A youth perspective on the future of efficient and safer pipelines

It will take passion, creativity, and personal investment to ensure there is a sustainable future for the pipeline-building industry, Sarah Vandaiyar told senators at hearings for Bill C-69.

post-image.jpgThe following is testimony provided by Sarah Vandaiyar, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Young Pipeliners Association of Canada, on April 9, 2019 in Calgary. She was addressing the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources as it looks at Bill C-69. She is pictured here at a Policy Pop-up panel that took place in Vancouver in the summer of 2018. Photo by Jordan Kan.

Sarah Vandaiyar, President and Chief Executive Officer, Young Pipeliners Association of Canada: Good afternoon. Thank you for the opportunity to speak about the impact of Bill C-69 on young professionals in the industry.

My name is Sarah Vandaiyar. I’m the president and CEO of a non-profit called the Young Pipeliners Association of Canada. I represent over 1400 young professionals across the country that work in the pipeline industry, including professionals in engineering, communications, business development, and academia.

YPAC’s vision is to ensure the sustainable future of the pipeline industry and we provide access to educational events, networking, and opportunities to engage with senior professionals. YPAC is proud to be the next generation of leaders in the Canadian pipeline industry, working alongside organizations, including the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, the Canadian Standards Association, and the Canadian Gas Association; in addition to our international pipeliner counterparts in the U.S., Brazil, Australia, and Europe.

YPAC is aware of the concerns raised about the bill, and I am here to speak about implications that it could have on young people hoping to get into the pipeline industry. YPAC echoes concerns expressed by CEPA and its member companies regarding the lack of clarity and certainty in Bill C-69. Canada’s resources are landlocked due to lack of pipelines and the economy misses out on revenue which contributes to our declining competitiveness. This, in turn, hinders growth in the industry and the attraction and development of talent that drives progress. Simply put, improvements to C-69 are required to ensure the long-term sustainability of the Canadian energy sector, with this being especially critical to the young professional members of YPAC, who are looking for long-term careers.

What may not be apparent is that today’s pipeline industry possesses incredible creativity and talent that drives innovation. Every two years Calgary hosts an international technical conference on pipelines and world-renowned experts discuss pipeline integrity, welding, construction best practices, among many other things. Young pipeliners are heavily involved in events such as these and are part of conversations that drive environmental stewardship and safety.

I can tell you that when I graduated from the University of Waterloo ten years ago, the oil and gas industry was the place to be, to be part of exciting projects and solve interesting problems. Many of my classmates moved to Alberta and have made this province their home.

Legislation, such as Bill C-69, reduces the competitiveness of the industry, which in turn diminishes the entrepreneurship, passion, and drive that exists in young Canadians to continue to make the industry better. In addition, the uncertainty in the regulatory process creates roadblocks to realizing opportunities to develop Canadian resources, the revenue from which will support a transition to a low carbon future.

The uncertainty created by Bill C-69 impedes Canada’s ability to move our oil and gas resources. YPAC is concerned that less regulated countries are not only increasing their production to meet world demand, but are also increasing their deliveries to Canada’s coasts and, as a result, the Canadian economy misses out on billions in long-term revenue.

YPAC recognizes that the energy landscape will shift to a low carbon future, and this shift requires significant capital and investment and research to get there. Building out our pipeline infrastructure to obtain the maximum value for our resources provides value that supports this transition.

What does the pipeline industry represent for many young professionals?

I would like to close my statement with a personal account of my experience. I am proud of the industry that I work in. Over the last five years as an engineer at TransCanada I’ve been on pipeline rights-of-way during construction, worked with engineering contractors, among other things. Very recently I was seconded to CEPA, the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association, where I could learn more about industry initiatives that drive continuous improvement.

So what does it say about an individual like me that’s an engineer seconded to CEPA that runs the Young Pipeliners Association of Canada? Hopefully it conveys to this committee that young pipeliners bring a great deal of passion, creativity, and are personally invested in ensuring that there is a sustainable future for the industry.

Is industry listening to its young professionals? Absolutely. YPAC has a position on an industry board which shows a real commitment to new ideas. Let’s continue to work together to ensure that the Canadian energy industry remains competitive to ensure a bright future for young pipeliners across the country.

