Kemira’s manufacturing sites in Columbus and Mobile produce a variety of different chemical products for the North American oil & gas industry, including emulsion polyacrylamide (EPAM), which is used as a friction-reducing agent in oil well stimulation. Thanks to a series of investments aimed at strengthening the company’s commitment to serving oil & gas customers, Kemira’s production capacity has increased significantly over the past decade, with further capacity coming online at Mobile in 2021.
When we put our seal of approval on a product, we stand behind it 100%.
As the oil & gas sector continues its recovery from one of the most challenging periods in its history, high-quality chemical products are more critical than ever in helping operators stay on top of their game. Geoff Monteith, who began his career back in 1990 with DuPont, is now on the frontline, overseeing the quality of Kemira’s output.
“After working as an R&D chemist for Callaway Chemical, which would later be acquired by Kemira, I moved to Columbus as a process chemist and eventually took up the role of quality manager at the site,” he explains. “Day to day I’m involved in managing the site’s quality lab, including the personnel, equipment, and procedures – basically making sure everything is running correctly and overseeing the quality of the products we manufacture. It’s a role I take very seriously. When we put our seal of approval on a product, we stand behind it 100%.”
For our customers, high-quality chemicals are crucial to their profitability and efficiency.
Quality is non-negotiable
For customers in the oil & gas industry quality is a non-negotiable characteristic of the chemicals they use in their extraction processes. Geoff emphasizes the high level of expectation towards the products used in these applications: “For our customers, high-quality chemicals are crucial to their profitability and efficiency. We have to be able to demonstrate our ability to manufacture chemicals to their exacting specifications time and time again,” he says.
“If our quality is not up to scratch then we are going to lose out in what is a highly competitive market. This unwavering commitment to quality is also part of our values in that we are dedicated to customer success. It’s my job, and the job of everyone at the plant, to help our customers’ businesses succeed by providing them with the highest quality – every time.”
Our focus is on meeting the specifications developed by R&D to ensure the product meets the customer’s requirements.
A positive attitude goes a long way
Geoff firmly believes that attitudes towards quality and its management are an important part of the success that Kemira has achieved in the oil & gas sector. “Attitude is a big part of the quality equation. Yes, there’s paperwork, audits, and reporting but these are essential parts of the quality management process and we want to avoid falling into the trap of viewing these things negatively,” he explains.
“Quality is an attitude. We don’t want to allow anything below par or off spec to leave the site and we’re all committed to ensuring that. And if we do have issues or complaints we approach them with an open mind, respond in a timely manner, and work hand in glove with the customer to resolve them.”
This hand-in-glove approach applies to scaling up new products for commercialization too: “First and foremost, our focus is on meeting the manufacturing specifications developed by R&D to ensure the product meets the customer’s requirements,” Geoff says. “Once production begins we’re constantly evaluating the output, performing trials, and tracking product performance in the field so we can make any necessary adjustments.”
Certified for quality and safety
The Columbus and Mobile emulsion plants both hold three ISO certifications: ISO 9001 for quality management systems, ISO 14001 for environmental management systems, and ISO 45001 for occupational health and safety management systems. “Not only do these certifications lay out a structure for how we do things and how we take care of the quality of our products, the environment, and the safety of our people, they’re also a way to demonstrate to our customers that we’re constantly striving to be better at everything we do,” Geoff points out.
For us safety is central to quality, and both are integral aspects of our culture.
Part of Geoff’s role is also to be the face of Kemira, reflecting the organization’s firm belief in transparency, honesty, and collaborative working. “If a customer requests access to the site for an audit or review I’m there to host them and answer their questions. Over the past year we’ve performed these audits remotely of course, but regardless of how we do them, the team and I are there to answer the hard questions and listen to customer feedback so we can keep on improving.”
Just as with quality, Geoff firmly believes that safety is all about attitude too: “We expect to do our work safely, in a safe environment, and go home safe every day. This can’t happen if we see safety as a monotonous, boring must-have. We want everyone to be engaged in maintaining a culture where safety is a natural part of our behavior at work. For us safety is central to quality, and both are integral aspects of our culture.”