We recently spoke with Laboratory Manager, Karen Campbell who has worked at the Grangemouth site for 31 years. She shared with us her passion for attracting, recruiting, and developing the best young chemistry talent in Scotland.
I first studied science at Graeme High School in Falkirk, and I continued my chemistry education afterwards at Forth Valley College. That enabled me to start working at the Grangemouth site as a laboratory technician; today I am enormously proud to have achieved the role of Laboratory Manager, especially since I am the first woman to do so. I’ve climbed the career ladder thanks in part to the support of my colleagues, and I am 100% committed to helping local students from our area, to get a similar chance to progress, based on merit and hard work.
Karen’s team is responsible for round-the-clock analytical operations for Petrochemicals and Refinery operations at Grangemouth – this includes analysis of incoming raw materials, intermediate feedstocks, and assuring the quality of all INEOS finished products leaving the site by pipeline, ship, container truck or tanker. It also covers the quality assurance of the aviation fuel that Grangemouth supplies to major airports and most likely the fuel you put in your own car when filling it up across the central belt of Scotland.
The laboratory staff are also responsible for the water, effluent and corrosion type analysis and Karen is ultimately responsible for the legislative reporting of effluent and waste-water monitoring data to SEPA – the reports that she and her team prepare are subject to careful scrutiny and are vital to the stringent operating conditions of the Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Permits that INEOS group companies at Grangemouth fully comply with.
With a Site of Special Scientific Interest on our doorstep, protecting the Firth of Forth is all part of the remit.
The testing done in the analytical laboratory at INEOS contributes towards the shift to greener E10 fuels, a biofuel made up of 90% regular unleaded petrol and 10% bio-ethanol produced by the fermentation of plants such as wheat, corn, barley and even from the spent grains of single malt whiskies! The production of ethanol absorbs carbon dioxide, therefore the shift towards E10 fuels (and higher content blends in the future) makes a positive contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
With an annual operating budget of around £4.5 million, Karen oversees the provision of business continuity plans for the Laboratory, including back-up systems, duplicate standardised analytical equipment, and standalone computing systems that continuously provide 24/7 access to analytical data necessary for the safe and smooth running of the plant facilities in the Grangemouth complex.
Accredited to ISO 9001 and 14001 and the most stringent ISO 17025 standard, Karen’s team does not provide scientific opinions, they provide hard scientific data and dependable, reproducible facts.
This has enabled the INEOS team to build an external customer base of around 60 local, national, and international companies who value the expertise that the Grangemouth Laboratory INEOS has attracted to the area.
This investment in world class science makes the team, and the site, attractive to talented young scientists from across Scotland and far beyond – many are willing to give up secure jobs in other organisations to take up maternity cover contracts so as they can put the experience of working at INEOS Grangemouth on their CV’s. Of course, the ultimate goal is a permanent role with the INEOS team, such is the credibility and reputation of the high integrity analytical chemistry group found nestling within the Grangemouth facility.
Karen puts it clearly,
We’re a good place to work – we are always looking to attract bright young people who have the right skills set and the right attitude towards their own personal development. In return INEOS Grangemouth offers on-the-job and off-site training opportunities in leadership development, SHE, engineering and advanced analytical techniques. Regardless of the level you are joining at, or your previous qualifications, there is a path that you can follow to progress and grow.
We spoke to others in Karen’s team to find out how they contribute to the success of INEOS and Petroineos at Grangemouth. One of the technicians highlighted the work done in monitoring air quality – not just on site, but also offsite in Skinflats, Kincardine and Boness. These tasks are carried out not just to meet compliance requirements of the PPC (Pollution Prevention & Control) permits that govern INEOS operations at Grangemouth but more importantly to provide reassurance to members of the public about air quality. Our technicians are often stopped during their work and asked what they are doing, people seem surprised that INEOS goes beyond the site boundaries to ensure that our operations are not cause for concern.
As the young employee put it,
We are and will be a major part of the solution, not the problem.
Meeting this challenge is where INEOS Grangemouth produces products that enable society to change by better meeting society’s needs – for example, lighter weight construction composites for construction, transportation and aviation, higher PCR content plastics for use in farming and consumer goods, “cleaner” high integrity chemical building blocks for pharmaceuticals and other advanced materials, and always an absolute focus on reducing our site-wide emissions.
We also spoke with Filipe Marques, a young graduate who joined INEOS’s Commercial team in 2019. Originally from Portugal, Filipe joined INEOS at Grangemouth after University in Denmark and the USA. As part of the ongoing programme of inspiration and consultation around Sustainability, Filipe was clear about what he believes is important for INEOS:
Giving opportunities to young students in our local community by supporting their education and creating space for their development. These are the minds that will resolve the climate change crisis in the next few decades.