... Editor's Message: Leading the Way to the New Year - North American Energy Pipelines

Editor’s Message: Leading the Way to the New Year

BRAD-HEADSHOTIt’s hard to believe we’re at the end of another year. During this time it is normal to reflect on all that happened the previous 12 months and apply the lessons learned for the future.

There is no disputing that it was a down year for the oil and gas industry. The unprecedented collapse of oil prices started the year off with a resounding thud. Many pipeline projects were delayed and infrastructure development plans put on hold. Cutting costs and improving efficiency became the major theme for companies
in 2015.

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While rig counts declined in oil and gas drilling fields, production remained high throughout the year in North America. A few major companies shed employees to cut payroll. Finally, last month, TransCanada was denied a Presidential Permit to complete the long delayed, overly controversial Keystone XL pipeline. But it hasn’t been all doom and gloom.

Hope springs like an old-timey oil geyser in this industry. Many of the people I encountered at the inaugural Pipeline Leadership Conference (see p. 16) were optimistic about the near future of the pipeline sector.

Despite the downturn, the knowledge that the oil and gas pipeline industry is cyclical prevails. Market forecasts have shown that more pipelines will be needed in the coming years. In the forecast we published last issue, Mark Bridgers and Nate Scott of Continuum Advisory Group predicted that the pipeline construction market — especially on the distribution side — will remain bullish in the United States and Canada over the next 15 to 20 years. (See “Who Will Do the Work?” by Mark Bridgers on p. 22 of the November issue.)

Unfortunately, with all the work projected in the next decade, there remains a strong concern over a looming workforce shortage in the industry. Companies are wondering how they can attract millennials to replace the baby boomers nearing retirement. We will be keeping a close watch over the developments in this area of the next few months.

The example set by companies like NiSource and its 20-year, $20 billion capital improvement plan shows that there is plenty of work to be done in installing new infrastructure and maintaining what is already in the ground. Pipeline owners must be proactive in developing new projects to meet demand while maintaining the safety and integrity of existing systems. Contractors must be ready to meet tight schedules and rigorous quality standards. The companies that can do that will be ranked among the leaders in the industry.

That doesn’t mean you have be part of a big company to be a leader in the pipeline industry.

People like Kim Ozalas, who owns KO Pipeline in Cambridge, Ohio, are making a tremendous difference in the industry (see p. 20). Not only is Ozalas an example of a strong woman in a male-dominated field, she is a prime example of a business owner taking advantage of the opportunities in the Utica shale — and doing so with a tight-knit crew of 30. That’s a leader.

It just goes to show that people make all the difference in North America’s oil and gas pipeline industry. I challenge you to lead the charge into 2016.

Bradley Kramer - signature

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