Renae Mikolajczak: Going above and beyond at the Toledo Refinery

The "Us" in Cenovus

As of February 28, 2023, the U.S. business of Cenovus Energy Inc., assumed full ownership and now operates the Cenovus Toledo Refinery, in Ohio. Cenovus expects the refinery will ramp to full rates by mid-second quarter.

March 2023 – Trying to find a co-op internship closer to home in Ohio after working on beauty care products for Johnson & Johnson in New Jersey, engineer Renae Mikolajczak quickly learned the refining ropes when she landed an internship with Cenovus at our Lima Refinery.  

“Looking to work closer to where I grew up brought me to the refinery, where my colleagues soon became like family. After my first week at the refinery, I absolutely fell in love with the industry because of its technical complexity and the ability to directly apply my chemical and environmental engineering skillset,” says Renae, a Senior Process Engineer who has been with the company since 2010. 

Now, over a decade in and working two-hours up the road at the Toledo Refinery where she has been a Cenovus secondee since February 2020, Renae helps play a vital role in the refinery’s turnaround and startup activities.

Turnarounds and startups require meticulous planning and include the development of thousands of detailed line items, along with the operating plans for running units and coordinating shutdown and startup processes.

Process engineers like Renae are on hand for both preparation and execution—making them instrumental in the process. 

Being tasked with detailed startup inspections in Toledo, Renae says each day is a little different from beginning to end, but with the same goal of safe execution. 

“At the beginning of a turnaround or restart, we support operations to help monitor the shutdown and startup of refinery equipment with the goal of safety and environmental compliance. Once that’s complete, this transitions into the inspection period.” 

These inspections are referred to as process engineering inspections, where Renae and her team will inspect each tower and drum multiple times, to ensure the equipment is ready to start and operate. 

Inspections give the process engineering team insight into how the equipment has been operating and often helps explain any issues the plant may have experienced. 

“Sometimes, based on the inspection findings, we have to engineer and assist with fabrication and installation fixes on the fly. This is challenging, and very hands-on, but rewarding to see in operation post-startup.” 

On top of her technical duties, Renae has several people she actively mentors at the refinery.  

“I think there is significant value in helping develop young engineers so that the company can continue to grow and cultivate bright futures. I’m very thankful for the insight that these relationships bring.” 

Renae says what she finds most exciting and motivating about her job has changed over time.  

“Earlier on I was driven by day-to-day optimization but as I get further into my career, my motivation has shifted into learning how to succeed through others as I watch previous co-op students or young engineers I’ve helped mentor and develop, grow their skillsets and succeed within their roles. It’s really come full circle since my co-op days.” 

Renae’s ongoing mentorship, in addition to her technical duties, go above and beyond. A key example of how our employees live our core values.   

“With Cenovus taking full ownership and operatorship of the Toledo Refinery, I anticipate many new and exciting opportunities for me to continue my mentorship and lend a hand in post-startup activities.” 

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