Today’s up-and-coming leaders are helping to shape tomorrow’s energy future. Whether it’s new thinking, fresh attitudes or technical solutions, showcasing their work and vision is of tremendous value to the entire energy industry.
Daily Oil Bulletin’s Rising Stars Class of 2019 is a showcase event of the excellent work done by young emerging energy leaders.
Today, we profile Kiely MacLean, RJ MacLean Tank Cleaning.
Kiely MacLean encourages women to put on coveralls, get out in the field and learn the business from the ground up, if they have the opportunity to do so.
“Because that’s what’s going to set you apart and provide that foundation for moving up the ladder,” says the president of RJ MacLean Tank Cleaning, a high-tech company that gets people out of what is arguably one of the most dangerous environments in the oil and gas industry — oil storage tank cleaning.
Cleaning storage tanks is how MacLean started after finishing a business degree and in debt with student loans. She was the only female on a crew of 40 men.
“I just loved the job. I got to be outside, pulling wrenches, really seeing how things were done,” she says.
MacLean worked her way up to project manager and, by the end of the year, she was running jobs and crews of 20 people. Then she was promoted to business development manager for Canada.
Despite her passion for fieldwork — and also because of it — MacLean recognized that there had to be a better way to clean oil storage tanks. It didn’t make sense that, in an era of self-driving cars, people were still climbing into these hazardous environments.
So at age 23, she started pulling together the resources to build a high-tech company for robotic tank cleaning. In 2015, she became part owner of RJ MacLean Tank Cleaning, along with her father, with the financial backing of oil and gas services veteran, Jack Sequin.
“We started building equipment, came up with new patented designs. We continued to innovate with water treatment technology for recycling water and reducing the amount of waste for disposal,” she says.
A key milestone was securing the first major customer to champion RJ MacLean’s technology as a safe, environmental sustainability and economically viable alternative to manual cleaning.
“When we first started, nobody really understood what we were talking about because the process is so different with our robotics. But we’re now at the point where we have multiple master-service agreements to help our clients plan their 10-year tank cleaning program,’” says MacLean, who also managed to earn a Masters in Project Management while building the company.
Continual innovation characterizes this high-tech operation. The robots are built in-house, which allows employees to provide input on design. The company now has 80 employees during peak activity.
Given the newness of the work, RJ McLean couldn’t go to the market looking for “experienced robot operators,” so it became good at working with people with little or no the oil and gas industry experience.
“We link this training to our Indigenous engagement program,” MacLean says.
RJ MacLean and its leadership have earned the recognition of several industry awards. MacLean eagerly shares her experiences and learning with other entrepreneurs through a program called Futurpreneur. She provides support to women in leadership initiatives. And she is active in industry conferences and events. She has also contributed to the Senate discussion on Bill C-69.
“But what I’m most proud of is the impact that we are having on this industry. Everyone says this is the way tank cleaning should be done,” she says.