Studying chemical engineering in Ontario, pipelines weren't on Kevin Tsang’s radar until he came to Calgary and learned more about the sector from friends in industry.
Today the 34-year-old is a senior engineer with Enbridge. He also co-founded the Young Pipeliners Association of Canada.
“I was interested in the oil and gas industry all my life but mainly on the upstream and downstream side. My dad worked at ExxonMobil. My friend’s parents worked in industry. My first internship was at a refinery. Through friends, I found my way into the pipeline sector as an integrity consultant. My career eventually brought me to the operator side of the business,” Tsang says.
Having lived in Calgary through its boom/bust cycles, part of his decision to get involved in midstream was stability. Pipelining tends to be steady, providing solid returns through good and tough economic times.
“If you’re looking for a career, pipelines still need to transport oil and gas to market in good times and bad. There’s a lot of infrastructure to maintain. And that’s not going away anytime soon. The pipeline industry is one of those sometimes-overlooked sectors that a lot of people aren’t scrambling to get into,” he says.
That oversight is partly due to many people not appreciating the complexity of the industry. From 10,000 feet, pipelines might seem like a simple industry but it’s actually a multi-faceted business with complex processes and a lot of moving parts. Advances in technology today also put pipelining in the same ballpark as a technology firms, given all the data that is being collected.
“Technology is one of the growth areas for pipelines. We’re starting to see a turning point in the next year or two as tech companies migrate into this space,” Tsang says.
With more than a decade of experience in pipelining, Tsang is passionate about attracting people into the industry and helping them develop meaningful careers. He is co-founder and advisor to the Young Pipeliners Association of Canada, a group that came out of discussions in 2012 among industry leaders concerned about a pending labour crunch.
To help build a sustainable industry and ensure that knowledge is retained through industry cycles and retirements, YPAC offers technical talks, advocates for young people in industry, and provides a credible platform to enhance early career success for its members.
“YPAC has opened this industry up to all people, not just engineers,” Tsang says. “We’re attracting people in business, marketing, communications—all are welcome, all have roles.”