 until the 4th quarter of 2015.

One of the major difficulties that challenged the team was the onslaught of Typhoon Glenda during the initial phase of the project. Along this calamity came logistic constraints, worker fatigue, and property damage in the community which impacted STAR TREC’s timeline.

However, each challenge only strengthened the team’s resolve and solidarity. Commending the team’s resilience, former Regional Vice President for East Manufacturing Arnel Santos shared, “I know very well that this project was not an easy one for us. There were many periods of uncertainty; we never quite know whether the refinery will continue to exist. And I think all throughout that uncertainty, we never gave up, and all the more we persevered to demonstrate what this site is all about.”

Re-energizing safety in the site

Safety is Shell’s license to operate. It was therefore a priority for the STAR TREC team to launch and enforce a revitalized and holistic approach towards safety to ensure welfare of the workers.

At the onset of the project, no time was wasted in encouraging everyone to imbibe the safety culture and extend it to the contractors. Measures and mechanisms were in place to ensure that the team would live and breathe safety at all times.

Part of this culture shift is recognizing best safety practices to sustain the momentum, as well as highlighting near misses to implement corrective actions and retain safety lessons.
This has enabled the STAR TREC team to achieve excellent project delivery despite daunting challenges and potential risks. In the words of Eduard Geus, General Manager of Tabangao Refinery, “The refinery upgrade and STAR TREC project completion is really an incredible milestone, because to install this unit in a live plant where everything is running 24/7 demonstrates our commitment to safety and our commitment to deliver.”

Five decades of excellence and reliability

Through the Shell in the Philippines’ social development arm, Pilipinas Shell Foundation Inc., the STAR TREC Project has also helped over 5,000 residents of the community where the refinery operates in. Capacity -building programs were provided to out-of-school youths; employment opportunities to local residents; launching of livelihood programs for women; and, enhancing the safety awareness of residents from fence-line communities.

With over 50 years of reliable operations in the country, the facility has grown to become one of Tabangao community’s, and the Filipino people’s partner in nation-building and sustainability. Shell in the Philippines employed innovative methods in delivering the STAR TREC project to meet the energy needs of the country by providing motorists with smarter products that promote sustainable mobility.

Moving forward with STAR TREC’s completion, the Shell Tabangao Refinery is much more capable now to produce quality petroleum products which meet stringent environmental standards while upholding the safety standards that Shell is known for. ###


Ramon Del Rosario                                                             

Vice President for Communications

Shell companies in the Philippines