Editor’s note: We’ll be running all Rising Stars Class of 2021 profiles over the next two weeks. Today, we profile Jessica Shumlich.
Shumlich was co-nominated with Thomas Fox, whose profile is here.
Just over a year ago, Jessica Shumlich with a partner, Thomas Fox, followed her passion and launched a new company, Highwood Emissions Management, a consultancy specializing in greenhouse gas emission reductions.
“I was sick of saying: ‘Next year, next year, or maybe I will, maybe I will,’” she says. “And I just decided to be the change that I wanted to see.” Shumlich also knew that the oil and gas industry needed some help in her area of expertise, especially in reducing methane emissions.
For the 34-year-old chief executive officer, it was perfect timing. As companies face increasing pressure from investors and governments to tackle methane emissions, Highwood has thrived, growing to 15 employees, including contractors.
“I want to work with oil and gas companies, energy companies, that are being leaders in this area,” she says. “Methane is low-hanging fruit; there’s still a lot of technology applicability as well.”
“Sometimes we struggle to measure some of these leaks, but we’re actively understanding that that’s an issue and trying to be thought-leaders in the area in order to do so.”
For Shumlich, an exciting part of the job is Highwood’s role as a thought-leader and its ability to offer its advice or services to clients and see the tangible impact on emissions because of its expertise and knowledge. “Being able to develop the frameworks for how methane leakage is going to be managed in 10 or 15 years from now, that’s super powerful and something I can be really proud of.”
A civil engineering graduate from the University of Calgary, she began her career as a drilling engineer at Shell Canada, gradually working her way into the environmental sector. “That was something I was always passionate about,” says Shumlich. “So I was working in greenhouse gas emissions reduction well before it was cool.”
At Shell, she held a variety of jobs, everything from wellsite supervision and greenhouse gas project engineering to trying to high-grade the best projects for emissions reductions, to strategy work, to responsibility for environment and regulatory matters at company facilities.
As Shell began to reduce its Canadian operations, Shumlich left the company, taking a job with the newly created Energy Efficiency Alberta as she sought to expand her skill-set in environment and greenhouse gas emissions policy. “I’ve always been interested in that and I decided it was important for me to round out my career and go into the government,” she says.
At the agency, Shumlich led the methane and broader industrial programming for emissions reduction activities and grants and incentive programs. Although it was a “phenomenal experience,” she also realized she preferred the private sector and left EEA about a year before it was disbanded by the new UCP government.
While working in government, Shumlich also earned a Masters of Management in regional economic development from the University of British Columbia in 2020 and decided it was time to start her own business, and she encourages other young female entrepreneurs to do the same.
“I’ve just been passionate about small business and passionate about creating a resilient energy economy, and I really believe in Canada’s oil and gas sector,” says Shumlich. “I wanted to be part of the solution to help, to make sure that we can be proud of our Canadian oil and gas [sector] for years to come.”
In Fox, she found a business partner who was willing to share the risk with a young female entrepreneur. “When it’s just yourself, it’s very scary. But when you have another person who you trust and are able to rely on, it seemed a little bit less scary,” says Shumlich.
“The idea of greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas industry is a really large opportunity / problem, however you want to frame it,” she says.
And while governments are now calling for a 75 per cent reduction in oil and gas methane emissions, Shumlich believes that shareholder investment actually has a bigger role to play than regulations. “The real leaders in this space are the ones who are going above regulatory requirements,” she says. “There’s a bunch of different reasons as to why you would want to go above the regulatory requirements, including carbon differentiation, and we’re seeing companies do that.”
Shumlich also believes that Canada can get to a net-zero oil and gas sector in which it can instill confidence for stakeholders, shareholders and the public that the industry has in fact either significantly reduced or eliminated its emissions.
“That’s where I want to be and I want to be able to go out into the market and say, with my hand over my heart, that I had a part in how to get there.”
Rising Stars: Sponsors
Fluor has provided engineering, procurement, fabrication, construction, and project management services to Canada’s energy industry for 72 years. Its 43,000 employees globally (and 3,000+ across Canada) deliver comprehensive services — from conceptual design through to commissioning and maintenance — for all types and sizes of facilities. Fluor applies its broad expertise, extensive experience, and proven technology to benefit Canada’s energy transition in areas such as liquefied natural gas, carbon capture, hydrogen, renewable fuels, small modular reactors, and minerals mining. Fluor is committed to positively contributing to Canada’s energy tomorrow by focusing on safe and sustainable solutions today. This commitment includes focusing on diversity, equity, and inclusion to ensure opportunities represent the diversity of Canada’s population and support reconciliation, partnerships, and benefit-sharing with Indigenous peoples.
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