An international search has begun for a replacement for Marsden Pt refinery CEO Ken Rivers.
David Jackson, chairman of Refining NZ, announced the departure of the dynamic CEO during the recent annual meeting where shareholders voted in favour of a $365 million expansion of petrol-making facilities at the refinery (CCR or Continuous Catalyst Regeneration platformer).
Mr Rivers may have been the most high-profile, articulate CEO the company has ever had, raising Northlanders' awareness of the importance of the refinery to the region and the country, and playing a role in community organisations.
Under his watch, the refinery has won a series of regional, national and international awards for performance, safety milestones and environmental programmes.
Mr Jackson said Mr Rivers had been instrumental in formulating strategy and developing leadership capability at Refining NZ and thanked the CEO and his leadership team for the way they had prepared the CCR growth investment proposal and kept the directors informed all through the process.
Mr Rivers has gone out on a high, with 64.5 per cent of shareholders voting in favour of the CCR project.
He told the annual meeting he was returning to the UK because of the ill-health of parents and wanting to see his adult daughters more than twice a year, but said he loved New Zealand and had learned a huge amount during his time at Marsden Pt.
"You have changed my life," he said.
"This is a great company with great people. This is a great country. I just wish I had discovered it 15 years ago."
He is the last Shell Oil appointee to the role of CEO because Shell has withdrawn from the country after being bought out by New Zealand company Z Energy. The company's CEOs were always from Shell because the refinery was built to Shell design and used Shell technical expertise and processes.
Mr Rivers said after the annual meeting he was delighted with the vote, calling it "a great result".
"This is an opportunity to grow Refining NZ in line with our strategy, to remain competitive against imports, generate value for shareholders and customers and help secure New Zealand's energy future," Mr Rivers said.
"All the analysis showed that the CCR project is robust, even if refining remains volatile, and better than any of the alternatives we considered."
Refining NZ says if the CCR project were not carried out, it would need to spend $105 million to extend the operational life of the existing semi-regeneration unit (called the Re-Life alternative)
The Re-Life would need to be completed by 2015 to maintain existing capability.
In contrast to the CCR project, it would not provide any uplift in the company's petrol production and would not improve the energy efficiency of the platformer unit.