What the newest members of the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame have to say about where we’re at

Precision Drilling founder Hank Swartout speaks as one of the 2018 inductees into the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame. Image: Charles Hope/JWN

Six major oil and gas industry influencers were inducted into the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame last Friday, less than 24 hours after 2,000 people closed traffic on a downtown street to protest the federal government’s lack of progress addressing the need for market access, and the regulatory uncertainty Ottawa has created.

Being celebrated for their innovation, perseverance, collaboration and business acumen, some of the inductees took the opportunity to address the challenges the industry is currently facing, including historically wide price discounts and overblown perceptions of its environmental impacts.

Here’s what they had to say.

John Lacey, who over four decades as an international consultant helped to establish global recognition of Canada as a nation with broad competence and expertise in the petroleum industry, discussed the view of Canadian oil and gas from abroad:

“I found that the rest of the world loves Canada; loves our engineering [and] loves our advice. Governments don’t want to listen to you when you’re here — it’s a problem that we have,” he said.

“The one thing our industry is lousy at is telling people what we do and how damn good we are at it.”

Canadian Natural Resources Limited vice-president Joy Romero, recognized for her collaborative approach that is accelerating environmental performance improvements in the oilsands, commented on the federal government’s Generation Energy report. The report advises on how “Canada should transition to a reliable, affordable, low-carbon economy in the future.”

“That document says that we have tarnished Canada’s energy brand. I couldn’t have been more disappointed if someone had punched me in the face, because we have done anything but tarnish Canada’s energy brand. Look at what we have done, to where we have brought the footprint of where we are today, let alone where we are planning to go,” she said.

“It is extremely important that we continue to work together [and] it is extremely important that you tell your stories. Every single one of us is reducing costs in our industry and reducing our footprint, and we need to together.”

Precision Drilling founder Hank Swartout, celebrated as one of the industry’s defining personalities and most successful entrepreneurs, warned about an uncertain future.

“I’m very fortunate that I have known many of the people that have joined the Petroleum Hall of Fame before me, and I’m fortunate that I’ll know a lot of them in the future. But unfortunately as we change this world, the ones that follow us are going to be challenged even more than we’d want them to be challenged in this industry.”

Pat Carlson, founder of multiple successful oil and gas companies including Seven Generations Energy Ltd., recognized in part for his community-focused achievements, was asked to speak for all his fellow inductees:

“For many in our business and even those indirectly reliant on our business, the current time is very difficult. As it has done before, the economy is calling on our industry to find new ways. We can be resentful, we could pout, but I think what we need to do is what we’ve always done, and solve the problem.

“The industry in turn is begging for passionate leaders to address some of the present challenges including these four: 1. In a positive way, demand the fairness that Canadians value perhaps foremost among our shared values, social license, and maybe even shared pride. They can do this by describing our industry and the passion for Canadian values shared by the people working in it to other Canadians who have been misled.

“2. Devising a climate change strategy that will enable Canada to become, or remain, a world leader in the transformation of the broader global energy business. 3. Continuing to push until the truth prevails and we get success in building stakeholder support, leading to the social license that we need to construct infrastructure to get our products to markets, and 4. Continuing to innovate new ways to develop our resources, to build value for Canadians by increasing recovery, reducing costs, converting resources to new projects, sustainably impacting the environment and protecting the health and safety of those involved.”

Also newly inducted into the Hall of Fame are Neil Camarta, an oilsands executive and technological innovator whose relentless optimism and drive exemplify the passion of the industry’s leaders; and Ron Sorokan, whose rig designs helped establish Alberta as an export hub for drilling equipment destined for oilfields in the North Slope of Alaska, deserts of Kuwait, the North Sea and the jungles of South America.