Meet the 2020 Rising Stars nominees

A look at the 2019 class of Rising Stars

Optimism has been in short supply in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting plunge in oil prices has put an already battered Canadian energy industry back into survival mode, with the future looking uncertain.

Yet despite these challenges, young professionals continue innovating, inventing, and creating new enterprises to build on the successes of previous generations. The 2020 Rising Stars nominees show the depth and breadth of this effort to reinvent the energy industry.

In partnership with Fluor Canada, the Rising Stars program celebrates the dynamic young leaders who prove that the Canadian energy sector continues to offer opportunities for a new generation. They come from various disciplines; including technology, finance, communications, engineering, environmental management, and business development and analysis.

"Each year, I am intrigued by the diversity in expertise and the breadth of accomplishments that make up the list of Rising Stars nominees. These individuals have been nominated by their peers in recognition of their contributions to moving the oil and gas industry forward, and this year's list clearly speaks to the incredible talent that we have working in this industry," says Mark Brown, vice-president and general manager, Fluor Canada.

“Congratulations to all of the 2020 nominees, and thank you for your contributions to the industry and to your professions. I'm sure we have only seen a fraction of the incredible things you will accomplish over the course of your careers." 

There are 39 nominees this year. Here are the nominees:

Mark Ashton: Mark is a founding partner of Calgary-based 360 Energy Liability Management, a fast-growing firm which takes a unique approach to helping oil and gas companies manage oil and gas facility closures. His attention to detail and operational awareness has made him a natural leader, helping the company grow by more than 700 per cent in three years.

Dani Urton: Dani, who has a Masters degree in Environment and Business from the University of Waterloo, has become a leader in methane reduction and leak detection and repair as a project manager with Calgary-based Vertex Professional Services Ltd. The division she oversees relies on cutting-edge technologies, such as optical-gas imaging cameras, laser methane detection and drones to meet the challenge of reducing the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Grant Strem: Despite still being in his 40s, Grant has been involved in the upstream oil and gas sector for over 20 years. His academic background includes a Masters in geology and geophysics from the University of Calgary. As the chairman and CEO of Proton Technologies Inc., he is playing a key role in the development of a hydrogen economy in Canada, which could be transformative for the sector.

Shannon Seafoot: While only being 30, Shannon has become the chief financial officer for Grande Prairie-based PVT Group of Companies, which provides fluid hauling, vacuum trucks, crane services and other oilfield service offerings. Shannon, who is a chartered professional accountant, has played a large role in helping PVT Group not only survive in a difficult environment for the energy sector, but thrive.

Caleb Dyck: Caleb, who has a Masters degree in mechanical engineering, has taken the lead in R&D and engineering by overseeing the implementation of Autonomous Marine Equipment for his employer, Canada Pump and Power. Despite the challenges presented by COVID, Caleb has helped Canada Pump grow its staffing from 22 to 60 persons this year, as it implements a host of new technologies, including autonomous vehicles.

Alexandria Shrake: Alexandria, who worked as a geophysicist and in strategy planning with Chevron Canada, has played an important role in helping to automate workflows at Chevron, while also helping to found ENERGYMinute, a non-profit aimed at educating people about energy, the environment and the technologies entwined with both. The site she and others have developed, energyminute.ca, has become a go-to information source for those wanting to learn about Canada’s geothermal potential, biofuels, electric vehicles and other subjects. A Young Women in Energy Award winner, she has already taken a leadership role in the Canadian energy sector, at the age of 30.

Taryn Roy: Taryn, who is manager of Commercial for Calgary-based industrial waste and environmental services company Tervita Corporation, is recognized as a leader in the environmental services business. Her career at Tervita began in 2015, after working as an analyst since 2009. Taryn, who has an MBA from the University of Victoria, has been recognized as a leader in “critical thinking” with the fast-growing company.

Tyran Ault: Tyran, manager of government relations with Suncor Energy Inc.,has been recognized as a community leader in Fort McMurray, where he sat for four years as a member of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo council and became a force in the community, while also playing a key role with Suncor. He is now the manager of community relations with the company and is located in Calgary. He has a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Lethbridge, as well as diplomas in broadcasting and advanced television.

Karla Ingoldsby: Karla, who is a professional engineer, is vice-president of thermal oil for Athabasca Oil Corporation. She has played a pivotal role in the development of its oilsands assets, which included leading the evaluation team that helped bring about Athabasca’s $580 million acquisition of Statoil’s Canadian oilsands assets in 2017. She now leads a team of about 100 people with oversight over 26,000 bbls/d of production from multiple assets.

David Charlebois: David, a project engineer and technical proposal manager with the Calgary office of energy consultants Wood PLC, is a mechanical engineer who now heads the renewable energy projects division for Wood. In addition to leading the company’s involvement in the renewable energy space, he is playing a pivotal role in developing the firm’s digital tools platform.

