A Story on Resilience and Powering a Nation Amidst COVID-19

Published November 1, 2020, 4:03 PM

by Edgard Hilario

The need for reliable, clean energy has been heightened as we grapple daily with the challenges brought by the COVID-19 pandemic. Indeed, we can’t fight the invisible enemy without power and technology as our homes, hospitals, transportation facilities, government units rely on it to function properly.

In her recent talk at the 15th national Chemical Engineering week, Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (SPEX) Production Services Team Lead Engr. Michelle Malonzo tackled how resilience enables Malampaya to continuously provide energy for the country especially in a time like this.

SPEX is the operator of the Malampaya Deepwater Gas-to-Power Project which provides up to 30% of Luzon’s electricity needs by producing cleaner-burning natural gas. It has been operating since 2001 and is one of the largest and most significant industrial endeavors in Philippine history. In fact, Malampaya has generated over USD 11B of much needed revenues for Philippine government.

Operating Malampaya like clockwork in times like this is crucial not just for SPEX but also for the country.

“The Malampaya Offshore Platform and the Onshore Gas Plant are key installations to the nation’s energy security as it is the only local producer of indigenous natural gas. It supplies up to 30% of the power in Luzon and ever more, during the pandemic, it would require us to keep it running. And specially during a pandemic when you need vital facilities like hospitals, groceries, transportation, infrastructures to keep on going.”

Understanding their purpose or ‘Why’ fuels the resilience of Malampaya’s crew and enables them to continue to do what they need to do – keep the lights on for Filipinos.

“Before we do anything about disaster resilience, we need to understand the ‘Why’. Why are we doing this? For SPEX, it is our ‘motto’ to deliver natural gas safely for the country. Every day, the challenge is to provide continuous gas delivery to customers in a safe and reliable manner that will enable us to fulfill our commitments to our stakeholders such as the Philippine government, joint venture partners and shareholders, our customers, to our employees, to those whom we do business with, and to the society,” Malonzo remarked.

As the current condition is very dynamic and unpredictable, Malampaya has to develop certain measures and strengthen their business continuity management to continue delivering natural gas to its customers in a safe, efficient, and reliable way. Malonzo added, “This pandemic has really pushed us to think outside the box on how to make people safe and functioning while being socially distant.”

Malampaya’s business continuity plan has three C’s at the heart of it: Care for people, Continuity of safe operations, and Communication to stakeholders.

“We’ve taken measures to keep our Offshore and Onshore staff safe even with the difficult circumstances. They are one of the best in terms of talent in the Philippines who are able to keep our facilities running. We need to make sure that they are safe when they’re being flown from different places to the platform.”

Clear, well-defined roles and protocols, creative problem solving as well as leadership and accountability among the employees are key factors for an effective business continuity plan. Malonzo also shared that they looked through different emergency scenarios the team may encounter and identified how to respond to each situation to keep Malampaya running safely.

Moreover, the strong partnership and collaboration with the Philippine government specifically the Department of Energy, PNOC-EC, local government units of El Nido, Palawan, Batangas, and airport authorities in Puerto Princesa and Manila has helped them make sure that this will happen.

“The bayanihan between national and local units has helped us maintain providing energy and making the SPEX frontliners arrive to the facilities safe,” Malonzo said.

In these challenging times, Malampaya displays resilience and continues to fulfill its commitment to provide reliable electricity to Filipinos while caring for people, operating safely, and strengthening its relationship with its stakeholders. It is, indeed, a testament that resilience is power.

The Chemical Engineering Week, organized by the Philippine Institute of Chemical Engineers (PIChE), was celebrated last 13 September to 19 September with the theme, “Chemical Engineers at the Forefront of Disaster Resilience and Economic Recovery”, was attended by hundreds of chemical engineering students and professionals all over the Philippines.