There is lots of talk these days about the energy transition, with the world moving towards a greater mix of energy supply to manage carbon emissions and climate change.
In Calgary’s oil and gas industry there is another transition under way, as new leaders with new ideas take their place at the head of the class.
The 2019 Rising Stars are representative of this new leadership. Despite the challenges of the last five years—and the uncertainty of the future—the 14 members of the Class of 2019 are forging ahead, driving technological change, creating new enterprises in the face of great odds, and re-inventing how the industry does business. From robots that clean tanks to leveraging DNA technology to understand bacterial contamination, futuristic technology is being employed by this newer generation to rebuild the industry. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the individual commitment to giving back to the community. Industry leaders are community leaders, and this year’s Rising Stars are no exception, working through a variety of organizations to share their good fortune. Congratulations to the Rising Stars Class of 2019.
InFocus Energy Services Inc.
Designing outstanding oilfield products is a tall order. Doing so while building a company around those products is another challenge altogether. Alan Pearson managed to succeed at both through one of the worst oil-and-gas downturns in a generation.
Pearson got his start in the industry shortly after high school with directional drilling, measurement and wireline tool manufacturer Computalog Ltd. Three years in, he was spending a lot of his time in the U.S., setting up facilities, training, troubleshooting and working with engineers on prototype tools.
Through the ensuing acquisitions (Precision Drilling bought Computalog, Weatherford bought Precision’s energy services and International drilling operations), Pearson continued to rise through the ranks and became Weatherford’s regional manager in Saudi Arabia for five years.
Upon his return to Alberta, he and Shadi Masadeh, a colleague from the Middle East, founded InFocus Energy Services in 2013 with little more a truck, cell phone, some great tool ideas, and a stack of business contacts. In 2014, the price of oil dropped out from under the fledgling company. That downcycle could have crushed InFocus but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“Every time there’s a recession, the market gets flooded with new companies,“ Pearson says.
In this scenario, laid-off oil and gas workers launch companies as representatives or resellers of tools made by a just handful of major tool companies.
“The majors don’t give you much control. They’ll sell you the tool but keep drawings, or they won’t let you service the tools, or you have to buy certain replacement parts and pay a 400 per cent markup—all of which makes it very difficult to bring in good margins,“ Pearson explains.
In contrast, InFocus empowers these small to mid-sized companies with quality tools and the resources they need to succeed in a competitive marketplace.
Pearson’s first commercial product was a high-speed (20,0000 rpm) reaming tool, ideally suited for aggressive, hard formations.
A high-torque all-metal version [All Metal Power--AMP] soon followed.
“The AMP overcomes the biggest failure mechanism downhole: the elastomer getting destroyed and choking off the drill string, causing everything to shut down,“ Pearson says.
The AMP took two years to develop. It called for unique manufacturing techniques and extensive collaboration with companies willing to do things in new ways. The result is a simple and efficient tool that won ICoTA [Intervention & Coiled Tubing Association] Canada’s first Innovation Award. InFocus has also been recognized with export awards for its international sales.
At currently 27 employees, InFocus continues to innovate and expand its product lines, and is well positioned for the next wave of growth.
Like many oil and gas leaders, Pearson and InFocus employees are keen supporter of local charities.
Those that stand out for Pearson are the Alberta Health Services’ Stroke Ambulance, a research project that provides stroke victims with pre-hospital assessment and treatment as a way to mitigate the permanent damages of a stroke.
The Gamma Knife Unit is another focus. This University of Alberta Hospital radiation therapy uses computerized treatment planning software to help physicians locate and irradiate small targets within the head and brain.
Few business talents are valued more highly than the ability to sell. Casey Bray’s track record of sales growth in the last four years has established him as a key component of Perma-Pipe Canada’s success delivering pipeline coating solutions.
His knack for building relationships, together with an undergraduate degree in business and entrepreneurship and an Executive MBA from the University of Calgary, propelled Casey to become Perma-Pipe’s General Manager of Canadian Operations and Sales in seven years with the company.
“For me, its about building a team environment and coaching so that people enjoy coming to work and feel challenged,” he says.
A key steppingstone to his role with Perma-Pipe came in 2009/10. During the slowdown in the pipeline market, Casey and his wife, Jennifer, who also works in the oil and gas industry, came to an unusual agreement: “We said, whoever offers us an ex-pat assignment first, let’s take it.”
Most people would end up waiting for a long time to get such an offer, but not the Casey. Jennifer got the offer first. The assignment was in Doha, Qatar. Casey became the “trailing spouse.”
Casey recalls this as an interesting period in his life, allowing him to experience different lines of work. The Doha Film Institute, for example, hosts a giant film festival every year, which Casey helped set up.
“My job was to help organize the chaos,” he says.