Andrew Bennett: Andrew, a facilities engineer with Plains Midstream Canada, is a licensed engineer in both Alberta and B.C. As a licensed power engineer, he works as a facility engineer at the Empress Gas Plant. What makes him unique is his willingness to involve diverse work groups, such as operations and tradespeople at the design phase of projects, which leads to facilities that are easy to operate and manage.

Natalie Iaquinta: Natalie is an experienced professional with a 20-year background in corporate, public and private enterprise, where she worked in diverse operational environments, including oil and gas, aviation and fuel supply management. Now the vice-president of Land and Business Development for privately-owned Free Rein Resources, she is leading the company’s charge into the development of the historic Leduc area oilfields. Natalie, who has taught at SAIT, has guided students researching waterflooding and other innovative production technologies, as well as remediation techniques.

Dustin Duncan: Dustin, who is vice-president of midstream and engineering with general contracting company OCL Group Inc., has had a distinguished career in the midstream energy infrastructure sector. He helped turn BNG Engineering into a leader in fluids and tailings management and joined OCL after that firm was sold. A graduate of SAIT, with an engineering design and drafting diploma, as well as holding a certificate in project management from the University of Alberta, Dustin established the OCL Midstream and Engineering division, which has grown dramatically in the last three years.

Garrett Gramlich: Garrett, is a production engineer for privately-owned Canlin Energy, which is focused on gas development in Alberta, Saskatchewan and B.C. While still in his early 20s, he has become a key employee of the company, which produces about 40,000 boe/d. Canlin’s general manager of production, Scott Waldner, wrote glowingly about Garrett’s role with the company. “Garrett has turned our second lowest netback property into Canlin’s second highest netback property during a time when natural gas prices have been at an all time low. He consistently looks for new opportunities of responsibility by initiating discussions around incorporating new revenue streams (such as power generation and accessing new markets).”

Jill Viccars: Jill is a leader in the development of technological solutions that assist in the management of fluids. The company she founded, Drift Technological Solutions Ltd., gives operators access to real time data to help improve logistics efficiency. Before founding Drift, Jill, who has a masters degree in resource management from Royal Roads University, worked in the environmental field as an employee, contractor and company founder for 14 years. In addition to her work in the environmental field, she has been very involved in the community, having co-founded Huddle Up for Suicide Prevention in 2015, an organization now operating in several cities in Western Canada.

Jocelyn McMinn: Jocelyn is the managing director with Calgary-based Cevian Technologies, a software company that develops real-time data acquisition, visualization and reporting tools. Cevian, a tech startup initiated with Trican Well Service, is one of Canada’s fastest growing energy service companies. After having only been launched last November, it now acquires data for 20 per cent of Canada’s fracturing operations. Jocelyn played a pivotal role in the company’s success, after fostering the development of FracRoom, which set a new data standard for the sector.

Farheen Akbar: Farheen is a project and electrical control engineer with Calgary-based engineering firm Gas Liquids Engineering. She has an engineering degree from Montreal’s Concordia University and has become a key employee of the company, which is involved in oil and gas project engineering, refrigeration, gas processing, power generation, liquids fractionation, amine sweetening and gas injection. Her most recent project involved the commissioning and start-up of a sour gas plant in the Grande Prairie area, which occurred during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and which she oversaw and was able to execute the project on schedule. She has become a leader in improving the energy efficiency and reducing emissions from oil and gas facilities.

Alan McCarthy: Alan is the area manager, Pacific Projects, for Tervita Corporation. With more than 17 years of construction industry experience, despite still being in his 30s, he has distinguished himself in his seven years with Tervita, having managed a variety of contaminated site remediation and demolition projects, including demolishing and remediating  a 100-year-old former paint factory. He has received several academic credentials, all recognizing his civil and structural engineering talents, in both Canada and Europe.

Brian Van Vliet: Brian, Environmental Leader with Spartan Controls, is recognized by the company as an innovator. He has a degree in mechanical engineering, from the University of Alberta, and is a member of the Instrument Society of America. As a key employee with Spartan since 2006, he has helped deploy several solutions, including the use of electrification, chemical injection and instrument air compression, to reduce the carbon footprint of the operations of various clients. Brian’s passion for the environment is reflected in his daily life. For example, he has been involved in developing a sustainable playground in his neighbourhood.

Patrick Linton: Patrick, manager, Engineering with Tervita Corporation, is a civil engineer and construction project manager who has successfully managed a wide range of multi-million-dollar construction projects during his career. He joined Tervita in 2013 and has since played an important role in helping to reduce the operating costs of oilfield landfills by developing a solution to reduce the amount of leachate generated at those sites, leading to an average annual cost savings of $3.8 million a year. Although still in his late 30s, he has become a high-performing Tervita executive and is now overseeing the company’s entire engineering team.

