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From the monthly archives: June 2011
Northern Opportunities: A Pretty Good Deal
Ryan Gilmore was frustrated with high school and considered dropping out. Then he learned of the dual credit programs offered by the Northern Opportunities… [read more]
Open to Everyone
Nicole Schartner says she is glad to be in the Power Engineering program at GPRC (Grande Prairie Regional College) Fairview Campus not only because she… [read more]
Fort St. John: Energized & Ready to Roll
Priding itself on being a family friendly community, Fort St. John still manages to find plenty of room for industry and business. “There’s tons… [read more]
Education Expands its Role
With an increased labour shortage looming, governments and educators in the West are scrambling to find measures to offset what could be, and in some cases… [read more]
There are still clearly divided camps when it comes to industry and sustainable, responsible stewardship of our natural resources.
On the one hand, there are those that value the environment and are convinced that the multinationals and others are intentionally disregarding issues of safe and sane development in the quest for cash.
They cry foul every time they can, citing every situation where an outcome was less than perfect, and insisting that industry is the environmental hangman, willing to compromise away our children’s futures and turn a blind eye to the death and destruction they leave in their wake.
It’s a myopic point of view.
And it’s easy to judge when you only acknowledge worst-case scenarios. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, their intentions are probably honourable even if they only allow for one worldview.
It brings to mind the men that once thought of women as chattel, lacking the capacity to think or act sensibly for themselves.
They too were likely well-intentioned, thinking to protect and guide the weaker sex. Who can blame them? For the most part, it’s unlikely they ever saw a wife or daughter in a position of leadership, or gave her the chance to show her ideas had as much merit as a brother or son’s.
It’s a myopic point of view.
On the other hand, there are those that laud their own efforts to do better, to think more, to be accountable in industrial practices, to do it differently than it has been done. And they should acknowledge where they are active participants in responsible stewardship. But it really has become the cause de jour. If hundreds before have done the same responsible thing, is it really that big a deal? Is it really something that needs to be said again and again and again and again? It does get old and rather meaningless.
As things usually are, the truth is in the grey area between. There are people who don’t much care how much damage they cause to the environment (as long as no one catches them), but that’s not universal and there are plenty of companies who are implementing new technologies or practices that help improve the environmental situation – things more than worthy of praise and attention.
It’s not a static process this learning about sustainability. New understandings of how and why things are put at risk are met with new solutions. And sometimes, it’s a choice of the lesser of two evils. Compromises are made – and should be made – while ever-better solutions are sought.
In considering the subject of safety, one must consider the audience. Recently while visiting an oil company client, I noticed a copy of the NW Business News sitting on a coffee table in the reception area.
It reminded me of the fact that the average reader of this magazine is probably not the front-line worker, but rather service providers, sales people, suppliers, managers and CEO’s. The most unlikely person to read this safety article would be the very one who constantly faces the most hazards in the workplace, which is why I have geared all of these safety articles more towards managers, CEO’s and people of great influence.
If you are reading this, you are probably someone with a certain amount of authority or influence, either in the area of safety, or as a manager, or perhaps as an entrepreneur. In that case you are also someone with influence.
The interesting thing about someone with influence is that they can affect the well being of people far outside of themselves.
So what does climate change have to do with safety? Well, besides the litany of side effects said to be caused by global warming, I would like to draw some parallels. The earth’s climate is caused by many factors that we have a vague or limited understanding of, but mostly, we just enjoy or endure the effects of these factors. Forces beyond our control regulate our seasons and throw in unexpected twists and turns like drought, storms and fog. We observe the signs and regulate our lives around the predictability of the seasons and the unexpectedness of the weather.
We listen to the experts, look at the sky, consider our options and decide how to eliminate the risks.
Different geographic locations have different climates, and within these larger climates are smaller microclimates. The safety climate of a country or geographic location can also seem like it is caused by vaguely understood forces beyond our control – forces such as government agencies and safety associations. These organizations carry the promise of ‘good weather’ brought about by their regulations, training and compliance standards.