But oil and gas was never far away. Aegion (Insituform at the time) asked him to represent their products in the Middle East. A year later, when Jennifer’s assignment ended, Perma-Pipe in Calgary tapped him for a management job. “It was a challenging role. I was managing people that were significantly my senior in experience and age. I was about 31 at the time and had to make some tough decisions and restructure the department a couple times to improve the team’s experience level and ability,” he says.
But each time he recast the sales department the company gained market share.
“It was a matter of aligning the right people with the right customer, the right channel and the right focus,” he says.
In his home neighbourhood of Marda Loop in Calgary, Casey also puts his sales skills to work for its community association. When he was director for sponsorships, the community had a record fundraising year. That money provided more seniors’ programs, kids' summer camps and events than ever before, including cash reserves for much-needed upgrades to the community hall and tennis courts.
“It’s exciting to see the direct impact you can have in the community,” he says.
United Way is an important charity for the Casey. At the corporate level, he acts as a match-maker, making introductions, setting up meetings and connecting United Way staff with companies that could help the group raise funds, put on events and find volunteers.
“One thing I’ve learned about the United Way is that each chapter focuses on the local community. So it's great to see those positive impacts close to home,” he says.
Managing Partner and Founder
Sunexo Solutions Inc.
Chad Ford cofounded Sunexo Solutions in 2012 to help reduce the non-technical risks of resource development. The launch was a response to seeing how projects were getting delayed or turned down because they weren’t doing a good job of stakeholder engagement or weren’t able to prove that they were doing a good job.
Case in point: Enbridge’s Northern Gateway. The proposed pipeline to the B.C. west coast ultimately received regulatory approval, but the newly elected federal Liberal cabinet cancelled it.
“Enbridge had done an outstanding job to address stakeholder concerns, but the National Energy Board rightly pointed out that they couldn’t show how they addressed these concerns in the project design,” Ford says.
Sunexo’s flagship product is IRIS, a cloud-based software for managing stakeholder engagement and regulatory compliance. It effectively tracks engagement with hundreds, even thousands, of stakeholders across many years and makes this database readily available, irrespective of company staff changes.
“We bring a ready-to-go solution for immediately capturing stakeholder information,” Ford says. “Its automated features save time and provide capabilities that ultimately allow companies to make better business decisions because they understand the full scope of the relationships that they have and whether they have met the commitments that they said they would.”
To date, IRIS has been used on over 500 projects by some of North America’s largest companies in oil and gas, renewables and other sectors. The program is also taught at SAIT in its Energy Asset Management program and the Oil and Gas Regulations Certificate program.
Ford’s own path to stakeholder engagement took a circuitous route. While studying Political Science at the University of Alberta, he joined the Canadian Forces. Three credits short graduating, he was sent on a tour of duty to Afghanistan in 2006.
Upon his return to his home province of Alberta, he completed his studies and took a job engaging with First Nations on behalf of Shell Canada and its Klappan coalbed gas exploration project.
“I was just back from Afghanistan and now I was in northern British Columbia where a bunch of Elders were arrested the day before I showed up. So I’m out there saying, ‘Hey I’m Chad Ford with Shell. How are you doing?’ I was so naïve.”
Still, Ford was effective in his role and attributes that success to his interest in people and their stories.
From 2009 until the launch of Sunexo, Ford deepened his stakeholder engagement expertise with Calgary-based Communica, where he created a Stakeholder Information Management (SIM) department that went on to become the largest in Canada.
Outside of work, Chad is a passionate volunteer in the entrepreneurial community. In 2017, he founded the Calgary chapter of Startup Grind, a grassroots community resource for entrepreneurs. In less than two years, Ford had grown the chapter to over 1800 members, making it one of the largest in North America.
“One of the reasons I launched it was because I felt the start-up ecosystem in Calgary often seemed very anti-energy. Energy wasn’t seen as ‘real tech,’ like Facebook, but the modern energy industry is a tech industry. So we bridge that perceived gap between energy and the start-up tech ecosystem,” he says.
Manager of Projects
Radium Technologies Inc.
Growing up in Pilot Mound, Manitoba, where her four siblings and parents made up a full one per cent of the total population, Dani Moore’s ticket to big city life and a meaningful career was an engineering degree.
Several certainties marked Moore’s journey. She knew from grade 10 that she wanted to become an engineer. After training in the Rocky Mountains as a provincial-level downhill skier during high school, she knew she wanted to live in Calgary. And she always knew that her Metis heritage would remain an important dimension of who she is and how she gives back to the community.
Moore didn’t see herself as an “engineer in a cubicle,” so she chose Manufacturing Engineering at the University of Calgary (that discipline no longer exists at U of C).
