A Day in the Life…with Karen Breen

A Day in the Life with Karen Breen, Operations Shift Supervisior at Shell

Duration in current role: Since January 2019 – Present

Current work location: Shell Fife NGL Plant, Mossmorran

How do you get ready to start your day and how do you unwind at the end of the day?

My day starts at 5.30am with a 30-minute commute from Edinburgh to Fife, and this has continued recently as I’m a key worker. I wouldn’t class myself as a morning person and with it being an early start, I often listen to lively music to energise myself for the day.

Typically, after a 12-hour shift my brain struggles to ‘switch off’. I find focusing on driving home safely and listening to audiobooks or podcasts helps me to unwind.

What is the best part of your current role?

Leading a team through the unprecedented times of 2020 was both an extremely challenging and rewarding experience. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic we played a critical role to ensure the safe operation of the Fife NGL plant, which in turn is crucial for the continuation of the UK energy supply. I’m very lucky to have the opportunity to lead such a talented and vibrant team, and the most satisfying part of my role has been leading a team which is helping to ‘keep the lights on’ through the pandemic.

If you had to break it up into percentages, how do you spend your day?

Overall, the key objective of my day is to ensure the safe operation of the Fife NGL plant, whilst enabling efficient execution of maintenance work scopes.

A typical 12-hour shift can be broken into the following responsibilities in percentage terms:

  • Leading the frontline operations team to ensure the continuous safe and efficient operation of the plant to ensure delivery of production targets. (60%)
  • Promoting a strong safety culture to ensure my own safety, safety of personnel, safety of process plant and the environment. Utilising the Fife NGL’s ‘Mind Safety’ behavioural safety initiative. (10%)
  • Support the co-ordination of all maintenance work scopes by reviewing and authorising the execution of all works copes through the Permit to Work system. (30%)

What is your favourite hobby / leisure activity?

The biggest perk of shift life is the 2 weeks on and 3 weeks off rota. Before COVID-19, I would spend a lot of my time off traveling across Europe for mini city breaks.

Post COVID-19, like many others, I am trying to get back to nature through hiking.

What is something you cannot forget to do during your day?

Clear communication is key to success in my role. I always ensure to carve out 30 minutes at the end of the day to bring my team together and discuss the key highlights of the day. I then write a detailed handover for the oncoming Shift Supervisor to ensure it’s clear what the priorities are for the next 12-hour shift.

What is the last song you listened to? (be honest)

Bit of a throwback, Wheels by the Foo Fighters from their greatest hits album.

What is the most challenging part of your day?

Although it’s a rare occurrence, the most challenging part of my role is when an abnormal situation arises, it’s important that I step up as Site Incident Controller and act promptly by utilising the site’s procedures and work as a team with well-trained colleagues on site to respond. These situations are often fast-paced and high-pressure, which requires a high level of resilience.

What kind of decisions do you make at work on a daily basis?

It’s important that I lead the production team to reach the common goal of achieving the weekly production targets whilst simultaneously enabling the delivery of the IAP (Integrated Activity Plan). As the Shift Supervisor this can mean aligning resources with production availability, I weigh up options using all available data to recommend key decisions for operations priorities.

If there was a parallel universe with another version of ourselves, what job would you do there?

I struggle to envision myself not working within the energy sector as I take pride in being part of the energy transition. I think in a parallel universe I would like to be part of a small business start-up for a new energy innovation. I enjoy being part of a tight knit team in a fast-paced environment, and I would love the satisfaction of directly delivering results to progress cleaner energy solutions.

What three items would you like to have with you if you were stuck on a desert island (note, it must not include people or pets)?

I always hate these types of questions as I usually over think it. The first 3 things that come to mind are hiking boots, the full Harry Potter Book series (I’m cheating and treating that as one item) and a good bottle of red wine.


The OGUK D&I Task Force believes that to secure the future success of the oil, gas and energy industry, we must do more to attract the right people and to retain a diversity of talent, skills, experience and thought. It is essential that our sector can offer an inclusive, welcoming and equal opportunities working environment for people from all backgrounds and cultures.  Celebrating role models is an integral part of increasing diversity and inclusion as it improves the visibility of underrepresented individuals and shares their lived experiences. To support this we would like to showcase some of fantastic diversity of talent and roles that exist in our industry by inviting some amazing people to share their typical day with us.

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