For John Hirschmiller becoming involved in the oil and gas industry seemed almost inevitable.
“I grew up in an oil and gas town (Rocky Mountain House),” said the 30-year-old, who is one of this year’s Rising Stars. “Going into geology, it was either (a career in) mining or oil and gas.”
John, who has a diploma in geological technology from Edmonton’s NAIT and a Bachelor of Science in Earth Science from Dalhousie University, and started his career in the mining sector, which included a four-month stint in the Australian outback.
But he found his way back to Alberta and to the energy sector, landing a job with energy resource consulting firm GLJ Ltd. in 2013. He also worked for the former Penn West Exploration and APEX Geoscience Ltd. before landing his job as a geologist at GLJ Ltd.
“I’ve been pretty fortunate,” he said, adding that his current role sees him handling a “diverse” portfolio of consulting roles.
For instance, he has worked on geothermal as well as data analytics and machine learning projects.
“Our company understands there is change happening (in the energy sector) and we’re trying to adapt,” he said.
He credits several leaders at GLJ with mentoring him, but also plans to pass along his skills to others.
“I’ve found that mentoring is a two-way street,” he said. “You’re either mentoring others or being mentored. You’re always learning.”
The Canadian oil and gas industry has faced challenges for the entire time he has been involved in it, but he’s still optimistic about its future.
“The world still runs on oil and gas, but we need to find a way to be competitive on a cost basis, while also reducing our environmental impact,” he said.
Flexibility is a key in today’s energy industry, both as an individual and within companies like GLJ, he said.
“The industry needs to adapt, through such technologies as carbon capture and geothermal,” he said.
A key is to use the latest data collection approaches and technologies, such as computer automation, he said.
John’s interest in technology includes extensive involvement in industry associations, where he has presented on topics such as development of machine learning models and data analytics.
He is interested in geothermal technology and has acted as an advisor in that area. He helped produce a recent webinar with 1,000 views on the approach.
The future of the Canadian energy industry remains bright, despite its challenges, he believes.
“I see the industry being transformed, through the use of digital technology and other technologies,” he said. “Data is growing exponentially, and we need to find ways to utilize that data in our sector.”
However, that’s only one of the challenges it faces.
“The industry needs to address environmental and social aspects. It must reduce its GHG footprint.”
As for his future plans, the geologist sees it being with GLJ.
“I hope to continue learning new things in my job and to look outside the box,” he said.
In particular John believes the geothermal sector will grow significantly in western Canada.
“I can see it being an important industry in Canada,” he said.