“It’s like mechanical but more focused on processes and procedures of things – not so much technical,” Moore explains.
Her first job during summer break was as a heavy-haul rock truck and earth-moving operator. She interned with Kiewit Energy on Canadian Natural and MEG projects after her third year.
Upon graduation, she stayed on with Kiewit at Imperial Oil’s Kearl froth project, both in the module yard and on site.
After that, Moore decided to gain some client experience and took a job with Laricina Energy but eventually realized that she preferred the contractor side. Her next move brought her back to energy construction services in 2013, this time with Radium Technologies.
“It took me about 10 years to get from field engineer—which is kind of the bottom of the barrel, working in the field, taking shifts no one else wants—to this point where I’m comfortable managing projects between $50 million and $300 million,” she says.
Moore describes managing construction projects in terms of a balance between safety, quality, cost and schedule so that “no one is too angry about anything.” Open communication, “being personable” and tenacity are her go-to skills for ensuring that balance.
Having just completed a Masters of Management degree at the University of British Columbia this summer, Moore has set her sights on becoming a manager of project managers.
Moore leverages her Metis heritage to help strengthen the communities in which Radium works. Oil and gas projects in remote areas across western provinces increasingly recognize the value of working with local Aboriginal communities. Radium Technologies puts the emphasis on developing work skills and providing meaningful employment.
“We do specific on-the-job training with First Nations communities around our projects. What we don’t do—if they just want a check– is say, ‘Here you go.’ We want them to work. We arrange their transport. We put them through a new mentorship program called the Green Hard Hat Program. They get an experienced tradesman to mentor them so they can figure out if they want to be a welder, or pipefitter or, if they want to stay as a labour—that’s cool too. We do that with probably four or five nations,” she says.
Moore volunteers with Alberta Metis, doing workshops, presentations and career fairs. She is also active in her home community of Inglewood in Calgary, where she helps out with good-neighbour initiatives and cleanups.
Senior Electrical Engineer/Project Engineer
Wood Canada Limited
Hussain Ali has grown and succeeded as an electrical engineer over the last 10 years through his participation in projects such as the front-end engineering and design of Suncor’s Fort Hills Oil Sands project, Suncor’s Tailing Management Program, Canadian Natural’s Horizon Extraction Train 3 and 4, and TC Energy metering station projects.
He has recently shifted gears to working in a project management role, which he finds even more satisfying because of its higher requirements for teamwork and communication.
“It’s still engineering but, in this field role, I have more dealing with contractors and the construction team. I really enjoy that,” Ali says.
This transition initially worried him, he admits. But given the alternative of “always doing the same thing,” he embraced the challenge.
“The more I think about it, the more I want to move into this kind of work where I need to understand people, their business needs, and put it all together, rather than limiting myself to pure electrical engineering,” he says.
Ali’s people skills and empathy also drive his community giveback. Four years ago, he began mentoring with Big Brothers and Sisters of Calgary and Area, and Hull Services.
Mentoring comes naturally to Ali. As the youngest of seven siblings (his family immigrated to Hamilton, Ont., from Kuwait during the first Gulf War when Ali was five), he is the closest uncle in age to his numerous nephews and nieces, so they often sought him out for support and guidance about school and life decisions.
When Ali left that large extended family in Ontario in 2011 and came to Calgary, that informal mentoring role disappeared. He says a bit of that void drove him to formal mentoring, but he also wanted to mentor someone not related to him.
“I had to go through some tough times myself and I figured it out. But not everybody figures things out. Not everybody has the coping skills or the support to figure things out,” he says.
Hull Services paired Ali with a 12-year-old who suffered from social anxiety, lacked social skills and friends, and spent a lot of time online.
“There’s often a lot of negativity online around video games which some kids then bring into the real world. They often don’t know how to interact and be respectful,” he says.
Ali built a relationship with the boy and introduced him to the things he liked to do, including board games and role-playing table-top games.
Over the course of two years the boy’s parents witnessed their son’s transformation from awkward shyness to confidence, renewed interest in school and friendship. Hull Services recognized Ali with a Mentor of the Year award for his efforts.
“The best thing for me was when he told me that I taught him how to care for others. It brings a tear to my eyes,” says Ali, who is married and says he also is planning to have a family—“but maybe not as big as the one I came from.”
Ali is now mentoring a 16-year-old boy who lives in a group home.
RJ MacLean Tank Cleaning
Kiely MacLean encourages women to put on coveralls, get out in the field and learn the business from the ground up, if they have the opportunity to do so.
“Because that’s what’s going to set you apart and provide that foundation for moving up the ladder,” says the president of RJ MacLean Tank Cleaning, a high-tech company that gets people out of what is arguably one of the most dangerous environments in the oil and gas industry—oil storage tank cleaning.
