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Editorial comment

As brighter days and sunny skies start to emerge in the Northern Hemisphere, many of us will be undertaking a dose of spring cleaning. While this annual ritual is now seen as an opportunity to give our homes a thorough tidy, declutter our wardrobes, and perhaps carry out a bit of DIY, the origins of spring cleaning actually date back to the 19th Century, when the practice was absolutely essential. According to the Washington Post, following a long winter where homes used to be lit with whale oil or kerosene, and heated with wood or coal, every room used to be covered in a layer of soot and grime.1 The arrival of spring signalled the perfect opportunity to throw open windows and doors, and get to work on a deep clean of the home.

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Spring is also one of the key seasons for maintenance and turnarounds within the refining sector. In fact, this could be one of the heaviest turnaround seasons on record. As Argus Media’s Senior Correspondent, Nathan Risser, explained in an episode of the company’s ‘Driving discussions’ podcast earlier this year, the backlog of work can be directly attributed to the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic: “US refiners were pretty reluctant to spend money on maintenance when faced with narrow refining margins during the COVID-19 pandemic, and then [they did not want to] take facilities offline during the post-COVID boom.”2 At the time of recording the podcast, Argus Media forecast that turnarounds were planned at 13 US refineries, totalling up to 3.4 million bpd of capacity in the first half of the year.

Turnarounds extend far beyond the routine maintenance that refineries undergo on a daily basis when they are in operation. They are enormous undertakings that can involve extensive maintenance, renovation and capital investment over a period of weeks or months. They also require extensive planning, with turnaround teams often beginning their work years ahead of when the turnaround actually takes place. This meticulous attention to detail is crucial to ensure that any potential disruptions to consumers and fuel supplies is limited while facilities are offline.

In a recent ‘Refinery Turnarounds 101’ blog posted on its website, the AFPM emphasised that there is a limited pool of highly specialised workers that are available to staff refinery turnarounds, including external consultants and crews that perform work across the industry.3 I’d like to pay special tribute to all of these workers who are currently going about their vitally important work, ensuring that our refineries continue to operate as efficiently and safely as possible.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank our very own maintenance specialist here at Palladian Publications, Richard Hancock, who is retiring after over 17 years of dedicated service. Although his name might not feature in the contact information section of this magazine, Richard has been a key part of the Hydrocarbon Engineering team, brightening up the working day whenever he is in the office. And he has also been an ever reliable (and often harsh) critic of the content that appears on this particular page of the magazine. Cheers Richard, this one is for you!

  1. ‘Spring cleaning is based on practices from generations ago’, Washington Post, (25 March 2010).
  2. ‘Driving Discussions: US Spring Refinery Turnaround’, Argus Media,
  3. ‘Refinery turnarounds 101: What are turnarounds and why do we need them?’, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM),(17 October 2023).

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