Colleen Houston: Colleen, who is a senior advisor, external communications, with Cenovus Energy Inc., is recognized as a leader in strategic communications, aimed at improving the “brand” and reputation of a company. She spent nine years helping to transform the reputation of the Canadian oil and gas industry, overseeing the digital and other communication of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP). After joining Cenovus, earlier this year, she was tasked with channeling her communications efforts into planning, internal communications and corporate changes to respond to COVID. She has received a number of awards, including the CAPP Presidents Award and a nomination for the Alberta Film and Television Award Rosie, for a film she helped produce on Canada’s oilsands.

Justin deMontarnal: Justin, a senior engineer, Facilities Project Engineering with Enbridge Inc., is an emerging leader in the pipeline sector. Aside from working at Enbridge, he is the co-chair of the Young Pipeliners Association of Canada. In that role, he helped develop a groundbreaking training program and collaboration program, in co-operation with the group, the University of Calgary and others. That eight week program saw the 54 participants from across the energy industry develop nine solutions to the energy challenges of our time. The ambitious program led to a public webinar that featured federal Minister of Natural Resources, Seamus O’Regan, and Alberta Minister of Energy, Sonya Savage, in their first ever joint public session.

Amanda Calleberg: Amanda is a trading analyst with Tenaska, an independent energy company involved in the construction and operation of power plants and energy marketing. Although only 22, she is viewed as an “emerging leader” in the energy sector. She is a chemical engineer, having started studying for that degree when she was only 16. Her focus is on the oil and gas and renewables sectors and has led Tenaska’s growth strategy in the development of renewable natural gas, hydrogen and certified responsible gas. She has also conducted academic research on the environmental effects of methane combustion in porous media, for which she received a scholarship from the University of Calgary. She has also authored or co-authored multiple publications.

Gregory John: Gregory, who oversees the development of Indigenous Content and Communications for the Canadian Energy Centre (CEC), is responsible for creating content for the CEC that helps tell the story of Indigenous participation in the Canadian energy sector. He has a distinguished background in helping to increase Indigenous participation in the energy sector, including having been president and CEO of Four Peaks Business Development Ltd., which is focused on Indigenous economic development. Gregory holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Finance from the University of Calgary and is working on his MBA.

Sandy Hammerlindl: Sandy, vice-president, Operations in the Prairies for Integrated Sustainability, is a professional engineer with 15 years of experience (although she is still in her 30s). She has performed in technical, commercial and operational roles with several well known oilfield service companies in Canada. She recently joined Integrated Sustainability and heads the science and consulting, engineering and construction and project management and controls teams in the Prairies. Previously she was vice-president, operations with Whitewater Management Solutions, a leader in water management solutions, where she led a team of 150 employees.

C. Brett Stevenson: Brett is a founder and Managing Partner with Calgary-based Animus Capital Partners Inc., a leading private merchant banking firm. Since inception, less than a decade ago, Animus has placed greater than $1.5 billion in capital and M&A transactions into a number of select portfolio companies or clients. Brett specializes in the midstream and energy infrastructure sectors. He completed the Institute of Coporate Directors Designation (ICD.D) and post-graduate executive studies at Harvard. Brett is also involved in a number of philanthropic activities, including with the Heart Beats Children's Society of Calgary.

Raman Sawhney: Raman is the Business Development Manager for FRACMOD, a Calgary-based software firm that helps optimize fracture stimulation performance. Raman, who has a chemical engineering degree from Queen’s University, started her career working in Albania as an engineer-in-training for Bankers Petroleum. She then worked for consulting firm PwC, where she helped develop an internal training program for women professionals. Her new role with FRACMOD, still a small company, includes raising capital, exploring new opportunities and mentoring other employees. She is a believer in community involvement and was the recipient of this year’s Culbert Family Award for Philanthropy from the United Way.

Ben Klepacki and Connor O’Shea are co-founders of Westgen Technologies Inc. The pair, both in their 30s, self-funded the development of the Engineered Power on Demand solar hybrid power technology the company delivers. The technology allows producers to reduce methane emissions by replacing natural gas with compressed air. The technology has won or been nominated for several awards. Both Ben and Connor are mechanical engineers. Ben, who has specialized in renewable energy, worked for an engineering firm focused on B.C. oil and gas production before launching Westgen. Connor worked for Shell Canada for a decade in planning and project management and has also obtained an MBA. Both have been very involved in their community, Connor as a United Way supporter and participant and Ben as a past Bobsleigh Canada athlete who is involved in training future bobsleigh athletes.

