Sourcing the Future
Chevron may surprise you. It may surprise you that they have been sourcing energy from their El Segundo refinery for more than 100 years. It may surprise you that they are dedicated to the support of science-focused educational programs. But it certainly comes as little surprise that this company has a profound impact on our daily lives. With an output that includes crude oil, natural gas, the manufacture of petrochemicals, geothermal energy and more, their operations create quite a hum. And while their empire is a global one, they serve the world—and the South Bay—by always looking beyond the horizon toward the future of energy itself.
- Written byZoe Alexander
To appreciate Chevron’s role in the evolution of energy technology, it is useful to have a glimpse of their past. Their history informs and plays a vital role in the history of California—and the potential of its future. It is a history that chronicles a uniquely American entrepreneurship and vision at the core of their commerce.
Their earliest predecessor, Pacific Coast Oil Company, set up shop in 1879 in San Francisco. The Northern California landscape was fruitful in resources, and the company expanded steadily over a short period of time. With success at their Point Alameda refinery, they were able to purchase more land, lay more pipeline and introduce California’s first steel tanker in 1895, the George Loomis, which began shipping up to 6,500 barrels of crude from San Francisco to Ventura.
With this success came more expansion, and the company began to widen the scope of their products to include the sale of gasoline and lubricants. In 1900, Pacific Coast Oil Company was acquired by Iowa Standard but retained its original name, and in 1906, the two consolidated and became Standard Oil Co.
In 1911, the company completed construction on the El Segundo plant. By that time, Standard Oil Co. was positioned for further success, which it achieved as a result of embracing the need for scientific expertise. With an impressive array of products, extensive pipelines and marine fleets at the ready, their leadership took the vital step of building a strong team of scientists to manage the growing demand for resources. With top geologists on hand, they were able to utilize new reserves and become a leader in conserving resources.
They expanded their fleet of tankers and, despite competition, continued to broaden their market, introducing Red Crown aviation fuel in 1918. They also established a vital component of the company by creating a line of petrochemicals that were used in both World War I and World War II. A boom in export sales during wartime resulted in the beginning of their international expansion.
The post-war years allowed the company to continue to focus on discovering new territories and sources of energy and truly secure their legacy as a global entity. These years were marked by prodigious growth, filled with mergers and acquisitions (including Gulf, Getty and Texaco), and the navigating of international politics as the company acquired territories, including Saudi Arabia, Central America, the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and Canada.
In 1977, the company made a major organizational change in order to establish a nationwide identity and a consolidated organization. It formed Chevron U.S.A. Inc., merging six domestic oil and gas operations into one. The name “Chevron” was a natural choice, referring to the inverted chevron insignias appearing on the company’s logo. The branding appeared on the company’s products in the 1930s and has since become recognizable around the world.
Though there are many factors that contribute to Chevron’s dramatic trajectory over time, their reliance on science has been crucial to their success. In an effort to partner with their community, Chevron recently provided a $2 million grant to South Bay schools to support various STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) programs.
“We believe education is the cornerstone of our state’s competitiveness,” says Frank Semancik, general manager of the El Segundo refinery. “Supporting STEM is a key Chevron value as we prepare the next generation workforce for increasingly technical careers.”
This directive allows Chevron to serve the community and ensure students receive crucial support in STEM areas. Another bonus is that these programs empower students who may not have the means or support to flourish in these classes.
The grants reach a number of middle schools and high schools in the South Bay area. The Environmental Charter High School (ECHS) will use their grant to renovate their science and math classrooms to meet the National Science and Mathematics Education Program Standards. Manhattan Beach Middle School will use their funds to sustain their Chevron Futures Institute for the Advancement of Young Women and to create a curriculum for male students. And The Da Vinci schools will apply their grant toward lab equipment for their campus-based Chevron Energy Center that focuses on the study of fossil fuels and forms of alternative energy. Other topics of study include robotics, genetic engineering, alternative energy, ocean exploration and environmental issues.
In addition to supporting young students, Chevron has enjoyed a highly successful partnership with El Camino Community College for 10 years. El Camino has several STEM programs in place to recruit and prepare students academically, provide resources and ultimately prepare them to transfer to competitive colleges.
Katie Gleason, executive director of the El Camino College Foundation, explains their success: “We implemented a MESA program (Mathematics, Engineering and Science Achievement), which is highly successful. This program targets first-generation, economically disadvantaged Hispanic students to find their interest in the STEM fields. There are so many success stories because the programs help students who had no direction until they found the program and were given the tools to succeed. Chevron is really leading the way in providing critical financial support to help us serve more students and ensure our success with STEM.” There are approximately 800 students enrolled in the program, and graduates transfer to top schools.
Areas of support include a teaching lab—a math teacher training program that addresses the obstacles students and teachers encounter and ways to resolve them. They also support an intensive math summer program that prepares students for college-level math courses and summer research opportunities for transfer-ready students at universities such as UCLA and Cal Poly Pomona.
There are several El Camino facilities that provide resources for students to refine and broaden their skill sets including a writing center, a learning resource center and the Stem Center—a state-of-the-art facility for STEM students to convene and interact with professionals in their fields. As a business leader, Chevron knows that one skill set is not enough to compete in a local or global economy; students must be dynamic, engaged and well-rounded.
With their eye on the future and a robust business model structured on past success, Chevron looks forward to a continued—and thriving—partnership with the South Bay. This partnership will allow them to keep pace with a rapidly evolving energy landscape and uncover new sources of growth. If the past 100 years are any indication, this partnership will certainly continue to pave the way to a future ripe with progress.