... Expanding Knowledge: Using New Media to Educate the Next Generation of Pipeliners - North American Energy Pipelines

Expanding Knowledge: Using New Media to Educate the Next Generation of Pipeliners

Podcasting has emerged as a popular form of distributing audio content to a broad, international public that covers specialized topics. While typically thought of as covering consumer topics such as news and sports, podcasting has emerged as a valuable source of educational information and resources to help professionals grow in their respective industries.

The Pipeliners Podcast became the first such podcast focused on pipelining when the podcast launched in November 2017. Introduced as the “source of shared knowledge for pipeline professionals,” the podcast has reached professionals across the globe with valuable information to grow in knowledge and understanding of critical topics.

The podcast is not only for experienced pipeliners who want to sharpen their skills or understand a new topic. Now, as a new group of oil and gas professionals enter the pipeline industry, the onus is on experienced pipeline professionals to share their knowledge and provide valuable information to the next generation. That’s where the Pipeliners Podcast comes into play.

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Moving forward, an important component of the education of new professionals will be new media, often in the form of podcasts. The Pipeliners Podcast represents a forward-thinking medium to provide valuable education to pipeline professionals. The podcast provides newer professionals with the tools and information they need to advance in their careers and become future leaders of our industry.

Through more than 135 episodes, the podcast has covered topics that include alarm management, compliance, control room management, cybersecurity, HMI and SCADA, inspection, integrity, leak detection, measurement, pipeline history, pipeline technology, regulatory issues and more.

Russel podcasting

The robust forum includes a weekly guest from the industry who provides real-world perspective on their area of expertise. The conversations with an industry expert help facilitate a deeper understanding of critical topics to help pipeline professionals grow in their knowledge and capabilities, supporting the future health of the industry.

The journey to this point is a reminder of where the industry came from, and how the medium may be changing, but the need to educate and inform continues to be the most important method to advance the industry.

The Start of the Journey in Pipelining

My oil and gas industry experience began with measurement. Then, measurement led to data collection, and data collection led to HMIs, and HMIs led to SCADA systems, and SCADA led to pipelines, control rooms and leak detection. Early on in this career progression, I made the decision to be a career pipeliner.

Throughout my career, education and training has come from conversations at industry events, trade shows and short courses. This has been — and continues to be — the place to pick the brains of industry experts who help create a deeper understanding of their particular area of expertise.

An eagerness to learn, expand knowledge and apply that understanding to pipeline operations has paid off. This pursuit evolved into a passion for applying software solutions to help pipeliners operate with continual improvements in safety and efficiency.

Throughout my career, I have continued to learn new disciplines by attending industry events and talking with the experts. Ultimately, I sought an avenue to give back to the industry and help the next generation of pipeline professionals grow in their knowledge of the industry. Being an early adopter of technology led to the idea and opportunity to create a podcast for pipeliners.

An Idea Turns Into a Global Forum

Before launching the Pipeliners Podcast, I personally found the podcast format very engaging and useful. Listening to subject matter experts take dives deep into their fields of expertise was always interesting. After a few years of listening to podcasts, the idea came to start the Pipeliners Podcast. As I didn’t have a background in podcasting, I didn’t know how to start the process. Even so, I started tinkering with the idea.

The experience of learning the pipeline business by finding experts at industry events and asking them lots of questions led to the core idea for the podcast: “Educate and Inform through Conversation.” The idea is to capture learning conversations that both myself and the industry as a whole could benefit from educationally.

At the onset of the podcast, I started with people and subjects I knew something about. As the podcast has grown, listeners have reached out to join the conversation and offer their expertise in areas where I am a novice at best. In many of these conversations, I find myself in the same position as the podcast listener since I am also learning from a subject matter expert. Through this endeavor, I have had the privilege of interviewing guests from across the spectrum of pipeline disciplines.

The pipeline business is highly technical, very broad and continually evolving. There are many interesting subject matter experts in each domain of the pipelining business. The podcast is just getting started, and there are still many subject matter experts who might contribute to the mission to educate and inform.

To find new guests, I use LinkedIn, referrals and the Pipeliners Podcast website. Now, industry experts are reaching out directly to me and asking to join the conversation, which is very rewarding.

Breaking Through

A breakthrough moment for the Pipeliners Podcast has been hearing feedback from pipeline operators and other senior leaders that the weekly episodes are being used to support their training and education efforts. Understanding this shift has clarified the need to incorporate more guests that can provide unique insight on timely and relevant topics. This has included pursuing opportunities for knowledge transfer that can help shape the attitudes, behaviors and thinking of pipeline professionals.

As an example, I had the privilege to talk to a retired pipeline operations executive who shared his personal experience with the Bellingham Incident from 21 years ago. It is a compelling, moving account of what occurred in Bellingham, Washington when a gasoline pipeline exploded and caused harm to people and property.

While the details of that incident are informative, the most compelling part is how this executive shared the personal emotional impact of Bellingham and his commitment to pipeline safety. After that episode aired, many listeners reached out to express how they were impacted by the story and how it re-ignited their passion for pipeline safety.

With the current industry focus on Pipeline Safety Management Systems (Pipeline SMS), conversations such as the Bellingham episode have a uniquely positive impact on the future of the pipeline industry as we collectively strive to reach the goal of zero incidents.

This sentiment was captured in a landmark podcast with PHMSA Administrator Howard “Skip” Elliott. In the May 2020 episode, Elliott discussed Pipeline SMS and the need to address pipeline culture to help close the gap to reach zero incidents. Elliott provided tremendous insight from his perspective overseeing pipeline safety in America, creating a deeper understanding of how pipeline professionals can do their part to support pipeline safety.

Educating and Informing Pipeliners

Pipeline professionals have a unique responsibility to share their experience and perspectives. One key goal for the Pipeliners Podcast is to capture the stories and perspectives of seasoned pipeliners so the knowledge can be passed along to future generations.

In my experience, pipeliners want to stay current on technology developments, learn about aspects of the business they do not work in and stay current on regulatory rulemaking. The Pipeliners Podcast works to be the place to gain information and be part of a community committed to improving pipeline operations and safety.

Along the way, the podcast hopes to positively affect attitudes and behaviors to foster the type of pipeline culture that can help the industry achieve zero incidents. It is my firm belief that the next generation of pipeliners can be the difference to help achieve this goal.

Pipelining is a complex and highly technical business, and you can never stop learning. It’s rewarding to see pipeline professionals share and give back to the next generation. That is how I learned, and that’s how we as an industry will continue to learn from one another. The podcast format provides a unique vehicle to support that learning.

Russel Treat is the host of the Pipeliners Podcast, CEO of EnerSys Corp. and owner of Gas Certification Institute (GCI). Find more information about the Pipeliners Podcast through www.PipelinersPodcast.com.


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