Aaron Foyer: Aaron is a senior consultant with Criterium Energy, a management and strategy consulting firm focused on the energy sector. While still only being in his early 30s, he has had a distinguished academic and professional background. He has an MBA in Finance and is a professional geologist. He has worked in energy as a geologist, geophysicist, investment banking advisor and management consultant since 2010. At Criterium he has taken on several important roles, including initiating a feasibility study on a world-scale petrochemical plant in Alberta and a study for a major UK government organization. He co-founded the ENERGYMinute Foundation, a charitable organization aimed at increasing energy literacy across Canada.

Gorana Radovic: Gorana, with Fluor Canada, is the delivery manager for the prefabricated building scope on the LNG Canada project. She is overseeing a component of the $40 billion LNG Canada project that involves a total of 19 prefab buildings. She has an electrical engineering degree from the University of Calgary and has 14 years of experience in the energy industry. She has served as chair of Fluor’s Emerging Leaders Group and has assumed several other volunteer positions with the company.

Ryan Viljoen: Ryan, director, Business Development and Strategy with Fluor Canada, has had a varied and long career, despite still being in his 30s. He has a Master of Science in Engineering – Electrical Engineering, from the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa. He began his career with Fluor in South Africa and has worked in the energy and chemicals area for the 14 years he has been with the company. He has held a variety of roles, including project management, project engineering, risk management, proposal management, sales coordination and electrical engineering.

Melvina Stacey: Melvina, deputy director, HSE (Health, Safety and Environment) with Fluor Canada, has been involved in multiple high-profile projects and programs in her career. She was instrumental in launching Fluor’s Culture Building Program, aimed at building awareness among employees of the firm’s HSE programs. A graduate of the occupational health and safety program at the University of New Brunswick, she has spent 14 years working in the HSE field, six with Fluor. She has been a volunteer with the United Way and has been a volunteer with the Food Bank.

Ana Villareal: Ana is a mechanical compression engineer with pipeline giant TC Energy Corporation. She is the co-chair of the Young Pipeliners Association of Canada (YPAC) and helped co-found YPAC x Avatar, a groundbreaking program that brought 54 professionals together for an eight-week virtual learning exercise that included arriving at nine solutions to the energy challenges of our time. Beyond her involvement with YPAC, her “day job” has included the design of an electrical compressor unit in Quebec as part of TC Energy’s efforts to reduce emissions and other significant projects.

Christopher Lloyd: Christopher is a digital solutions architect with Spartan Controls. He has been a chemical engineer who worked in the field of industrial technology with Spartan and has since been focused on Spartan’s digital assets, including the design and implementation of cutting edge technologies, leveraging artificial intelligence, machine learning and cloud computing. He has been very active in the community, including the Calgary United Way and the Oneball Cancer Organization, for which he has served as president and in other roles.

John Hirschmiller: John, who is a geologist with Calgary-based GLJ Ltd., a petroleum consulting firm, has a Bachelor of Science in Earth Science from Dalhousie University and a diploma in Geological Technology from Edmonton’s NAIT. He worked as a geologist at the former Penn West Exploration and at APEX Geoscience Ltd. in Canada and Australia before joining GLJ almost eight years ago. While he is still in his 30s, he has emerged as a geoscientist and a young leader at GLJ, having produced several technical papers on a range of topics. He continues his work in the oil and gas sector, but has also become involved in the emerging geothermal sector. He also participates in the firm’s wind resources team. He is an active member of several industry associations.

Seta Afshordi: Seta is the chief operating officer with Calgary’s Proton Technologies, which is deploying its patented technology to extract clean-burning hydrogen from new and abandoned oil and gas wells and coal deposits. She has an extensive academic background, including having earned a Masters in Environmental Sustainable Process Technology from a Swedish university. Seta has had 14 years of experience in a wide range of engineering positions, with companies ranging from Schlumberger to Canadian Natural Resources Limited. She plays a vital role with Proton, managing its operations while also raising the profile of the company and its technologies through her work with Alberta Innovates, the National Research Council and others.

Travis Jensen: Travis is the president of Edmonton and Grande Prairie-based Wave Engineering Consultants Inc., which offers its electrical, lighting and controls consulting services to utilities, government and private sector clients in Western Canada. Despite still being in his 30s, Travis has an extensive background. He is both an electrical engineer and a master electrician. He co-founded Wave in 2013 and it has grown to employ over 30 people. 

Breanna N. Richard: After quickly transcending through the ranks of various large organizations in the corporate consulting world, Breanna has recently decided to harness her entrepreneurial spirit to pursue her dream of co-founding a start-up while continuing to act as an independent consultant specializing in M&A post-merger integration and project management. In her final year of consulting, she led the Separation Management Office for multiple divestitures at Gibson Energy Inc. after the company was challenged with managing the cross-functional impacts of disposing of multiple business units simultaneously. She was then asked to transition into full-time work at Gibson where she served as senior manager, Strategic Initiatives.

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The Rising Stars Class of 2020 will be announced at a special digital presentation in late September. Watch for the profiles of the winning nominees in early October in the Daily Oil Bulletin.