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Rixio Medina brings over twenty-six years of experience in the petroleum and refining industries to his position as Vice President of Health, Safety, Security and Environmental Protection for CITGO Petroleum Corporation in Houston, Texas.

In this interview, Medina explains how CITGO's Integrated Management System (IMS) has improved operations within the company and how other new initiatives have impacted their safety, health and environmental (SH&E) staff. He also discusses CITGO's commitment to protecting employee and consumer safety and health and to maintaining environmentally sound practices within its refinery network.

Please provide a brief overview of CITGO and of your responsibilities as Vice President of Health, Safety, Security of Assets and Environmental Protection. 

CITGO Petroleum Corporation is a refiner and marketer of transportation fuels, lubricants, petrochemicals, refined waxes, asphalt and other industrial products. We own and operate three fuels and two asphalt refineries, and we have a joint venture interest in the Lyondell-CITGO refinery in Houston, Texas. Our total refining capacity exceeds 865,000 barrels per day. The company has a network of wholly or jointly owned terminals that stretch across 24 states to supply transportation fuels to more than 13,300 CITGO-branded outlets.   

I am the officer of the corporation responsible for overseeing CITGO's health and safety strategies as well as security and environmental protection. I am also responsible for information security, health services and process and product safety. It is a tremendous responsibility with many challenges, but I am fortunate to lead and to work with an outstanding team of professionals.

During the last two years, CITGO has adopted and begun to implement a Company-Integrated Management System (IMS) that includes health, safety, security, environmental, operations, maintenance, mechanical integrity, reliability and financial functions for the entire corporation. How has this management system helped to improve operations and performance within CITGO thus far?  

CITGO developed an Integrated Management System, which establishes a common systematic approach for planning and executing our work, measuring performance and improving processes across the organization.

Since 2004, our efforts to implement the IMS have focused on the establishment of cross-functional teams from across the company to coordinate and to streamline similar management processes into a common system. A set of standards has been established for 35 Key Work Processes. Each business unit within CITGO has evaluated its status in comparison to these standards and is in the process of closing the gaps. 2006 will be a busy year as we continue to develop the system and to take on one of the most important aspects of the IMS—the Continual Improvement Process.

In addition to realigning all health, safety, security and environmental functions into a new organization, CITGO has also integrated Information Security and Corporate Security into the organization to increase work efficiency and to enhance the professional development of CITGO's staff. How have these changes affected CITGO's SH&E staff specifically?  

CITGO's policies, procedures and controls are designed to deliver confidentiality, integrity and delivery of information in a manner that balances the objectives of our information security goals, understanding and acceptance of security risk and operating efficiency. There is a new emphasis on industrial security since the terrorist attacks on our country on September 11, 2001. In 2002, Congress passed The Maritime Transportation Security Act, which mandates that all industrial facilities located adjacent to navigable United States waterways have an integrated security plan that provides significant protection from  o outside threats.  

The realignment of health, safety, security and environmental (HSSE) protection allowed the four major corporate asset protection areas to be placed under a unified leadership. This reorganization has resulted in a significant improvement in the coordination of health, safety, security and environmental strategies and resources throughout the corporation. Our staff has new career opportunities to develop expertise and to make contributions in the fields of protection of people, property and the environment.      

What methods does CITGO use to train its SH&E staff?  

Our goal is for all HSSE staff to be well-trained and current in their field of expertise as well as in business acumen and other competencies. 

CITGO HSSE staff attends professional development conferences such as the ASSE's annual Professional Development Conference and industry-sponsored seminars and training. We hold in-house meetings and conferences for information exchange, and we regularly attend outside training courses and seminars. In addition, our staff is encouraged to pursue and maintain nationally recognized certifications in their field and professional association memberships in organizations that enhance their knowledge and/or scientifically address the HSSE concerns of our operations. The cost to prepare, pursue and maintain those certifications and professional memberships is built into CITGO's HSSE budget.

CITGO is developing an enterprise system within its Intranet that will report and document incidents, track action items and help to manage SH&E functions. CITGO's hardcopy emergency response plans will also be transferred to a Web-based emergency response system. Once they are in place, how do you predict these online systems will benefit SH&E practices within CITGO?  

These online systems are management tools to simplify our work processes and to facilitate communication. The CITGO Impact Enterprise system allows initial reporting of incidents via Intranet and provides e-mail notification to those in a need-to-know position so that they may document and track the incidents until closure. It is also our tool to document and to track HSSE reviews, assessments and recommended corrective actions until completion. The Web-based emergency response plans provide direct access to the critical information that our emergency response personnel require. It will significantly improve our ability to cost-effectively revise and maintain all emergency plans throughout the company.

CITGO's refining network is among the largest in the United States, and it is also considered one of the safest and most environmentally sound. How does CITGO maintain safe and environmentally sound practices at each of the refineries? How does CITGO ensure that the health and safety of its employees at each facility are protected?  