Cleaning storage tanks is how MacLean started after finishing a business degree and in debt with student loans. She was the only female on a crew of 40 men.
“I just loved the job. I got to be outside, pulling wrenches, really seeing how things were done,” she says. MacLean worked her way up to project manager and, by the end of the year, she was running jobs and crews of 20 people. Then she was promoted to business development manager for Canada.
Despite her passion for fieldwork—and also because of it—MacLean recognized that there had to be a better way to clean oil storage tanks. It didn’t make sense that, in an era of self-driving cars, people were still climbing into these hazardous environments.
So at age 23, she started pulling together the resources to build a high-tech company for robotic tank cleaning. In 2015, she became part owner of RJ MacLean Tank Cleaning, along with her father , with the financial backing of oil and gas services veteran, Jack Sequin.
“We started building equipment, came up with new patented designs. We continued to innovate with water treatment technology for recycling water and reducing the amount of waste for disposal,” she says.
A key milestone was securing the first major customer to champion RJ MacLean’s technology as a safe, environmental sustainability and economically viable alternative to manual cleaning.
“When we first started, nobody really understood what we were talking about because the process is so different with our robotics. But we’re now at the point where we have multiple master-service agreements to help our clients plan their 10-year tank cleaning program,’” says MacLean, who also managed to earn a Masters in Project Management while building the company.
Continual innovation characterizes this high-tech operation. The robots are built in-house, which allows employees to provide input on design. The company now has 80 employees during peak activity.
Given the newness of the work, RJ McLean couldn’t go to the market looking for “experienced robot operators,” so it became good at working with people with little or no the oil and gas industry experience.
“We link this training to our Indigenous engagement program,” MacLean says.
RJ MacLean and its leadership have earned the recognition of several industry awards. MacLean eagerly shares her experiences and learning with other entrepreneurs through a program called Futurpreneur. She provides support to women in leadership initiatives. And she is active in industry conferences and events. She has also contributed to the Senate discussion on Bill C68.
“But what I’m most proud of is the impact that we are having on this industry. Everyone says this is the way tank cleaning should be done,” she says.
Vice President of Business Development
After completing an MBA in Global Energy Management and Sustainable Development, Kirstie Boyle joined a boutique management consulting firm specialized in commercializing new technologies. One of her clients was looking at repurposing a biomedical technology for rapidly screening and quantifying relative fluid performance using reservoir analogues.
Her market research suggested that the industry needed this technology. “’Do it!’” she recalls telling them. “’Quit your jobs. Start the company!’”
Oil was $27/bbl at the time (2016), but the founder went ahead and launched Interface Fluidics. A year later, they asked Boyle to join them.
"I was employee number five and it's been so exciting and rewarding to see the rapid growth of the company," she says.
As head of revenue generation, marketing and sales for Interface, Boyle has increased sales by 330 per cent in just the last 18 months. The company has 30 employees and closed a US$4.5 million financing at the end of August for further expansion.
This September Boyle was promoted to VP of Business Development.
“It’s been said before, but I really believe we are a technology industry that just happens to produce a natural resource. Interface is a great Canadian success story. As an industry, we need to share more of those stories,” she says.
Boyle’s success is partly due to her ability to translate complex technical concepts into benefits and solutions for specific audiences. She has also been doing her part in telling the story of Interface’s success to as wide an audience as she can find. It seems that the people who are listening tend to be outside of Canada, because more than 75 per cent the company’s projects are abroad.
“On the world stage, Canadians have a really good reputation. We’re known for exporting innovation, but we’re not necessarily first adopters. So typically, you have to leave Canada and then come back to get adoption of a technology,” she says.
Boyle, who also holds a B.Sc. in Biological Sciences, strongly advocates for an education in sciences. Her giveback, as the youngest Board of Director with the Telus Spark Science Centre, reflects this passion.
“It’s important to let kids know that science isn’t scary. Science is actually fun and incredibly useful,” she says, recalling the days when her father used to take her to the local science centre in Vancouver, where she grew up.
Boyle is also keen to see more women take leadership positions in the industry. She has served on the board of Chic Geek, which supports women in technology. She is the chapter head of the Canadian Women in Hydraulic Fracturing for the Society of Professional Engineers (SPE) and serves on an SPE special-interest group for reservoir optimization/reservoir engineering.
“I’m not an engineer but so much of what I do is in that space,” she notes.
For four years, Boyle organized Care’s Walk in Her Shoes campaign to raise awareness for girls and women in poverty.
“A large barrier to overcoming poverty is the sheer amount walking [women in development countries] have to do get clean water. This campaign provides women and girls the resources to help them pull themselves out of poverty through education and opportunity.”
Manager, Business Solutions
STEP Energy Services Ltd.
