For decades, Willacy Oil Services has been one of the leading providers of specialist oil storage cleaning services in the UK. From their Flintshire headquarters, close to the huge Stanlow oil refinery, they quickly established a reputation as reliable exponents of oil recovery and sludge stabilisation – a reputation that soon spread to many of the UK’s other refineries.
Within a few short years, their reputation spread further and by 1998, Willacy’s services were required at the Mongstat refinery in Norway. A year later, a call came from Australia to perform their services at a refinery there. With a significant proportion of their revenue starting to come from overseas clients, the company was becoming truly international.
In 2008, Willacy were asked to lend their cleaning services to the Petrotrin refinery on the island of Trinidad. Since then, work there has become a regular fixture on their calendar. Trinidad and Tobago has a long association with petrochemicals – the distinctive sound of the steelpan in calypso music was defined in part by the availability of oil drums there in the early twentieth century.
Similar in capacity to Grangemouth (at around 200,000 barrels per day), the refinery operates in one of the most oil-rich areas of the world. It surprises many to learn that, over the last seven years, neighbouring Venezuela has overtaken Saudi Arabia as the country with the highest level of ‘proven reserves’, as defined by OPEC. Clearly, it’s an important area for Willacy to prove their capability.
Petrotrin is also the only oil refinery in the world that sits next to a wildlife park, the Pointe a Pierre Wildfowl Trust. As you’d imagine, this adds a level of sensitivity, which has obvious ramifications on the way they must operate. For almost a decade, Willacy have been a key partner to helping them maintain this important balance.
Gavin Lucas, Willacy’s General Manager explains how this responsibility is fulfilled and co-ordinated, over 4,000 miles away from their head office.
“We maintain a team in Trinidad, led by Keith Walker, who has twenty years’ experience, working in the Caribbean. Just as we would do for a UK client, we build the machinery here, mostly centrifuge and de-watering systems. In their case, we then fly it out there, where it lives and is maintained.”
Over the years, the teams on both sides of the Atlantic have become as adept at remote management as they are at waste oil recovery, a task made slightly easier as communication technology has continued to shrink the world. There are still factors to consider, British workers are given regular downtime to return home and, as in many other oil hot-spots around the world, worker security is an ever-present issue.
The work at Petrotrin has always been important in its own right but additionally, it has proven Willacy’s capability to offer long-term strategic partnership in far-flung places. Similar work in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and other Middle-Eastern countries has arisen as a result.
Back at home, Willacy are currently developing their offering, spreading their talents across other sectors in the UK. You can be sure it won’t take long for them to transfer that knowledge and capability to another willing client thousands of miles away from their Sandycroft base, a service that, like the steelpan, can be traced back its Trinidadian roots.