We listen to the experts, read articles, take training, organize safety committees, submit to audits, and based on the accumulated advice we receive, eliminate the risks as much as possible.
The more stable and temperate the climate, the better the conditions for life. The more stable and practical the safety climate, the better conditions are for a safe work environment as well. As large bodies of water and tall mountains affect weather patterns, so people of influence affect safety through their attitude and actions.
It has long been known that safety culture spreads from the top down, and just like pollution is accused of poisoning our atmosphere, a careless attitude in upper management towards safety can poison the safety (climate) or culture of a company.
As CEO of a mid-sized business, the biggest challenge I have is in recognizing the impact my attitude has on others. In fact, at times I don’t feel any more qualified than my front-line employees in creating a safe culture at work.
This is a feeling I need to shake, because if I am not aware of how my attitude, actions and words are impacting the people I am responsible for, I will be careless and have a negative influence on how they view their own personal safety. While I may not have the power to change the safety climate of a country, I certainly can bring change to my own company and possibly even my community.
We are fortunate to live in these days in a country where the safety climate is continually improving. Canada is known as one of the safest countries in the world, and even in the last decade has seen unprecedented growth in the value placed on human life. In part this is because of the large ‘weather systems’, or governing bodies bringing regulations and enforcement, but it is also due to CEO’s, managers and those in the safety industry influencing their own microclimates through a positive safety attitude.
It is exciting coming to the realization that I can affect the safety, health and even the bottom line of my company simply by maintaining an attitude of awareness and respect for safety, and a genuine concern for people.
As powerful influencers in the arena of the workplace, let’s step up to the plate and create positive changes to our safety cultures by first guarding our attitudes.
In the natural world we are still just beginning to learn ways to positively affect climate change, but in the safety world man has many opportunities to bring positive change to the safety climate of their company, community and nation.
David Phibbs is the president of Alpha Safety Ltd. and Alpha Training Solutions.
For more information on this article or their services, contact 1-888-413-3477, 250-787-9315 or www.alphasafety.net.
Fusion Oilfield Services, already in the thick of it when it comes to dealing with frac water, thinks they have found an economical and safe way to turn flow back frac water into a clean, reclaimed resource. Both economical and environmental advantages have propelled them to invest heavily in the skills of Ladysmith engineer Lawrence Lambert.
Also experienced in both oceanography and physics, Lambert was sought out by Fusion when they heard he was proficient in electro-chemical methods of treating difficult industrial waters.
“We met in Edmonton, shook hands, and have been blood brothers ever since,” said Lambert. The outcome of that arrangement was Aquanetus Technology Inc. and a relatively simple component system that utilizes electrical stimulation to agglomerate particulate residue rendering it into a condition that can then be more easily removed.
The company promises “a single 5-ton truck carries a 25 gpm, Fusion specific, and proprietary flow back frac water treatment system capable of removing the majority of flow back contaminants” and claims “Treatment tests to date indicate that the water quality is process ready for re cycle without extra parameter corrections”.
The process takes place within two compact units driven from a 20kW generator; an Elektro-Kinetic Vortex Separator; followed by a process specific DAF (Dissolved Air Floatation), providing solids removal and disinfection of the water.
Their process adds a new dimension to the concept of remediation and minimizes the need to tap into rivers, lakes and wells as primary water sources as well as providing an alternative to injecting frac flow back volumes into abandoned wells and other similar storage options.
The dissolved organics, heavy metals, dissolved minerals, suspended oil, production chemicals and solids that usually exist in frac water make it difficult to reuse without some kind of treatment. The existing technology in the relatively limited current remediation has been limited until now said Lambert.
“We will have large scale systems sitting by reservoirs or wells because they get rid of the frac water right now by putting it down dry wells, but they know they will have to pump it out of there and treat it,” he said.
A Hewlett Packard Gas Chromatograph Model 5890 provides a rapid ‘look’ at the remediated water to demonstrate a non-complex, viable core treatment process that can be installed at a client’s site, providing 250 gpm (one M3 per minute) of recycled water.
