featureronnie harrell

facility operator, san ardo field, monterey county

Ronnie Harrell spent more than two decades in the U.S. Navy, working to keep aircraft flying to defend his country. It was about 14 years ago when he decided to hang up his uniform and settle into a well-earned retirement.

It was during a retirement seminar given by the Navy that he heard the call that changed his mind. A recruiter from Chevron was looking for experienced and highly trained technical people to join the company’s operations in Central California.

“I got a website to go to, and after I applied, I heard back from someone at the company who said, ‘you protected our country for 24 years, now I want you to come and help our country with its energy needs’,” Ronnie recalls. “Right there, I was sold.”

Ronnie is now a Facility Operator for Chevron’s operations at the San Ardo Field in Monterey County, where he is responsible for ensuring the oil extracted from wells is processed safely and reliably.

From the beginning, Ronnie found himself immersed in a major modernization project at the field, one where Chevron invested in new facilities and plants with a focus on increased safety and environmental protection. The result was the advanced production facility he now oversees.

“There’s a lot of technology involved, a lot of automation,” Ronnie says. Yet the human factor of an experienced set of eyes with technical knowledge is crucial. “I have a bank of monitors that lets me watch the process, and if I see anything that’s suspect, or looks wrong, I go right out and investigate it.”

He’ll dispatch crews to fix any problems, and if the situation demands it, “shut the whole thing down until we get it right.”

The fact that the company’s dedication to safety extends that far, he said, was one of the biggest things that led him to join the company.

“After 23 years of working on aircraft, safety was very important to me. You’ve always got somebody’s life in your hands when you work on aircraft,” he says. “You can’t miss a step, or have a bad day, because somebody might get hurt. And one of the things that drew me to Chevron was when they mentioned the way they do things, how safety conscious they are. That was right up my alley.”

Ronnie says many people he knows would be “surprised” to find out just how seriously Chevron takes both safety and the environment. That effort, and the transparency around it, makes him proudest about his job.

“We follow all the rules and regulations and work hard to protect the environment around us,” he says. “Just working here, you can see it, be a part of it, and we take pride in that.”

Published: March 2022