Lem Edillon was STEP Energy Services’ fifth hire in a company that today employs over 1400 people in Canada and the U.S.
But even in 2011, STEP’s founders knew what they were getting in Edillon, from having worked with him in other service companies--a loyal and talented engineer who was up to the challenge of establishing an engineering team and developing STEP’s coiled tubing engineering practices and standards, which the company uses to this day.
As one of the early employees, Edillon had the opportunity to help develop the company’s mission, vision and core values.
He co-authored a paper with the National Association of Corrosion Engineers and (NACE] by partnering with University of Calgary’s Petroleum Microbiology Research Group. This research led to the redesign of coiled tubing corrosion management in the field, reduced mechanical failures and, importantly, improved safety.
More recently, Edillon’s role at STEP has changed. After completing his MBA, he switched from the engineering team to the finance team. This new direction takes him deeper into management at STEP. Among his tasks, he is guiding the company’s digital transformation, starting with the collection and analysis of data that will serve as the foundation for machine learning and further automation.
“We need to find every possible avenue for a competitive edge, not only to differentiate ourselves from the competition but to save costs for our clients and the industry as a whole,” he says.
Edillon’s work ethic and commitment to the company was modelled by his father, a chemical engineer, who worked for Saudi Aramco for 20 years.
Consequently, Edillon grew up partly in Saudi Arabia until high school. In the absence of a local high school, Saudi Aramco sponsored the education of their employees’ children by sending them to the boarding schools of their choice anywhere in the world. Edillon chose Saint Michael University School in Victoria, B.C.
“It was one of the highlights of my life. It was a beautiful place to go to school where I developed close friendships with people that I’m still friends with today,” he says.
Edillon’s 13 years in energy services have led to significant contributions to the oil and gas industry. He was a Canadian Chapter Board of Director of the ICoTA (Intervention & Coiled Tubing Association). His work with Drilling and Completions group of Energy Safety Canada enhanced safety standards for services company field workers through improved Industry Recommended Practices for coiled tubing operations.
Each year, Edillon also organizes an annual company poker tournament that has helped raise thousands of dollars for charities during STEP’s Spirit Christmas Campaign.
He is cochair of STEP’s United Way Calgary Campaign Committee, responsible for new fundraising initiatives, encouraging others to participate and executing well-attended events.
He rounds out his busy career and community involvement with raising a family. With two young daughters, Edillon volunteers at their school and performs the unsung parental heroics of endless driving to gymnastics and track-and-field practices, art classes and other activities yet to come.
Edillon and his wife are also active members of the St. Michael’s Catholic Community parish.
Vice President of Corporate Planning
In the heady days leading up to $142/bbl oil, Matthew Kielbasinski had more-or-less moved into his office at Tristone Capital in Calgary. He landed the job at the start of 2008, fresh out of Ontario’s McMaster University with a finance degree and after a few months of travelling, which he credits with expanding his world view.
“That trip opened my eyes to the fact that there is a big, exciting world out there, once you’re willing to step out of your familiar bubble, and take some risk,” he says.
Kielbasinski grew up with a strong sense of his Polish roots and a fascination with aviation and military history. He joined the Air Cadets when he was 13 and that led to becoming a Rifleman in the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada from 2006 to 2009 while studying at university.
It happened to be a Rifleman connection that put him in touch with Tristone. Landing in Calgary at a time when the economy was firing on all cylinders was an eye opening experience. As was the financial crisis of September 2008, when it felt like someone had just turned the lights off.
In hindsight, this was an early introduction to the harsh realities of the volatile and cyclical nature of commodity markets. Those early years in Calgary convinced Kielbasinski that he wanted to remain in the oil and gas space but, ideally, as part of a tightly knit team on the producer side of the business.
So he took a position with Talisman and that led to Hammerhead Resources, where he’s been for the last seven years. Kielbasinski’s integrity and drive played an essential role in the private equity-backed company’s growth from emerging junior with less than 1,000 boe/d to its current intermediate status as a significant Montney producer of ~30,000 boe/d. “So much of my identity is tied to this shop. A lot of my life’s high-water marks happened here–I got married, have two kids now. It’s been a tremendous opportunity,” he says.
“Alongside a high quality team, we put our heads down to focus on growing the asset into what it is today, and as my life transitioned into family life, I’ve tried to find a better balance,” Kielbasinski says.
Striking the right work-life balance recently forced him to step back from some of his community work, which included volunteering with MitoCanada as Board Member and treasurer, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Calgary and Area, mentoring a boy who was devastated by the loss of his sibling to mitochondrial disease.
“The [boy’s] parents put their son into the Big Brothers program to try and turn the switch back on and see their smiling, energetic and joyous child again. It was a total coincidence that I was matched with someone affected by mitochondrial disease, but it led me to be more involved with MitoCanada,” he says.