Fusion will take control of the removed particulates for further processing said Lambert. The sludge will be dried and recovering certain components from the residue, while assuring confidentiality to producers.
“The oil companies are very possessive of the formulas for making what we call their slick water so you never really know what’s in it because he who wins is he who can frac and keep those fractures open…and a lot of it depends on how they can pressurize the water, and the water will move easier if they have these chemicals inside,” said Lambert.
Pumping “unknown chemicals” back into the ground, even with safety assurances, is not always well received by environmental advocates. Transportation costs may be a drop in the bucket to large-scale producers however, the cost of the increased carbon footprint is more costly.
With a limited supply of fresh water to draw from due to either restricted availability or to licensing limits, the potential drain on water locals rely on for one reason or another is perhaps the greatest ‘hidden’ cost to producers. Producers have already drawn fire over water use, particularly in the Horn River.
“Right now it’s fairly easy for them to get virgin water,” said Lambert. “First Nations people with which Fusion has a very close relationship are aware of this so they’re going to embrace recycling water.”
Certainly in the Peace, land use agreements with First Nations lend some clout to their preferences, although it is by no means as sure a thing as Lambert is suggesting.
Whether Fusion’s system or some other, many are speculating that it won’t be long before legislation will mandate some kind of a change in how water is used there. Right now, said Lambert, Fusion Oil has extended themselves “knowing full well that recycled water is going to become the norm”.
“They are not if fact making huge amounts of money on recycled water but the industry knows it’s going to happen.”
Fusion planned to take a mobile system to five companies at the end of May to ensure that if they commit to going to the next step, the water can be treated and Fusion can bring back a clear glass of water to these companies.
The current process does leave a degree of salt in the treated water however, Lambert points out the system has the capacity to desalinate the water as well provided someone is willing to cover the additional cost of doing so.
“People who come up with these recipes for slick water they, right now, have got samples and they are looking to see how they can deal with a certain amount of salt in it. Some are saying it’s no problem and others are saying it has to be below a certain level but they will adapt,” said Lambert.
While Fusion Oil is still making early inroads in Canada, Strong international interest is already reaping benefits for them.
“With all due respect to Canadians, the Texans came up here, they looked, they tasted, they signed a contract and are waiting for systems,” said Lambert.
For now, Fusion’s intent is to lease this capability eliminating the infrastructure requirements to the client. The costs will vary and will be arranged with clients dependent on geographic site location, degree/intensity of testing and agreed upon deliverables.
And Lambert said they are ready to go and can have something in place in as little as 60 days. They are also building a second mobile system to ease understanding more quickly.
“We are bringing the technology to them so they can poke and prod it,” said Lambert. It’s a seeing is believing kind of approach designed to make the decision to recycle as easy as possible. “We are ready to pull the trigger.”
“I think a leader is someone who has a vision, wants to make a difference, can articulate it, and has a team that feels passionate about it and wants to follow them to make it happen.”
~ Audrey Mascarenhas
Every leader is different but they all find a legacy based on what matters to them. For Audrey Mascarenhas, it’s about showing others that one of the strongest reasons for industry to embrace environmentalism is a good business case.
In particular, she currently champions clean air as a realistic byproduct of oil and gas production by strongly advocating alternatives to flaring.
“It’s not just the fact that we (Questor) can handle waste gas efficiently and can use this energy that’s being wasted right now (that I’m passionate about); it’s the fact that this could have a big impact on the lives of people living in developing countries that live below the poverty level,” said Mascarenhas about her current passion.
It’s no coincidence she was numbered among the Society of Petroleum Engineers Distinguished Lecturers this year. She is passionate and articulate and perhaps most of all, knowledgeable about the oil and gas industry from a variety of perspectives.
Mascarenhas is currently the president and CEO of Questor Technology Inc. Before that, she held various technical, commercial and management positions during a 17-year tenure with Gulf Canada Resources Ltd.
