Rising Stars 2021: Suncor manager applying oil and gas lessons to renewable energy

Jeff Tomaszewski

Editor’s note: Today’s profile of Jeff Tomaszewski concludes our Rising Stars Class of 2021 series. Congratulations to this year’s class.

From drilling and completions in Western Canada, to semi-submersible rigs offshore Newfoundland and Norway to an Edmonton biofuels plant, Jeff Tomaszewski has demonstrated his willingness to tackle new challenges during his 15 years in oil and gas.

Two years ago, Suncor Energy Inc. offered him a seconded role at the Enerkem Alberta Biofuels facility that processes household waste into methanol and ethanol.

In his role as manager of engineering and process safety, Tomaszewski leads a team of engineers responsible for the safe deployment and continuous improvement of the innovative biofuel technology. The members were brought in from different management and technical positions to provide that “mature oil and gas operational discipline mindset,” he says.

“It’s been a complete pivot into the renewable space but it’s amazing how much of the traditional oil and gas mindset, problem solving and risk-based decision-making that you can pull from the traditional sector into renewables,” says Tomaszewski. “There’s a lot more overlap than I think people give the industry credit for.”

He acknowledges that from a personal perspective it was a steep learning curve, from drilling and completions into renewables but “when you contrast that learning curve against a lot of the skill set that you bring with you from that traditional space, it’s extremely helpful.” However, the COVID pandemic that forced many employees to remote work has presented a challenge to keeping that momentum.

Tomaszewski’s favorite part of the job is the pioneering aspect. “It’s super interesting at the high level, but even more interesting pioneering the technology day-to-day in a plant setting. Enerkem is in a position where it has worked at a pilot scale and they’re scaling up to a commercial operation for this type of technology.”

Through innovative technology, the Enerkem facility takes processed household waste — non-compostable and non-recyclable waste — and creates syngas that can be purified and recombined through various technologies to different hydrocarbon chains such as methanol and ethanol.

“The upside is huge,” says Tomaszewski. “Through this technology, we can produce sustainable transportation fuels and chemicals that are used in a broad range of products,” he says. “Once you gasify, it’s sort of like Lego blocks that you can then recombine as you see fit.”

After graduating in chemical engineering from the University of Alberta, Tomaszewski started in drilling and completions with Petro-Canada in Western Canada before heading offshore Newfoundland and Labrador and Norway, spending the next 10 years bouncing around between the two regions.

As lead drilling supervisor on the offshore drilling rig Transocean Barents, he was responsible for the safety of the 140 crew members in November 2018 when a 100-year storm struck the North Atlantic with 25-metre-high waves and sustained wind speeds exceeding 200 kilometres/hour.

“It was certainly something that you don’t learn in school,” says Tomaszewski, who was 35 at the time. The storm, he says, reminded many crew members of the Ocean Ranger, which in 1982 sank with the loss of all 84 crew members in a storm of less intensity. “Managing through that was certainly one of the top three impactful moments in my career so far.”

As for the future, he wants to position himself as a leader and influencer as the industry goes through the energy transition. With that in mind, Tomaszewski has started work on an executive MBA program through Queen’s/Cornell universities as he wants to develop his business acumen, taking finance and business strategy courses to complement his years of operational experience.

He also participated in the Avatar Innovators program with his team placing first in the hydrogen category. The program aims to leverage the skills of oil and gas professionals to collaboratively develop solutions in the energy transition.

“It doesn’t have to be an ‘us versus them’ discussion, which is what social media portrays,” says Tomaszewski. “It can be an ‘all of us’ discussion, which I think is super exciting.”

He would like to see the renewable and non-renewable industries come together as a collective and embrace the transition, complementing the traditional oil and gas industry on the renewable side so that there is only one energy industry, not two competing industries.

“Everyone plays a part in that because I think our need for energy is going to grow so there’s lots of space for the solar, wind, traditional oil, renewable fuels and hydrogen,” says Tomaszewski.

“To have a successful, vibrant and diverse energy industry as an option for my five-month-old daughter when she’s ready to enter the workforce, it has to be willing to change and willing to adapt — all while not forgetting where we’ve come from,” he says.

Rising Stars: Sponsors

Fluor Canada

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. 


 geoLOGIC systems ltd.

geoLOGIC systems ltd. is based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and has been providing high-quality, integrated data and analytics to the upstream oil and gas industry in Western Canada and elsewhere for almost 40 years. geoLOGIC’s relentless focus on innovation, quality, and service has made it the trusted standard in the upstream Canadian industry. Customers include exploration and production companies in oil & gas and related products; pipeline and midstream companies; service companies; the financial sector government and regulatory organizations, and educational institutions. Key products include geoSCOUT, a decision-support tool providing high quality data and analytics for all disciplines within the oil and gas industry, and gDC, geoLOGIC’s comprehensive upstream oil and gas database. 

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