Case study: Oil refinery up and running during an emergency

Oil refineries fuel our world and fundamentally impact our lives, from the cars we drive to the trucks, trains and ships that move the products of global labor. When they’re down, people lose jobs, gas and commodity prices spike and entire supply chains are put at risk.

In October 2013, a fire put a major Midwestern refinery out of commission. Safely putting out the blaze was priority number one. After that, it was all hands on deck to return the 174,500 barrels per day (bpd) plant to full capacity.

Yes, American Piping Products filled an order for pipe, fittings and flanges. But the real story is how we mobilized an entire international supply chain on a moment’s notice and continuously filled orders for 24 days straight to get the refinery back online in record time.

Oil refinery emergency case study

An overnight fire and all hands on deck

The fire had only burned for three hours before firefighters put it out by around 10 p.m., but the damage was already done. The oil refinery was unable to operate, and the price of gasoline in the area shot up 10 cents per gallon overnight.

“Whenever there’s an emergency situation at a refinery or power plant, the rule of thumb is these guys are losing $100,000 an hour,” said Joel Cairo, Senior Sales Representative of American Piping Products Oil & Energy Division.

Fortunately, no lives were lost, and after examining the area, EPA officials declared the air surrounding the refinery safe to breathe.

But jobs were still on the line, and it was essential for the refinery to get back online as soon as possible.

By the time the sun rose the next day, we were on the job.

Answering the call, 24 days straight

When they reached out to us, the refinery needed parts yesterday. Because of American Piping Products’ full-scale setup, our sales team was ready.

“After 5:00 p.m. Central time, calls for sales roll over to my phone,” said Matt Danis, President of American Piping Products. “I’m set up at home and wherever I go with our whole steel center. We have our whole inventory available. I have all the Houston and Chicago contacts for warehouse personnel. We can open up immediately.”

Once we got the call, we quickly created a plan to get pipe, tubing, fittings and flanges out the door. We have several state-of-the-art pipe cutting machines in-house, which meant we could cut pipe to spec ourselves and swiftly deliver materials to the refinery.

“For all the materials shipped to the refinery, American Piping Products provided same-day, cut-to-length pipe,” Danis said. “We accommodated both the specifics of each individual order and the shipping standards required by our airfreight and trucking partners.”

We supplied almost $500,000 worth of high-quality, seamless chrome moly pipe, fittings and flanges. More than half went to a pipe fabricator and the rest went directly to the refinery, and we followed through to make sure every order and every piece of pipe got there quickly.

“We as a team worked 24 straight days supplying critical pipe and piping components for this fire,” Cairo said.

Extensive inventory and industry relationships

Responding to an emergency situation like this is impossible without a deep inventory. We supplied the refinery with pipe directly out of our Houston warehouses and leaned on our inventory of over 60,000 tons of material ready for immediate shipment.

When the refinery ordered piping products that we didn’t have in stock, we still supplied them quickly—thanks to our long-term relationships with other vendors in the piping industry.

And we handled the logistics too. American Piping Products operates differently than your garden-variety distributor. We don’t pass around the after-hours pager and wait until Monday to return weekend calls. We’re available 24-7.

“We had logistics people making calls at midnight on Saturday nights lining up carriers, and our yard was basically open from 6:30 in the morning till midnight for two weeks,” Danis said. “We were receiving material, shipping it back out, cutting material and doing docs. We handled it all.”

Flexible, scalable and ready

This job was a story of top-to-bottom execution and strategic planning.

Our frontline sales staff takes care of customers during their emergency situations. They’re backed up by our inventory, warehouse personnel, industry relationships and distribution partnerships to execute these emergency jobs.

“We understand that our partners need quality products quickly and to spec,” said Al Rheinnecker, CEO of American Piping Products. “Their businesses depend on it. We have worked hard to prepare ourselves for emergencies like this refinery fire. I’m proud of the quick response from our whole team.”

If an emergency or natural disaster hits your facility, your supplier should propel you forward, not hold you back. At American Piping Products, we offer the inventory, rapid-response service and order management to supply piping materials for any emergency. Start a conversation and learn how our 24-7 emergency response capabilities can rapidly return your operation to full capacity.

In case of emergency, you can reach us at 1-800-316-5737.