The year 2016 has been a challenging one in the oil and gas pipeline sector. Low oil prices over the past two years led to reduced investment, layoffs and a series of high profile mergers and acquisitions. Compounded by slowdowns in regulatory permitting, some projects were shelved or canceled. Major protests by the Standing Rock Sioux and other activist groups managed to delay the Dakota Access Pipeline, as the U.S. government decided to deny an easement to allow Energy Transfer and Sunoco Logistics to proceed with the project. Despite these difficulties, optimism abounds in the industry.
I saw it in the faces of the 87 attendees at the 2016 Pipeline Leadership Conference, Nov. 15-16, in Denver. This was our second year organizing the event, in partnership with Continuum Capital. The conference is geared toward executives and managers involved with oil and gas pipeline construction, operation and maintenance. There, the presenters and audience filled the two-day event with productive discussion about safety, integrity, collaboration and attracting the next generation to the pipeline workforce.
Michels Corporation president, CEO and treasurer Patrick Michels says there is “plenty of opportunity out there.” He was the winner of the second annual Pipeline Leadership Award, which was presented at the conference during a reception on Nov. 15. Michels says the next several years will be “vibrant” for the industry.
“The country can’t ignore its dependence on fossil fuels,” he says. “It’s the basis of the economy, for energy, and we’re not going to change that overnight. We have to be conscious of building safe and quality pipelines so the country can continue to grow.”
Michels is an exemplary leader, as is evident by the success of the family-owned company he has run since 1998, after the unexpected death of his father, Dale Michels, who founded the company in 1959. The company has grown from seven operational divisions to 17 in Pat’s tenure, and pipelines serve as the foundation for the company’s business. Read about Pat Michels’ extraordinary career in our cover story on p. 20. I hope his story will inspire you to greater heights as we turn the page on 2016 and prepare for a rebound in 2017.
While the last two years have seen some pipeline initiatives canceled or delayed, you can see that there are some major projects still in development, such as those in our 2016 U.S. Gas Pipeline Report on p. 30. Bottleneck issues in the Northeast United States and inadequate transmission infrastructure from the prolific Marcellus and Utica shale plays are driving new projects. Some of these projects are even serving growing energy needs in eastern Canada.
As Michels says, there are opportunities up ahead. The pipeline industry must be prepared to meet the demand to build safe and reliable infrastructure for North America’s energy needs.
Thank you all for being loyal readers of North American Oil & Gas Pipelines this year. Enjoy the holiday season and Happy New Year. We’ll see you again in 2017.