“I try to stay true to myself and be the same person at work that I am in my personal life. Anything else is exhausting.”
If climbing on things and getting dirty are two requirements for working in a refinery, then Bev Long has them in spades. The eastern Kentucky native has been climbing on things and getting dirty for a quarter of a century, and all that time spent with just one company– Marathon Petroleum Co. But it’s the people that have kept Bev in the business of refining.
“As I grew in my various roles over time, what I really love and what keeps me in the industry is the people,” she says.
Bev started out as a Future Engineer with Ashland Petroleum in the mid-1990’s, and went on to work four summers at the Marathon refinery in Catlettsburg, KY. Her extensive career in refining has well prepared her for her current role as a Heavy Oil Technologist, where she serves as a Subject Matter Expert (SME) for ten delayed coking units, five solvent deasphalting units, and one resid hydrocracking unit. In practice, this means she gets to do two of her favorite things: “solve problems and mentor young engineers.” Bev coordinates two advisory groups on cokers and SDA to help the process engineers assigned to individual units collaborate more effectively and better understand best practices. She also networks with industry peers and has a hand in developing best practices of her own for Marathon, as well as procedures and standards for heavy oil applications.
Because of the breadth of her career and her subject matter expertise across a wide variety of units, Bev has a unique and comprehensive perspective on refinery operations. What she would like to see more of is adaptability and innovation in the industry.
“We have really good systems in place that have worked for a long time, but I think sometimes it’s also made us resistant to change,” she says. “The solution to this is promoting and retaining different personality types that are willing to challenge the status quo.”
If there is an advantage to being a woman in a male-dominated field, Bev says it’s that she is very recognizable. “I am not a large man in a polo shirt and dockers– networking is relatively easy!”
All jokes aside, she does acknowledge some challenges as a woman working in the field. Over the years, she tried to walk the tightrope of listening to conflicting streams of advice: some telling her to “tone it down” vs. others advising her to “be more confident.”
“In fact, it is not possible to stay on this tightrope, because it’s not my issue– either way, I’m violating someone’s perception of how an engineer or a woman should behave,” she says. “I can’t fix this, so I try to stay true to myself and be the same person at work that I am in my personal life. Anything else is exhausting.”
When Bev isn’t climbing things and getting dirty, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband, whom she met while backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. Last year was her first RefComm event and we hope to see her again this time around.