She is a graduate of the University of Toronto in Chemical Engineering and holds a Masters Degree in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Calgary.
And as much as all of these things demonstrate the success traditionally equated with leadership, these accomplishments alone are not the yardstick she measures herself by.
She talks about one of the last teams she led with Gulf. It wasn’t the goal achieving power of the team that stood out for her, although they did exceed some pretty tough goals she explained. It was the “reservoir engineer having a conversation with the facility guy, and the drilling guy talking to the geologist, and they were having this discussion listening to each other and coming up with better solutions”.
This goes beyond the notion of teamwork normally associated with a good leader. At a time when Gulf was having a difficult time, this team she said, was the one everyone wanted to be a part of. So much so if fact, that there were people who volunteered their time to be a part of it.
Mascarenhas has also had the opportunity to share her passion for the environment and the search for solutions to air quality with other audiences. Notably, she spoke at the World Petroleum Congress in Johannesburg, Rice Alliance Clean Technology Conference in Houston and most recently in Amsterdam at the EPA/World Bank Global Gas Flaring Reduction Forum.
She is able to carry a simple message through a solid repertoire of facts, understanding clearly what she would like to see accomplished, and carrying the congruency of her own business to attest to the practicality and success of her ideas.
Mascarenhas reminisces about the path that has lead her to international prominence and remembers reading an article when she was very new to the industry. The gist of it, she said, was that it’s better to focus on where you are right now rather than on where you’re going, that way you can give your very best to the role you have right now.
“When I read that, it really changed the way I looked at things,” she said. “I felt that whatever role I was in, I would do it to the best of my ability.”
She has been able to do that in the petroleum industry since she got her first position at age 17 and through the various roles she has held since that time. In each, she has proven herself and added one more piece to the aggregate of who she has become.
“All these roles were a journey,” she said, each building onto what was already in place, and each a preparation for things that would come later. “Life is too short not to be engaged,” she added.
Growing up in Africa, she saw first hand that many people living without energy. In other places, gas is being wasted and used unwisely – sent up stacks – when it could be put to better use.
We here in North America like to think we are environmentally conscious, but Mascarenhas isn’t as sure that there is an unconditional willingness to do what it takes.
“I think we’re conscious about it in that we want to do the right thing – talk about doing the right thing – but I think there is so much more that we can do,” she said.
Like her team that “found better solutions”, Mascarenhas would like to see other companies do the same, regardless of the level of success they currently experience in dealing with good environmental practices.
The tougher emission regulations in the US and the lack of easily available energy in other countries has led to the largest part of Mascarenhas’ business coming from other countries. We do not have the same sense of urgency in Canada, she said, and that can create a level of complacency Mascarenhas works diligently to curb.
We globally flare and waste the energy equivalent of Canada’s gas production. And it doesn’t need to be that way. That is what Mascarenhas most wants people to hear and act on. Showing people that is the leadership role she has agreed to take on and is now recognized internationally for.
She encourages people to think – to think about the future, to think about solutions, to think about ways to incorporate best practices into their activities. Industry is here, and is here to stay. And when you pull out the numbers, it makes good business sense to incorporate things like alternatives to flaring.
Mascarenhas is a trailblazer. She started that as one of the first females to take on the career path she did and has continued that in the approach she has taken to oil and gas production. It’s not an either or proposition for her and she provides a stellar example of what can be done when the will is there. Her success both in the eyes of her peers and in the company she has helped build attests to the soundness of her thinking and her ability to impassion others with her vision – her definition of a leader.
Dawson Creek (DC) has shown time and time again that they are sensitive to the needs of the residents as well as receptive to the needs of local industry. In fact, Mayor Mike Bernier and Dawson Creek are going above and beyond to create a financially viable climate to draw in new business from surrounding regions.
“One way we’re doing this is through lowering industrial taxes, lowered by 40-50 per cent,” said Bernier, “…and because of this we’ve had a lot of new living quarters, hotel projects and such – because of our economic stability.”
