Classes of Supply: Class III “Petroleum, Oil and Lubricants (POL) (package and bulk): Petroleum fuels, lubricants, hydraulic and insulating oils, preservatives, liquids and gasses, bulk chemical products, coolants, deicer and antifreeze compounds, components, additives of petroleum and chemical products, and coal.”
POL feeds our war machines. Ourhomes. Our allies. Our enemies. It’s a finite resource (for now) that our military, nation, and planet are inescapably committed to. It carved the course of history and is shaping the future; for better or worse, we and Class III are inseparable.
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At the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Bryans Mound with Capt. Ken Smith, USA, and Maj. Rob Mata, USAF. Both are TWI with ExxonMobil. We are standing on top of 35 million barrels of oil (that's 1,470,000,000 gallons).
I can’t help but be fascinated with this dilemma. Prosperity, politics, pollution, power – all encompass an ever-changing landscape of intrigue and innovation, revolving around this hydrocarbon. I wanted to be a part of the energy industry’s history, its swagger and influence; to supply our warfighters with cutting edge fuels and empower an energy-efficient Navy. So when I got the call to join ExxonMobil (XOM) in the Training With Industry Program (TWI), I was overjoyed. I’d be spending twelve months with the world’s largest energy and technology enterprise, learning from the best.
I proudly served with the wooden ships and iron men of the minesweeper fleet as a first tour department head. As the only Supply Corps officer aboard a 224-foot wood and fiberglass, non-ferrous, crew-rotating warship, I had my work cut out for me, and learned the meaning of trial by fire. I can tell you that we Mine Countermeasures Ships Supply Officers are as ”SWO” as they come – we have to be. I spent as much time with the Machinist Mates as I did with the Culinary Specialists, learning what made my office deck vibrate and shudder. Experiencing two Board of Inspection Surveys (INSURV), two Supply Management Certifications, and countless Unit Level Training Assessments, I became intimately familiar with POL. I bought it, traded it, cleaned it, tested it, disposed it; you name it, I did it; I was just as close with the Oil King as I was with the Chief Engineer, and this is where my interest in becoming a “fuelie” developed, ultimately opening the door for TWI.
I find that when I talk to people about XOM, usually what comes to mind is their gas station. I excuse the misconception; I thought the same way. I explain that the company is a major resource and technology developer, a leader in international trade, an energy innovator. Operating in 47 countries, it is strategically positioned for geographic diversity, aiding in a country’s economic development as it discovers its hidden resources. Broadly speaking, it is divided into three segments, each a function of the POL lifecycle/supply chain:
• Upstream (Exploration & Production): Encompasses high-quality exploration opportunities across all resource types and geographies, an industry-leading resource base, a portfolio of world-class projects, and a diverse set of producing assets. Has an active exploration or production presence in 40 countries.
• Downstream (Refining, Marketing, & Distribution): Portfolio includes refining facilities in 17 countries. The world’s largest integrated refiner and manufacturer of lube base stocks and a leading marketer of petroleum products and finished lubricants. Positioned as a premier supplier around the world due to its high-quality products, combined with a strong global refining and distribution network.
• Chemical: One of the largest chemical companies in the world. A unique portfolio of specialty and commodity businesses delivers superior returns across the business cycle. Manufactures highquality chemical products in 15 countries. With a major presence in Asia Pacific, it is well positioned to competitively supply the rapid chemical demand growth in the region.
I work predominantly with the ExxonMobil Downstream affiliate, SeaRiver Maritime, Inc. (SRM), responsible for marine petroleum transport. It manages XOM’s global marine shipping industry, from operating its own fleet of energy tankers, to vetting and chartering third-party operators. Based in downtown Houston, Texas, at the ExxonMobil Building, it has a worldwide staff of sailors, purchasers, inspectors, and safety managers. As a part of the select few Supply Corps officers known as “fuelies”, this experience is proving invaluable, as I am exposed to marine transport, the legalities of vetting, North Atlantic Treaty Organization standards of secure shipping, and the latest and greatest in energy development.
The XOM TWI comes with a bonus–there’s more to it than only energy management.
The Operations Division, which directly manages SRM-owned and operated vessels, is big on Integrated Logistics Support, especially with two Liberty Class tankers under construction. Working with shipyard executives and SRM management, I was a part of the equipment and spares planning process. With my experience of the Coordinated Shipboard Allowance List, I developed a program that stores, tracks, and organizes equipment data. It is now a permanent tool in their Shipboard Inventory Management System. Furthermore, we planned out maintenance periods and supportability capabilities using historic data from the Liberty class platform.
There’s exposure to its rigorous contracting process: the Vetting Division evaluates the acceptability of vessels and vessel operators to which ExxonMobil may have exposure, and the Commercial Division enters into contract negotiations with acceptable operators. I took part in operator reviews, where we visit their headquarters and assess adherence to industry standards. It’s best described as a mini INSURV, and how an operator is rated weighs heavily on the decision to work with it in the future.
Unsurprisingly, supply chain management (SCM) is involved – we transport OIL! While SCM is mostly concerned with getting product from point A to B, the Upstream and Chemical sectors round out the process. I attended a conference where speakers from both communities briefed the latest news: new extraction, storage, and refining techniques were detailed, and fascinating new markets were unveiled. During a visit to the Baytown Refinery and docks, I saw how this massive facility processed hydrocarbon and loaded product onto commercial tankers and Military Sealift Command vessels alike. I even sailed aboard the SeaRiver vessel SIERRA from Richmond, California, to Valdez, Alaska, to experience shore-to-shore transport and the life of an oil tanker Sailor.
Aside from the exposure to all types of logistics, one of the greatest opportunities is the exposure to executive-level decision making, networking, and an industry-oriented “big picture” outlook. Straight from the TWI instruction, NAVSUPINST 1520.7A, this program “provides the Supply Corps flexibility to meet current and emerging DOD requirements that cannot be met through existing military and advanced civilian education programs.” I’m a firm believer that complete immersion inside this high-caliber company has given me that. Not only have I worked with XOM, but countless other organizations committed to keeping the oil flowing, like the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF), and Industry Taskforce on Offshore Lightering (ITOL). This kind of exposure opened my eyes to how interconnected and engaged we need to be as logisticians. There is unlimited potential to succeed – to strengthen and enrich and streamline how we operate or tackle our mission. The TWI program gives the unique advantage of unlocking that potential, and you are only limited by your own initiative. You will only get out of it what you put in, and the folks you work with will be more than happy to help you achieve the professional goals you set for yourself.
By the way, while you’re in Houston, enjoy its museums and theaters, visit the Battleship Texas Memorial and take the hard hat tour. Involve yourself in the frequent volunteer events hosted by XOM community partners. Stay engaged with Defense Logistics Agency Energy Americas, just a mile from downtown. Drop by the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps unit at Rice University and provide mentorship to the students. Getting involved and soaking up the culture is something that my TWI peers and I take advantage of while in our respective locales.
I am honored to be working with XOM in the Training With Industry Program. If you get the chance to participate, do it. Don’t let it slip by. The world’s future is written in oil – and liquefied natural gas, green biofuels, and maybe even someday – seawater. It is an exciting time to be a fuelie; it’s an exciting time for TWI.
By Lt. Adam Roach, SC, USN