Pipeline Leadership Conference a Star in Dallas

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The third annual Pipeline Leadership Conference hosted senior officers representing pipeline construction firms, pipeline operators and industry service providers, Nov. 8-9, at the Dallas/Plano Marriott. This year’s theme was “A New Era of Pipeline Construction.” The event highlighted economic and market analysis, workforce development, safety, innovations and building collaborative relationships within North America’s oil and gas pipeline industry.

“How Tribes and Pipeline Companies Can Work Together” panel at the third annual Pipeline Leadership Conference.

Approximately 80 participants gathered in Dallas to learn about and discuss such topics as integrity management, stakeholder relations, technology and attracting younger members to the industry.

A standout panel concerned how pipeline companies can work with tribal groups to foster strong working relationships and avoid protests on projects. Lou Thompson of Tribal Energy Resource led a panel discussion that featured two pipeline operator representatives, Ian Stewart of Sempra Energy and Doug Kennedy of Plains All-American Pipeline, and two tribal representatives, Robert Williamson of the Sac and Fox Nation of Oklahoma and Bobby Gonzales of Tribal Energy Resource. Williamson and Gonzales explained the cultural difference in how many tribal groups conduct business.

“We like to sit down and have a meal together first,” Gonzales said. The panelists also discussed how engaging with tribal groups early in the pipeline development process can help companies avoid disrupting sites of cultural significance.

Presentation of the Pipeline Leadership Award to Pat Tielborg (center) by Bernie Krzys (right) and Mark Bridgers.

The Pipeline Leadership Conference also featured the presentation of the third annual Pipeline Leadership Award, during a reception following the first day’s educational program. This year’s winner was J. Patrick Tielborg, long-time managing director and general counsel of the Pipe Line Contractors Association (PLCA). Industry colleagues took turns lauding Tielborg’s accomplishments during the evening award reception, including Robert Osborn of Michels and current PLCA president, Tom Gross of the United Association, Don Thorn of DJT Consulting and previously of Welded Construction and Frank Welch of Rockford Corp. and a member of the PLCA board of directors. (Learn more about the Pipeline Leadership Award on p. 20.)

Bernie Krzys, Benjamin Media CEO and North American Oil & Gas Pipelines publisher, kicked off the two-day event kicked off at 1 p.m. Nov. 8, and introduced Thomas Hutchins of Kinder Morgan and Donnie Clary of CoServ — two Dallas locals who provided a welcome message to the audience.

Benjamin Media CEO Bernie Krzys introduces the Keynote Speaker, economist Laura Speake of Caterpillar.

After the welcome, the program officially got started with the “Pipeline and Distribution Market Overview,” presented by Mark Bridgers, principal of Continuum Capital and an organizing partner of the Pipeline Leadership Conference. Bridgers’ presentation led into the Keynote Address focused on industry economics by Laura Speake, regional chief economist for energy and transportation at Caterpillar Inc.

Hutchins and Speake joined Minh Tran of Tran’s Formation Consulting, and recently retired from Piedmont Natural Gas, and Greg Ward of CoServ for the Executive Roundtable discussion led by Bridgers. The panelists discussed the top concerns that face the pipeline industry.

The first day’s educational portion concluded with a joint presentation by Jeremy Koster of Piedmont Natural Gas and Joe O’Donnell of Mears Group on how the two companies collaborated to identify and rectify a problem during a major project installation.

The second day of the Pipeline Leadership Conference kicked off with a presentation by Ralph Cantafio, owner of the Colorado-based law firm Cantafio Hammond, who discussed “Stakeholder Relations in the Post-DAPL Era.” Cantafio discussed the strategy of how pipeline companies must operate to avoid third-party obstruction by protesters and legal challenges.

Following Cantafio’s presenation was the panel “How Tribes and Pipeline Companies Can Work Together,” noted above.

Improving pipeline construction safety was the focus of Doug Giesinger’s presentation, “Establishing an Industry Standard for Pipeline Safety Leadership.” Giesinger is senior safety consultant for Caterpillar Safety Services. Part of his talk focused on how Cat and several pipeline industry stakeholders collaborated on the Pipeline Safety Leadership Training Program, established in January 2016. The five-module program is designed to foster safe work environments by helping leaders at all levels understand and leverage the power of culture on safety performance.

The “New Innovations for Pipeline Excellence” panel featured Mark Smith of Geospatial, Wayne King of HEBNA, John Capodice of Sterling Lumber and Dr. Mickey Frish of PSI Corp. and was moderated by North American Oil & Gas Pipelines managing editor Brad Kramer. Panelists discussed the challenge of bringing new technology to the pipeline industry, and how companies can foster innovation.

Workforce Development panel at the Pipeline Leadership Conference, Nov. 8-9, in Dallas.

Industry veteran Jim Spigener of DEKRA presented “Improving Decision Making About Exposure to Risk,” explaining how to strengthen team decision making on the jobsite. He said slowing down the thought process — fast brain vs. slow brain — helps improve awareness and, therefore, safety.

“Insights from a Younger Generation of Pipeliners” was presented by Kiona Meade, community if practice work group lead for the Young Pipeline Professionals USA, a group dedicated to “transferring the duty of care” of the pipeline industry from the aging veterans to the newer employees entering the industry. Meade is also the global midstream technical sales engineer for Schlumberger.

The Pipeline Leadership Conference concluded with a panel on workforce development, moderated by Bridgers and featuring Marion “Bubba” Davis of the Teamsters, Tom Gross of the United Association, Robert Wilds of the International Union of Operating Engineers and Neil Lane of the Pipe Line Contractors Association of Canada. The panelists discussed how their organizations are working with the pipeline industry to recruit and train new employees to help fill the ranks of a aging workforce.

The next Pipeline Leadership Conference will be in early November 2018, in Houston. Stay tuned to plconference.com for further details.

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