Reflections on an eventful year

By Geoff Holmes, CEO of px Group

It’s safe to say that the last year has been an eventful one – full of ups and downs for all of us across the country, and here at px Group it was no different. Given that we are edging closer to coming out the other side, I thought it would be worthwhile to take a quick look back at the last year or so that has proven our resilience as a company.

Last March, the country went into lockdown, with only essential services permitted to remain open as usual. When we think of ‘essential services’, the NHS, police forces and other public services rightly come to mind, but the truth is there’s plenty more that goes on behind the scenes to keep services like those – and the country – running.

Being responsible for processing so much of the country’s energy supply, many of our operations have been, and continue to be, critical to the safe running of the country. Sites like St Fergus and Teesside, therefore, are essential themselves. They power some of the most crucial sectors in the UK – as well as households – so it’s no stretch to say that our sites have allowed hospitals and the like to keep their lights on and run without interruption.

Like everyone, we had little time to prepare for the unprecedented circumstances that Covid-19 brought about, we had to adapt our processes swiftly so that we could operate safely throughout the entirety of the lockdown without putting our employees at risk. It was so important that even in the most trying times we stayed true to our core values of putting our people first and Zero Harm.

Our teams promptly and responsibly devised new rotas for site-based workers. Among many new measures, we divided employees into separate teams that do not mix with each other to minimize the risk of a potential outbreak spreading to everyone on site, as well as offering up on site accommodation. We also began conducting certain processes, like handovers and systems checks, virtually through skype and mandated that those who were able to work from home did so.

Had it not been for our hardy and agile people, we could not have continued to operate and supply vital energy to key sectors. More than ever, it became clear that the people are the denominator in our successful performance at such a pivotal time.

Thanks to the hard work and resilience of our people, and amidst the doom and gloom, this year we were also able to also celebrate several fantastic achievements. There’s a huge list I could talk to, but I thought it would be well worth picking out our Saltend Chemicals Park, which during the last six months or so has been the source of some wonderful news placing it at the very heart of the UK energy transition. In March, we learned that the Zero Carbon Humber bid was successful; in February, Vivergo announced that it would re-open after closing down a couple of years ago; and in December Pensana revealed plans for the UK’s first rare earth processing facility at the Park.

In many ways, the pandemic has been a catalyst for change and delivered lessons that will endure long beyond the lockdown.

When the UK emerges from the grips of the pandemic, we won’t simply be reverting to how things were pre-pandemic. I, along with many of the people here at px Group, have become strong proponents of working from home. Upon experiencing how effectively everyone adapted to home working, we’re looking at how this ‘new normal’ can continue in the longer term post-pandemic. We’re also going to maintain the consistent, detailed communications with our people that we committed to and exhibited during the lockdown. Our Covid taskforce, set up in the early days of lockdown, has been behind a number of changes that have benefitted px Group for good, and I’ll be looking to that team to see how it can help us take the company forward beyond the Coronavirus.

px Group also recently received new investment and new ownership in the form of Aksiom Services Group. I think it speaks volumes that in a period of suppressed investment across almost every industry worldwide, px Group was singled out for its continued resilience and excellent performance despite all the challenges since Spring last year. We’re now looking ahead to an exciting period in our growth, regardless of the pandemic.

Importantly, one of the biggest lessons that Covid-19 has reinforced is that good people are the single most important factor in a successful company, organisation, or community. As such, I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone at px Group for their resilience and hard work over the past year or so. Our people, from St Fergus to Beckton, are at the heart of what we do, and without a doubt have been and will continue to be the key driving force behind our achievements. That will never change. Here’s to the next chapter!


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