By Cmdr. Anas Maazouzi, SC, U.S. Navy
Throughout my career, I served in various assignments as a fuels officer, starting with my selection for the 811 program at the University of Kansas and followed by a tour at United States Naval Forces Central Command as the force petroleum officer. These assignments offered me great insight into the importance of oil in our daily lives, its volatility as a global commodity, the fragility of its supply chains, its impact on global trade, and its relevance to the security and future of our nation.
I vividly remember how it all started. I first discovered that the Supply Corps has a community of “fuelies” after attending an OP Road Show as a Division Officer. Intrigued, I immediately set out to learn more and reached out to the career counselor who introduced me to some fuelies, including Capt. Matt Holman, the current officer in charge of NAVSUP Navy Petroleum Office. After learning about the 811 program and the fuels community, I was hooked. Fast-forward 14 years, I got a call from the Chief of the Supply Corps informing me that I was selected for the Navy Training with Industry (TWI) at ExxonMobil (XOM)1!
My preparation for TWI began months before reporting to Houston. Prior to my arrival, I interviewed my mentors and former TWI fellows on what to expect and what to focus on. Ultimately, I decided to concentrate on the following areas of strategic importance to our Navy and Supply Corps:
• Corporate Value Integration and Change Management–XOM’s recent growth is mostly attributable to acquisitions. Yet, it is clear that XOM maintains a resilient culture through a strong focus on employees and core missions. I wanted to understand how XOM is able to achieve and sustain its growth and how and where we can apply it to our Navy and Supply Corps.
• Data Analytics and Forecasting–XOM relies heavily on data analytics to mitigate against high market volatility. I wanted to understand how applicable these processes are to our demand forecasting, especially for high cost or critical items with low or erratic demands.
• Operational Risk Analysis and Mitigation– It was immediately evident to me that safety and operational risk mitigation are ingrained in XOM’s daily operations. I was curious to understand how XOM balances operational objectives with safety requirements.
• Innovation and Continuous Improvements– XOM remains a market leader in research and development and founded a culture of science based on human ingenuity and innovation to deliver future energy needs.
I collaborated with the TWI program manager at XOM to draft a notional learning plan that would allow me to focus on my areas of interest and to expose me to as much as XOM has to offer.
As with many of my predecessors, my first assignment was with the downstream focus area2 in the wholly owned subsidiary, SeaRiver Maritime, Inc., which serves as a nautical distribution arm and center of maritime expertise for XOM. My initial duties were with the marine quality assurance group, which is responsible for the technical vetting and approval of chartered vessels prior to transporting XOM cargo or accessing an XOM facility as well as vetting any The Navy Supply Corps Newsletter 21 vessel impacted by the Jones Act 3. This rotation allowed me to understand the basics of vessels and cargo technical screening, along with how to identify and develop mitigation plans to reduce operational and commercial exposure. I was also involved in the technical review of a few incidents, including a liquid sulfur spill by a third party operator.
My follow on and current rotation is with the commercial and supply chain optimization group, starting with the bunkering team that supports all bunkering4 requirements for XOM and chartered vessels worldwide. This rotation allowed me to understand XOM’s bunkering process and to compare it to the Navy’s husbanding service provider framework for refueling vessels. I quickly learned how XOM relies on the responsiveness, effectiveness and flexibility of the bunkering process to take full advantage of commercial arbitrage and market trends in its global trading operations. With the bunkering team, I was able to evaluate the performance of current and future contracts against the spot markets and to develop financial key performance indicators for the new international maritime organization 2020 compliant fuels5. Additionally, I was able to develop commercial skills to become the bunkering trader for several European ports and to foster and maintain relationships with suppliers.
As of this writing, I have two more planned rotations with the strategic planning and the data analytics divisions with some time spent at one of XOM’s refineries and marine terminals. These rotations will provide valuable exposure to how XOM optimizes its supply chains and plans for major capital investments and acquisitions.
Additionally, through my TWI, I am learning about two XOM research and development projects with exciting military applications, notably a new group of elastomers and polymers (trademarked ExxPro) that are the building blocks of the inner liners of ground vehicle and aviation tires. XOM’s testing showed that tires with ExxPro have several advantages over older models, particularly extended tire-life and improved performance. Another exciting project is FuelTrax meters and applications, which enable near real-time tracking and visibility of fuel inventories and consumption for vessels and facilities. FuelTrax is currently being tested by the U.S. Marine Corps at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, California with promising results.
Moreover, I was invited to join Adm. Philip Davidson, Commander U.S. IndoPacific Command, in his meeting with XOM executives during his visit to XOM headquarters. The meeting endeavored to develop a deeper understanding of the energy economy and the intersection of energy and security within Asia-Pacific. This discussion also provided me with valuable insight into the Combatant Commander’s mind and the challenges of fuel distribution in Asia-Pacific.
Finally, Houston is a vibrant city with many museums, theaters and a very active weekend scene. My family and I enjoyed frequent hikes at the Sam Houston National Forest and visits to the Battleship Texas memorial. Our most memorable weekend was attending the events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing at the Houston Space Center. It was a powerful reminder of the importance of that moment in our national history and the importance of continued innovation and exploration of technology. I am truly humbled and honored to be this year’s Training with Industry fellow at XOM and I encourage everyone to “dip their fingers in fuels.” You never know, you might decide to become a “fuelie.” After all, our future, prosperity and survival depend on energy!
1 XOM is the world’s largest publicly traded energy company and the second U.S. exporter with over $330 billion of exports annually.
2 XOM is functionally aligned into five overarching business divisions: Upstream (exploration, development and production of oil and gas), Downstream (manufacturing and refining of fuels and lubricants), Chemical (manufacturing of base chemicals, intermediates and synthetics), Global Services (logistics support for all business entities and product lines), and Research & Engineering.
3 The Jones Act of 1920 mandates that the sea transport of cargo between U.S. ports must be performed by vessels that are U.S. built, U.S. owned, U.S. flagged, U.S. operated and U.S. crewed.
4 Bunkering is the process of refueling ships and the management of the associated supply chain, including the acquisition, storage, distribution and disposal of marine fuels and other related products.
5 The International Maritime Organization (IMO) instituted a global limit of 0.5% sulfur in marine fuels to become effective on 1 Jan 2020 (unless equipped with scrubbers), and starting 1 Mar 2020, carriage ban goes into effect for bunkers above 0.5% sulfur.