Meet Joe Poole: USGC PP operator

    Joe Poole lives in Hankamer, Texas, a Chambers County town of 1,000 residents. He enjoys hunting and fishing, was home-schooled by his parents, recently married his high school sweetheart, and was able to bring home a six-figure salary before the age of 21.

    Poole and many others like him are benefitting from the multiple industrial expansion projects occurring in the Texas Gulf Coast region. As an operator working on Chevron Phillips Chemical’s U.S. Gulf Coast (USGC) Petrochemicals Project in Baytown, Texas, Poole is part of a growing network of companies that make up the United States’ largest petrochemical and refining epicenter.

    Since 2012 when many of these expansion projects were announced, Texas Gulf Coast residents and those living in nearby rural communities have seen access to lucrative careers increase by the thousands. CPChem has created 400 long-term jobs and approximately 10,000 construction jobs due to the USGC expansion project – half in Baytown, Texas and half in Sweeny/Old Ocean, Texas.

    Of the 400 jobs created within our company, about 30 percent are process operator positions, coveted career paths that average $60,000 - 80,000 per year to start, and require a two-year degree in Process Technology (or related field) that can be earned from a local community college.

    To help reduce the learning curve for new operators, we paired them with more experienced personnel. In collaboration, they will run our new units – a 1.5 million metric tons/year ethane cracker and two 500,000 metric tons/year polyethylene facilities.

    “I started my career at Chevron Phillips Chemical training on an existing process unit with operators who’ve been working for 20 plus years,” Poole said. “Now I’m assigned to the expansion project and I’m able to see the new unit evolve from the ground up just like everyone else. We’re learning together even though some of us have more plant experience.”

    Approximately 2,000 hours of training have been provided to operations personnel working on the USGC project. Operators, both new and experienced, have spent time working in a $3 million state-of-the-art simulator and attending classroom training in safety, environment, operations and maintenance. Now that the facilities are nearing completion, the training program will intensify. Operators are assisting with over 7,000 equipment checks, 1,500 hydrotests, 200,000 hours of operational readiness tasks, and other pre-commissioning duties.

    “It’s much like buying a pre-existing home versus watching one be built,” Poole said. “When you build a house you get to see everything that goes into it from the beginning of the foundation to the completion of the roof, and like any good home builder, you check every inch of the project along the way. That’s what it’s been like operating a unit still being built.”

    Learn more about Poole’s career with Chevron Phillips Chemical in a profile by USA Today that was published in 2014.

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