We have a comprehensive set of corporate policies and standards, and the facilities have HSSE management systems and related procedures in accordance with the CITGO Integrated Management System. These not only address regulatory requirements but also incorporate industry best practices and internal lessons learned. CITGO provides sufficient resources to achieve our goals and to effectively implement strategies. We  i ntegrate HSSE considerations into all operations, engineering and business processes with clear accountabilities. HSSE performance is measured and reported, and we keep our employees informed about expectations and their individual responsibilities for HSSE performance. We also p romote off-the-job health and safety. 

Facilities conduct self-assessments of the CITGO IMS's Key Work Processes and their compliance status. Deficiencies are tracked and corrected in a timely manner. The results of these evaluations and the status of corrective action are reported to facility management, corporate HSSE and senior management in accordance with the CITGO IMS.

The corporate HSSE department conducts comprehensive management system reviews and facility assessments. The reviews address risk, regulatory compliance, implementation of programs and procedures and adequacy of CITGO's IMS.

CITGO manufactures fuels and gasoline, lubricants and oils, petrochemicals and asphalt. As Vice President of Health, Safety, Security of Assets and Environmental Protection, what role do you play in protecting employees' safety and health during the manufacture of these products and in protecting consumers during their use? 

My primary role is to understand and to reach agreement on the needs of my internal customers to implement the strategies to achieve CITGO's mission. My upstream customer is executive management. I provide information for the company's strategic plan and for ongoing business decision-making. To the staff in the HSSE department at the corporate office and business units, my downstream customer, I provide leadership by defining and guiding the HSSE function and by securing the resources they need to execute and to attain the expected performance. I also interact with governmental agencies, trade and professional associations as well as with my peers in industry to express our opinion on critical issues, when appropriate, and to have a better understanding of the HSSE-related factors that impact our business.

To reduce pollution, many states have implemented their own fuel specifications, which has resulted in more than 120 different fuel grades. CITGO believes that this number should be reduced because special state fuels restrict and limit the fuel distribution system. In what ways can the number of fuel grades be reduced while still adhering to pollution regulations and standards?  

This is a very complex issue. Reduction of the existing number of fuel grades can be accomplished by:

1. Not selling in selected geographic locations.

2. Blending fuels to the more restrictive specifications.

3. Producing a more generic fuel and blending it at the terminals.

None of these solutions are good. CITGO believes that education of state and federal regulators and the general public on the added cost of “boutique” fuels, along with tightly controlled specifications for winter and summer driving conditions, is the best way to provide fairly priced fuels to all areas of the country.

Fuel formulations, testing methods and quality control of fuels have progressed by leaps and bounds over the last 25 to 30 years, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), using the tools supplied by the Clean Air Act, has worked with the petroleum industry to produce the cleanest fuels ever. Air quality will continue to improve with the introduction of newer low-sulfur products. It is unnecessary and, in fact, detrimental to the economy and to the motoring public to prescribe multiple fuel grades.

CITGO's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Recordable Incidence Rates and Lost Workday Case Rates have consistently been below the industry average. How does CITGO achieve these low rates?  

We believe that all health, safety and environmental incidents and injuries are preventable and that our employees, contractors, customers and communities expect incident- and injury-free performance. CITGO recognizes that a key responsibility and accountability for management, employees and contractors is HSSE performance. Our low incidence rates are the result of work environments that have no known or unprotected hazards and of employees' behaviors that prevent incidents. However, we are not satisfied with the progress made so far, and we continue to work toward zero incidents.

CITGO provides online Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) in both English and Spanish for all of its commercially available products. How have these impacted consumers? Has CITGO seen a reduction in injury and incident rates among consumers since it made the MSDSs readily available?

Having online MSDSs for CITGO's products provides consumers with the information they need for its safe use and management of an emergency involving our products, should one arise.

We currently have no metrics to evaluate if the information available through our online MSDS has prevented injuries or illnesses among our product consumers. Occasionally, we receive calls from consumers or emergency responders regarding the hazards associated with CITGO products. We have explained to them accidental release and firefighting measures or methods for exposure control and personal protection for the product in question. Based on the information exchanged during these calls, I know that we have assisted our customers and the authorities in preventing injuries and illnesses during the use or handling of our products.

In the future, once we make changes to our MSDS delivery system, we will be able to publish these MSDSs in other languages as well. 

Biography

Rixio Medina is the Vice President of Health, Safety, Security and Environmental Protection for CITGO Petroleum Corporation in Houston, Texas. He has over twenty-six years of experience in the petroleum and refining industries.

In 2003, Medina was appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as a Board Member on the United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board in Washington, DC. Previously, he was appointed by the Secretary of Labor to serve two terms as safety representative on the National Advisory Committee on Occupational Safety and Health (NACOSH).

Medina is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) in Comprehensive Practice and a Certified Protection Professional (CPP) with Board Certification in Security Management. He is also a professional member of the ASSE, and he has served as the Vice President of the Society's Council on Professional Affairs.

He holds a bachelor of science degree in engineering technology-fire protection and safety from Oklahoma State University and a master of science degree in industrial security from Central Missouri State University.