Kielbasinski credits his education in a Catholic high school and its annually mandated volunteering hours with introducing him at an early age to the value of participating in organized charity work. But with his second child born earlier this year, he says he needs to “be a dad for a little while” before he returns to volunteering.
Marketing Representative Eastern Markets Commercial, Canadian Natural Gas Pipelines
Molly Beckel transferred to a new role at TC Energy this October when she moved from Calgary to Toronto to manage customer transportation accounts.
It’s a big change from her former role as a Facilities Integrity and Reliability Engineer. For three years she addressed critical operational issues, delivered optimization programs, improved reliability and implemented automation upgrades at TC Energy’s Canadian pipeline facilities.
“I wanted to get a really good fundamental technical understanding of the business. In this role, I learned to be a mechanical engineer,” says Beckel, who actually graduated as a management engineer from the University of Waterloo in 2013.
Beckel enjoys technical challenges. She has been recognized as a Global Petroleum Show Emerging Leader finalist in 2019 and received a Young Women in Energy Award in 2018.
But this experience will do little to prepare her for the business side of the operations in Ontario. So why did TC Energy roll the dice to move her out East?
“I also do a lot volunteer work with the Young Pipeliners Association [of Canada (YPAC)]. We negotiate with various companies in the pipeline space to secure funding and support, and we work on a lot of industry initiatives,” she says.
Last year, YPAC kicked off its first government engagement initiative. A delegation travelled to Ottawa to introduce MPs and senators to the group’s message, that YPAC believes in pipelines for technical, social and environmental reasons, that it sees a future for pipelines and for oil and gas.
YPAC also testified to the Canadian Senate on Bills C-69 and C-48.
All this extracurricular activity provided TC Energy the confidence to give Beckel an opportunity to expand her horizons in Ontario.
Giving back to industry [through YPAC] is really rewarding, but it’s actually what launched me into my next opportunity. I would have never had the credibility that I have now without that work with YPAC,” she says. And how successful was the YPAC mission to Ottawa? Beckel says the group was received with a mixture of surprise and confusion.
‘The MPs and senators seemed confused by the fact that we’re young women and young men,” she says. “We’re also a very diverse group of people, so we were not what they expected.”
YPAC’s nonpartisan message also raised some eyebrows upon hearing that pipelines are critical not only to oil and gas but also to a low-carbon future for carbon capture infrastructure and some renewable energy projects.
“We probably didn’t change their minds, but it was good for them to hear. At least, they know we exist and need to be part of the consideration,” Beckel says.
Beyond her involvement in industry committees (she’s a member of the International Pipeline Conference Young Engineers’ Engagement Committee and represents YPAC on the board of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association Foundation), Beckel has also been coaching Special Olympics for five years.
“I coach soccer, snowshoeing and we did floor hockey last year. It’s super fun. It’s only one hour a week. Honestly, you just have the best time. The athletes remember you and they appreciate that you’re there,” she says.
Vice President – Strategic Management
Alberta Energy Regulator
As a manager with the former Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB), predecessor to the Alberta Energy Regulator (AER), Tiffany Novotny came to a pivotal moment in her career when she brought a business case to her supervisor.
“I felt the ERCB was very bureaucratic. I couldn’t believe that we didn’t use some business fundamentals in how we operated,” she says.
She asked her supervisor if the Board would support her in doing an MBA so that she could help incorporate more efficient business practices into the organization.
“He said, ‘No. We’re a technical-science organization. We don’t need that expertise,’” Novotny recalls with a hint of grimace. She believes the regulator is and will always need to be technical-science based but questioned why it couldn’t be both science-based and more business oriented.
Shortly after, the province passed the Responsible Energy Development Act, which led to the ERCB’s re-organization into the AER in December 2012 and the formation of a one-stop shop for regulatory approvals to expedite delays and reduce costly red tape.
Novotny then asked her new AER supervisor the same question. This time the answer was “Absolutely! We need that!” The AER went on to strike a new balance between responsible resource stewardship and more efficient development approvals.
During her MBA studies towards a 2016 graduation, she helped deliver important outcomes-based initiatives such as regulatory modernization and re-engineering the AER’s planning and performance functions to support the efficient use of company resources.
Today, Novotny feels her greatest asset as a regulator is as a generalist. Her wide range of regulatory experience includes field work as a reclamation/environmental specialist, stakeholder engagement, application and hearing management, writing regulatory requirements and implementing operational efficiencies.
Still, Novotny’s career didn’t turn out the way she originally envisioned it when she started university, determined to become an environmental lawyer.
“To put myself through school, I worked at a law firm. But later, being exposed to law, I said, ‘That’s not what I want to do.’”
