Shell’s Steve Butler
ASSURING VALVES AND PIPING AT SHELL
ARE TOP NOTCH
BY GENILEE PARENTE
Steve Butler has been involved with safety and quality at Shell facilities almost from the first job he had 20 years
ago, when he was hired out of college as a mechanical engineer at Shell’s Geismar, LA plant. That’s partly, however,
because he became involved in an activity not directly related
to his 9 to 5 job: emergency aid.
“I got into the safety aspect as a sideline. My main job
back then was what many engineers start out doing—
maintenance, helping with plant changes, running pipes, eventually
working up to the troubleshooting,” he explains. However,
someone on staff encouraged him to
train as part of the emergency crew,
which became a passion for him, and
Butler has stayed active on response
teams since then.
His job at Shell, meanwhile,
evolved into one that deals with safety
on another level—quality review. He
is charged with providing support in
the Americas in the areas of troubleshooting, vendor qualifying, project support and specifications standardization across
geographic regions. In other words, he is charged with making
sure that the products Shell uses are up to the group’s quality
“The biggest change I’ve seen in piping and valves in the oil
& gas industry in my years on the job is that manufacturers
have moved many production facilities out of the U.S. to other
locations,” he says.
One result has been more unknowns in the manufacturing
process and therefore in the end product. This is not specific to
valves, but rather applies to instrumentation, equipment and
Butler has been charged with leading an effort to perform
audits and type acceptance tests for numerous valve, flange
and fittings manufacturers.
“Because there has been so much change in the industry,
which has in turn affected the engineering of products, we
decided to test valves and to perform more stringent technical
audits,” he says.
As such, he is the Americas lead for a group-wide effort to
audit any company that wants to be on what is essentially
Shell’s Approved Manufacturers List (called the Technically
Acceptable Manufacturers and Products list—TAMAP—
That process has also greatly changed over the years, he
says. Back in the days when he began with Shell, getting on
the list in the U.S. required maybe a one-day on-site audit of a
shop. Any company today that wants to get on the list must go
through several days of testing witnessed by Butler. The audits
are similar to what is done for ISO 9000 audits, he says, and
the process of auditing starts with a once-a-year group-wide
conference to review needs from different areas of the world.
Sometimes a company will come to Shell to be put on the list,
but other times, Shell may look at a region where there are
needs for valves or PFF (pipes, flanges and fittings). However,
even if a company is on the list, that
company is expected to stand behind its
And testing is only part of what But-
ler does. He also has been the Americas
lead in a group-wide effort to globalize
Shell’s engineering specifications.
Butler explains that Shell in the U.S.
has developed and used its own engi-
neering specifications since the company’s first refinery/chem-
ical plant was built in the 1930s. However, in an effort to
become more global and to simplify the way it does business,
Shell worldwide is adopting engineering standards historically
used by Shell sites outside the U.S. These standards are called
Design and Engineering Practices (DEPs).
“Because there has been so
much change in the industry,
which has in turn affected the
engineering of products, we
decided to test valves and to
perform more stringent
The companies in which Royal Dutch Shell plc directly and indirectly owns
investments are separate entities. In this article the expression “Shell” is
sometimes used for convenience where references are made to companies
within the Shell group or to the group in general. Likewise, the words “we”,
“us” and “our” are also used to refer to Shell companies in general or those
who work for them. These expressions are also used where no useful purpose
is served by identifying specific companies.