Published: Sept. 9, 2021 By

Megan Conard is a Mechanical Engineering Student Apprentice. She interned during summer 2021 and summer 2022 with Phillips 66.

Megan Conard
Megan Conard

Where did you work over the summer and what kinds of projects did you work on?

During summer 2021, I interned as a refinery engineer at Phillip 66’s Billings refinery. While I was there, I worked with the turnaround group. This began with learning the turnaround process for when a refinery shuts down their units to debottleneck, perform maintenance, and make upgrades. During my time at the refinery, I worked on three projects involving turnaround preparation: the risk register, a quality control handbook, and sign-off wall charts.

For my second summer with Phillips 66, I interned at the Sweeny Refinery. While I worked on turnaround last summer, this summer I got to work in the projects group. As a return intern, this internship gave me the opportunity to expand upon my existing knowledge in a different aspect of refining.

Are there any projects you worked on that stand out as really pushing your learning?

My biggest project in 2021 was the risk register, which required me to risk rank (probability x consequence) possible risk events that could occur during turnaround. I then developed mitigation plans and ordered contingency materials. This involved using a lot of my material science knowledge to determine the likelihood of corrosion given running conditions as well as choose metallurgy that could prevent this issue in the future, while keeping pricing in mind.

This summer, I worked on two projects. My first project was in the beginning phase, where I designed, defined, funded and estimated the cost of installing a new parallel eductor system to pull gases off of a reservoir that was causing a compressor to leak. My second project was in the execution phase, so I oversaw the fabrication and installation of new differential pressure transmitters.

Was there a particular challenge you encountered that really pushed your engineering skills?

Much of my internship this summer involved me learning process engineering skills, which was the most challenging given a mechanical engineering background. I think what best prepared me for this in my background was how professors at CU introduce new material and help you build an intuition for engineering problems you've never seen before.

What advice would you have for a student interested in pursuing a similar opportunity? 

For any student preparing for an internship in general, my biggest advice is to talk to everyone you can. In addition to communication and teamwork skills being the majority of my evaluation, by talking to people you learn about how they feel about the company, work environment, benefits, and pay - basically whether this job will be for you. For oil and gas internships, I suggest making a list of abbreviations as soon as you get to the job. Refineries are so fast paced and complicated that starting is like drinking out of a firehose!