Ultimately, her career turned out better than planned. She earned a Bachelor of Science with a focus on environmental science and, after working in research and as a consultant, joined the regulator where she found a satisfying middle ground between legal work and science. In 2017 she earned a certificate in Regulatory Leadership from Carleton University and the University of Ottawa and remains committed to the public service of Alberta.
In considering Alberta’s call for an AER review this September, Novotny says that the organization has made significant strides to become a better regulator but that there is still a lot of opportunity for improvement. “We have an obligation to the people that we serve, to be able to prove that we are using the money and resources that we have to provide the most impact. It’s the same as any company, but the ROI [return on investment] is sometimes less tangible,” she says. In her family life, Novotny loves to ski, bike and hike with her husband and kids. She is active in Calgary’s competitive gymnastics community, supporting her young children in the activity. She also volunteers in their school. But her most impactful contribution to Alberta is her work with the AER and the sense of purpose she brings to it.
“Maybe it’s because I was born and grew up here in Alberta that I ask myself what Alberta will look like in the future and how my kids will live here and what opportunities they will have,” she says.
Chief Technology Officer
In the three years that Virginia Wornstaff has been with the OSP Microcheck, she has risen from Director of Business Development and Technology to VP LifeCheck Resources to her current role as Chief Technology Officer.
During her tenure as leader of a team of technical experts and PhD microbiologists, OSP has opened a full-service Technical Centre that includes inhouse DNA microbial testing, reporting and recommendation services.
“We’re one of the only oil and gas service companies to have full DNA sequencing and bioinformatics processing in-house. No other single company permeates the market with as much high-level genomic (DNA) testing offerings as OSP, which is reflected in the global client-base we support everyday”, Wornstaff says.
A lot of service providers make a run at controlling the souring effects of microbes in wells but providing technical solutions for microbial challenges is OSP’s primary business. But business is growing because of the preponderance of hydraulic fracturing in today’s oil and gas fields.
“Increased dependencies on fluid recycling, diverse water management strategies, and geological factors within plays introduce large volumes of microbes that have never been put into reservoirs before. They are souring these reservoirs, or some are already sour from geological factors, making them substantially worse—more so than people realize. So the problem continues to evolve despite the efforts of throwing some chemicals at it,” she says.
A better understanding of the problem is OSP’s competitive advantage. And the company continues to innovate and deepen its water quality and microbial control services.
Wornstaff’s success at OSP might seem as though it came over overnight, but it also stands on 13 years of work experience with Baker Hughes. Baker hired her before she even graduated in 2003 from NAIT’s Chemical Engineering Tech/Petroleum Engineering Tech Honours programs.
As part of Baker’s integrity management services group, she had the good fortune to work under a manager who said, “I’m going to throw you in the deep end of the pool. I’m not going to let you sink, but you’ll learn how to swim.”
Wornstaff learned everything from facility process to managing clients and was made manager of the Integrity team after four years. She was one of the youngest female field managers in that role at age 27.
Today Wornstaff practices a similar leadership style that allowed her to flourish. She provides her team with the tools, resources and support to succeed.
Growing up in a family of four kids on a farm outside the hamlet of Fort Assiniboine in northern Alberta, where she attended a small school that couldn’t provide biology and physics in the same year because there weren’t enough students or teachers, Wornstaff appreciates the importance of personally contributing to the community.
Most of her giveback is currently through OSP’s support of children and families—Christmas giving, local sports teams and the children’s hospitals.
“We also have two intern programs through the U of C. I really love being part of bringing younger people into the private sector and giving them a taste of what they can do with what they have learned,” she says.
Beyond this mentorship, she flies across North America delivering presentations and sharing industry-leading insights on microbial issues to educate peers, clients and colleagues.
Blue Source Methane
Growing up in Calgary from the age of five, Waheed Zaman’s experience was typical of most kids—school, friends, soccer—but a trip to Bangladesh to visit extended family marked a formative event in his life.
“We travelled and saw the poverty and dirty water and the conditions people lived in. Being 11, it really affected me and motivated me to pursue a career that could make a difference,” he says.
Over time, engineering took shape in his mind as the best way to directly affect positive change in the environment and in people’s lives. He studied Chemical Engineering with an energy and environmental specialization at the University of Calgary, and is currently pursuing a part-time Master’s degree in the same field.
As an engineering intern at the University of Calgary’s Laboratory for Environmental Catalytic Applications, he researched activated carbon used to treat water produced from oilsands mining operations. That work was published in the Bioresource Technology Journal.
For MEG Energy as an environmental engineering intern, he worked on reducing sulfur emissions and later attended consultation meetings and presented at science camps for Aboriginal groups, encouraging students to pursue STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) disciplines.