Providing economic incentives, like tax cuts to new businesses, are helping to create a stronger economic base for Dawson Creek and in doing so are priming the pump for future growth, and future generations.
Many young residents of Dawson Creek are in tune to the ideas of conservation and sustainability helping to create future generations of environmentally, community-minded citizens. Many of these broad-minded youths are attending Northern Lights College, also known as the Energy College, located on eight campuses including one in Dawson Creek.
NLC is an organization offering degree programs in a broad range of areas including traditional subjects like Business Management, English as a Second Language and many others. But perhaps more important to the region are curricula geared towards planning for careers in Oil Field Operations, Aboriginal Early Child Education and Wind Turbine Maintenance amongst others.
Preparation in these areas will help college bound seekers to get the education that they need to land profitable jobs in fields that are in dire need of well-trained and motivated workers.
Graduates finding jobs in the region will likely then continue to return precious dollars back into the DC economy thereby contributing to the perpetuation of DC and the dream of a city collectively motivated to live in harmony with the environment.
Dawson Creek is known for its progressive views towards sustainability and conservation and has been recognized and honored on numerous occasions. But a strong sense of community and fidelity to a common cause may very well be the key to their success at creating a town both appealing to the eye and respectful of the world around as well.
At the roots of DC’s progressive way of thinking is the idea that community is of the utmost importance and citizen involvement is at the top of the priority list. “Engaging people and encouraging involvement with important decisions is a big part of what’s going on here…(it’s) a sort of barn-raising mentality,” said Bernier.
Bernier has become known for his easy-going and inviting manner in open forums such as DC’s town hall meetings where he often jokes freely with members of the community.
But the mayor maintains a firm stance and steely resolve when approached on issues related to the environment and water conservation.
Numerous municipalities throughout British Columbia have adopted environmentally friendly worldviews.
Dawson Creek is one such city, and is known for its land-and-water conscious, and community-based manner of preparing current and future generations for a higher quality of life.
Through long-term community involved planning of water conservation and treatment, modification of outdated and inefficient laws, community development, and lenient taxation on new businesses in the area, Dawson Creek has become one of the most forward thinking and environmentally conscious cities in Canada.
Drought in the region as well as concerns over squandering precious potable water supplies drawn from the Kiskatinaw River have compelled DC’s municipality to construct a massive water reclamation facility slated for completion in the first quarter of 2012. Creating a mutually symbiotic relationship with Shell Canada, the water reclamation project known simply as “Dawson Creek/Shell Canada Water Treatment Project” will help to reduce fresh water consumption by local oil and gas companies by recycling effluent water for reuse in industry as well as city use.
“As a community, we’ve been going through drought for the last four to five years. We have to start looking at alternatives,” stated Bernier. With obvious concerns for the future of the region, the facility will help both DC as well as Shell to assure a consistent flow of water.
But water conservation is also being addressed at a more diminutive, localized level. Since Jan. 1, 2011 Dawson Creek has made some alterations to city water metering and valuation.
Despite the fact that meters have been in place for years in the Dawson Creek area, they were simply employed as measurement devices for tracking commercial and residential water consumption. But with a heightened awareness concerning water conservation, water meters are now utilized to measure and assist the city in both monitoring as well as billing for water used by residents.
Flat rates for water consumption are now a thing of the past since “no real view towards conservation was present… now we’re holding people accountable,” said Bernier. He added that Dawson Creek is “one of the first cities in British Columbia to do this”.
Billing for water used rather than a simple flat rate system for all customers will help the DC to collect much needed funds for water use, while simultaneously compelling its citizens to use water more wisely.
There is no doubt that Bernier and the people of Dawson Creek are trailblazers in the areas of conservation and sustainability in the environment.