Questions from Senators

Senator Neufeld: I want to ask Ms. Vandaiyar a few questions. You represent the Young Pipeliners Association. We listened to Ms. Smith from the Young Women in Energy earlier. I think it’s wonderful when we have women coming in and talking about how they’re participating in these kinds of jobs, these kinds of careers, and that are long-term. I think that’s something we need to hear and something that the public needs to hear, that there are young people and females who want to work in this industry, and they should have the opportunity.

You also said that you worked in the field, stayed in camps, I imagine, did all the work on the pipeline. Just so you know, my background is the oil and gas industry and I have built a few pipelines, but a long time ago, a long time ago. My neighbour, a lady, she’s worked in the pipeline industry for probably over 20 years, and still is.

We’ve heard from some people that there are problems with the camps and those kinds of things and somehow we have to review that in this legislation. Can you tell me, what were the impediments to staying in camp? Did you feel frightened to be there? Was there something that you didn’t like, or is there something that we should know that maybe could be adjudicated?

Ms. Vandaiyar: I’m happy to share my experience. So one of my first roles was as a field engineer a pipeline job just north of Grande Prairie. I have to be honest, I did not have any issues with any of the inspectors and fieldworkers. I had a great deal of support from the construction manager I worked with. I was well supported and in my experience I was never made to feel uncomfortable in camps. I know that there have been issues with other individuals, but my experience has been one of great learning, and I’ve always been treated respectfully.

Senator Neufeld: That’s good to hear. In fact, just to put it on the record, my neighbour, the lady who works on the pipeline is with a large company out of Fort St. John, they’re installing 42-inch pipe as we speak for the Coastal GasLink. A labourer on those jobs starts at $32 an hour. You only go up from there. It’s obviously a place where you can make some fairly good money.

But can you tell me, what are the barriers to young women getting into the industry? Is there something that we should be looking at to help reduce those barriers, if there are any?

Ms. Vandaiyar: You might have heard from Katie Smith this morning that one of the things that young women especially benefit from is mentorship. I know a lot of large companies are moving to have more integrated mentorship programs so that when young women like myself go out into the field they have someone they can talk to and bounce ideas off of. But I think that’s being taken care of very well within the industry.

Senator Neufeld: Thank you very much for your presentation.

The Chair: I have a quick question for you, Ms. Vandaiyar. I am very happy to hear that women are in engineering and that you are receptacles of creativity and innovation and that you also promote sustainability as one of the pillars or objectives in the future development of the oil and gas industry.

Can you give us some examples of innovation in the industry with respect to climate change and the production, destruction and remediation of residues in the oil patch?

Ms. Vandaiyar: What I can speak to very generally is what I’ve seen in my experience as an engineer and as part of the Young Pipeliners Association. YPAC works very closely with a group out of the U.S. called the Pipeline Research Council International. They are at the leading edge in different types of research related to pipeline integrity. They even have a component now that looks at artificial intelligence and that looks at copious amounts of data that come in from tools that are used to assess pipelines. I would say that those are the major themes right now. All those in aggregate contribute to more efficient pipelines and safer pipelines.

Senator Simons: I have a question for each of you, if I may. For Ms. Vandaiyar, I think people in Alberta understand that pipelines are a safe way to transport fuel, safer than rail, safer than lots of other potential options, and that doesn’t matter whether they’re transporting dilbit or oil or liquified natural gas. However, there has grown up around pipelines this kind of fear and loathing that people are not so much afraid of the carbon intensity of what comes out, but of the pipelines themselves. If you’re speaking to other millennials that you encounter, what does the industry have to do? What do people like the Young Pipeliners have to do to convince people that pipelines themselves are a safe piece of technology?

Ms. Vandaiyar: I’ll speak to one of the programs that YPAC is working on right now in conjunction with Queen’s University. We went into one of the engineering classes, and I think we had about ten students who came out to Alberta, went onto a right-of-way and looked at how pipelines were constructed. We got some really interesting questions, you know, related to how construction is completed, inspection tools and that type of thing. I think being able to see some of that or actually have professionals go out and talk to young people is really important.

I think you’re right, for a lot of individuals who are not in the pipeline industry, the technology and all the work that really goes into making pipelines safe and reliable is very foreign.

Senator Simons: Taking one Queen’s class is nice, but how do you get that message out to a larger audience?

Ms. Vandaiyar: What we’re trying to do is expand that program to other universities, particularly in Ontario, and that’s the way that we’re approaching it right now.

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