After graduation, Zaman’s first three years were with SKF (bearings and lubrications). He got an assignment in England on a consulting project. Later he became project engineer on an innovative technology that involved five SKF teams from five countries.
“We developed an automated grease gun with a Bluetooth chip connected to a mobile app that tracked a lubrication route for operators,” he says.
The technology extended the life of machinery by providing lubrication point verification through RFID tags fitted to each lubrication site. Patent applications were made on the technology and Zaman eventually travelled to Sweden to accept an SKF Excellence Award on behalf of his team.
Almost four years ago, Zaman’s career aligned more squarely with his core environmental interest when he joined Blue Source Methane as a member of the company’s Methane Reduction Program team.
This Blue Source project delivers an economic and efficient approach to swapping out the oil and gas industry’s high-bleed pneumatic controllers for more GHG efficient units. Starting in November 2017, Bluesource is on track to its target of replacing over 10,000 controllers over two-and-a-half-years in Alberta. Earlier this year, Blue Source won a JWN Energy Excellence Award in the Industry Accelerators category for this work.
Just recently, Waheed has returned to MEG Energy as an Operations Process Engineer. He is thrilled to return to the company where he interned. He will be going to the field to gain hands-on experience and a deeper understanding of how plants operate and processes are optimized. He then plans to be involved with MEG’s continued efforts to reduce their GHG intensity.
Zaman’s passion for the environment is matched by his passion for helping people. He holds Maya Angelou’s quote close to his heart: “When you learn, teach, when you get, give.”
He has coached youth soccer teams. He is a mentor to students at the University of Calgary. He provides volunteer tutoring to students and helps deliver food hampers to families in need with the non-profit Enjoin Good. And he has volunteered as an instructor for computer skills training with the Centre for Newcomers.
But it’s when he can bring engineering into the equation that Zaman’s eyes really light up. He flips through his smart phone gallery to a picture of a bicycle he and a group of volunteers built for a charity called Tikkun Olan Maker. The organization targets unique disabilities that don’t have readily available medical solutions.
“Our team came up with this treadle-powered bicycle for a double amputee with Parkinson’s disease,” he says proudly.
Zaman’s ambition is to be an environmental leader in the energy sector by continuing to combine his passions in engineering, helping others and the environment to make a meaningful impact.
Construction Engineering Manager
Fluor Canada Ltd.
Like many students who studied engineering at the University of Waterloo, its 24 months of real-world experience through work terms were a great opportunity for Mikel Sidiripoulos to figure out in which direction he didn’t want to take his career.
A rotation through a Toronto commercial building firm gave him a glimpse of a low-margin, cut-throat business where he was made to feel more like a competitor to the firm’s existing engineers rather than a new team member.
In stark contrast to this, he also worked for Fluor in Calgary for two terms. There he found an open and helpful culture that supported him in learning the ropes and developing as an engineer. Fluor was also impressed with the potential they saw in Sidiropoulos and offered him a permanent position after graduation, which he gladly accepted.
“I have a thirst for learning and this company and the people that work here foster that,” he says.
Sidiropoulos’ high watermarks at Fluor include achieving his P.Eng. certification and learning how the company executes complex projects. He has coordinated between construction and home office engineering and management teams across multiple projects of varying size. He has worked in everything from project proposals to construction support for LNG, SAGD and petrochemical development.
Sidoropoulos’ leadership is evident in his work ethic, attention to detail and his desire to see projects through to successfully delivery as agreed and promised.
“I feel I’ve transitioned from just bringing together and regurgitating the knowledge I’ve acquired to where I am now in a position to influence. People are now looking to me and saying, ‘What should we do here?’” he says. The guidance and mentorship Sidiropoulos experienced in Fluor now informs his giveback to the profession and the community. An expression of this is his work with youth, encouraging them to pursue engineering as a vocation.
“We have a mentorship program with a school just down the road that I’m involved in, where we go into classrooms during Engineering Week with some very simplistic tasks. For example, we build a car from straws, lifesavers and a balloon to demonstrate propulsion or some other aspect of physics and math and science by making it real,” he says. In high schools, Sidiropoulos is part of a Fluor pre-engineering program that provides guidance to students who have already made the decision to become engineers. This involves coaching, helping with courses selection and offering practical advice.
“Each year, we also bring students [to the south Calgary Fluor campus] for a day. We show them how the workspace is laid out and try to give them a sense of what an engineering career involves. They ask questions. There’s a presentation. I’ve done the construction portion of that presentation for a few years,” he says.
Sidiropoulos also harnesses his passion for bicycling for the United Way’s Ride to Conquer Cancer. As a member of Fluor Canada’s “Tour de Force cycling team, he rides in a two-day, 200-km fundraising event that has helped raise $120,000 for cancer research in Alberta.