This fact is certainly not lost on others in Canada who have recognized DC’s achievements and praised them for their accomplishments. Remarkably, Water Canada presented DC with the H2O Reclamation Recognition award for the construction of the DC/Shell Water Treatment Facility even before its completion. And in 2010, DC was awarded the Hydro Power Smart Excellence Award for Workplace Conservation Leadership for numerous environmentally friendly programs including the Energetic Olympics, the Turn It Off Program as well as myriad other initiatives set into motion by Bernier and company.
Dawson Creek leads by example and many around the world are beginning to take notice.
Community development in Dawson Creek is not limited to water conservation though as the arts and cultural elements of the city are also being targeted for renovation and improvement.
“We have made some huge capital investments building a refurbished arts and culture community center,” said Bernier referring to the Calvin Kruk Centre for the Arts which is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2011. The renovated facility will feature a three story, atrium-style structure with a ceramics and fabric studio, a multi-purpose hall, a coffee bar as well as multiple rooms designed and outfitted for practice and advancement of music and dance.
On top of being a hub for the creative minded residents of Dawson Creek, many also view the facility as a social center providing a meet-and-greet for those coming and going. This attitude is emblematic of the social and community centered attitude of the people in Dawson Creek, an attitude that not only greets familiar faces but welcomes new ones as well.
With ‘innovation’ becoming the buzzword of the millennium, many businesses are attempting to establish a ‘culture of innovation’ within their organizations. The challenge with this idea is taking the steps to turn theory into action; to water the root of the tree, not just the branches.
The key is to remember that organizations do not innovate; people innovate – inspired people, fascinated people, creative people, committed people. Therefore, innovation is always from the inside out.
The organization’s role is to get out of the way. And while this ‘getting out of the way’ will probably include formulating supportive systems, processes, and protocols, it is important to remember that they are the context not the content. What’s needed in organizations that aspire to a culture of innovation is an inner change.
People need to experience something within themselves that will spark and sustain their effort to innovate – and when they experience this ‘something’, they will be self-sustaining. People will innovate not because they are told to, but because they want to. When people are inspired; share a common, compelling goal; and have the time and space to collaborate, the results become self-organizing. General George Patton said it best: “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.”
Creativity however is often a numbers game. Einstein had plenty of bogus theories. Mozart wrote some crap. But they continued being prolific. And it was precisely this self-generating spirit of creation, which enabled them to access the good stuff. An innovative organization needs to be a place where everyone is encouraged and empowered to think creatively.
It also needs to be fun! Unfortunately, the sound of laughter in the workplace is often interpreted as proof of a slacker workforce, as if laughing and working were mutually exclusive. Nothing could be further from the truth.
“If you lose the power to laugh, you lose the power to think,” explained Clarence Darrow. HAHA and AHA are two sides of the same coin. The same thing that triggers laughter triggers insight. It’s all about a momentary shock to the system: the unexpected, a surprise, and delightful discontinuity. When that happens, when we are momentarily boggled by an input that does not fit with our logical expectations, VOILA! Breakthrough! A good time!
So you want to establish a ‘culture of innovation’ in your organization do ya? Well, words are cheap. It’s easy to wax poetic about culture change, it’s quite another thing to make it happen. Still, the effort is worth it.
Your employees are more than hired hands; they are hired minds and hearts as well. Start by listening and honouring their ideas no matter how many or how bizarre they may seem a first blush – you never know when you will find the priceless one. Bottom line? The time it takes you to listen to the ideas of others is not only worth it – the success of your enterprise may depend on it.
For more information on this article, or to contact The Centre for Research & Innovation call (780) 539-2807, toll free at 1-877-539-2808, email info@TheCRI.ca or visit our website at www.TheCRI.ca .
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In this issue:
• Safety: Bill of Goods or Best Practices?
• Forestry Rebound
Oil sands image linked to cooperation
CALGARY – Oil sands company leaders hope collaborative endeavours will improve their image.
The latest alliance, Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA), was announced at a Calgary press conference early March.
Talisman announces sale agreement
CALGARY - Talisman Energy announced an agreement with Xstrata Coal to sell certain non-producing, non-core coal properties located in northeastern British Columbia for US$500 million in cash.