Shortly after graduation in mechanical engineering from the University of Alberta, Brian Van Vliet had an opportunity to experience something few new graduates are able to do.
“As a new grad I worked for six months in Zurich, Switzerland,” he recalls. “I worked on a project to gut and rebuild a centuries-old post office. I’d like to go back there, with our kids (ages 10 and 12).”
It may be awhile, given how busy Brian is in his role as environmental leader with Calgary-based Spartan Controls.
His role at Spartan broadly speaking, is “to improve environmental outcomes” for industrial sectors the company serves – energy, natural resources, power, water and wastewater to name a few.
Spartan works in all areas of the energy business, including production, transportation, refining and petrochemicals, with a growing involvement in hydrogen technologies and renewables.
One of the company’s major challenges is to help those sectors reduce their GHG emissions, with a focus on cutting methane emissions.
As a professional zeroing in on reducing the environmental footprint of Canada’s energy sector, Brian said he sees nothing that the industry needs to be ashamed of.
“I’m proud that our Canadian industry is in the top quartile (among energy industry players worldwide),” he said.
Since Spartan delivers its services to more than 30 countries, he has also supported efforts internationally.
He credits several mentors at Spartan with helping him to achieve success with the company.
“I’ve worked with awesome people and teams,” he said.
Now he is paying it forward mentoring University of Calgary students, passing along what he has learned in 15 years with Spartan.
While Brian appreciates the financial and other challenges faced by the Canadian energy industry, he has been able to continue delivering value, largely because of the importance of improving environmental outcomes.
“While there have been challenges over the last five years or so, there have also been new opportunities that have been created,” he said.
He has remained positive throughout, largely because of the vital role he and his colleagues at Spartan play.
“Imagine being part of a team that has invented something important,” he said.
Spartan has patented several technologies, including a method to capture vented gas called SlipStream.
Brian is active in supporting the community.
For example, he was involved in designing and building a playground that includes Indigenous and Science Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) elements in his Calgary neighbourhood.
As for the future of the Canadian energy industry, Brian believes it is very positive, largely because of the entrepreneurial and innovative nature of this sector.
“Canada will continue to have a large component of its economy concentrated in the resource sector,” he said.
However, that doesn’t mean those resources will centre just around oil and gas in the future.
For example, Spartan has expertise in the emerging hydrogen sector and in renewables.
“We will move towards a greater diversity of energy sources in the future,” he said.
The Rising Star, also believes Canada’s water resources will take on increasing importance in a world where many countries face future water scarcities.
As for his role at Spartan, in a job he loves, Brian sees his job continuing to be challenging, as Canada’s energy sector strives to further reduce its impact on the environment.