Canada Has ‘Pipeline Of Talent’ To Apply To A Transitioning Energy Market, Says Brown

Mark Brown, Fluor Canada

In the DOB’s Engaging with our Future leadership series, Bill Whitelaw, managing director of Sustainability and Strategy at geoLOGIC systems ltd., sits down with some of the best and brightest CEOs in the industry to unpack the issues surrounding the energy transition and what kind of leadership is needed.

Today, a conversation with Mark Brown, vice-president and general manager for Fluor Canada.

Transitioning times are leadership times.

For Mark Brown, that the sector is moving into an era of complex energy transition is a good thing — particularly doing so on a stable foundation.

To Brown, leadership is about both the art and science of what is possible when contemplating opportunities that transition momentum will bring.

As vice-president and general manager for Fluor Canada (see sidebar at the end of this Q&A), Brown sees the sector emerging stronger from times of uncertainty — and times during which the innovation challenges will provide key leadership moments.

“Energy transition” will also mean heightened collaboration along the value chain, as companies and organizations such as post-secondary institutions incubate new ideas.

Question: As a leader of a company like Fluor Canada, many things are always on your mind. What was top of the “stress agenda” when you left the office last night?

Answer: “I think the biggest thing as a leader in this industry right now is the need to portray confidence and not blind optimism — confidence in the stabilization that’s occurring in front of us. I use that word purposefully because I believe that we have gone through a period where there hasn’t been that stability. There have been a lot of unknowns, a lot of ups and downs, but things have now started to settle in. So, when I left last night and most nights, I remind myself, first of all, to be grateful because we’re in an incredible part of the global energy ecosystem, with great resources and unlimited potential.

It is clear that the industry stabilization, when combined with the innovative and resilient spirit of western Canadians, will continue to provide confidence and opportunity. So, although I leave at night reminding myself to be confident, I come back every morning with the focus of what is possible.”

Q: Good points … but resilient leadership helped us through tough times, did it not?

A: “In the past year, there have been points where business leaders have had to evaluate risks, make difficult but necessary decisions, and frankly just do the best we could. Now we’re in a mode of ‘let’s recognize the opportunities that are right in front of us.’ There’s a true feeling that as the right pieces fall into place, there’s going to be an abundance of opportunity in our industry. Speaking from a Fluor perspective, we want to provide innovative answers to today’s most complex problems, and we want to use that resilient tenacity to now help the market create efficient solutions.”

Q: Fluor is a global company. You’re both a Canadian leader and a global leader. How do Canadian energy competencies fit into a transitioning global energy context?

A: “Even though we are a global company, we like to focus on having a local face in the markets we serve. When we consider the Canadian expertise, we believe we are uniquely positioned to use our industrial talents, innovations and solutions to tackle not only local energy projects, but also in other parts of the world. The benefits are already being seen in a space like energy transition, where we have experts in areas like carbon capture, hydrogen, renewable fuels and SMNRs (small modular nuclear reactors) in Canada helping not only local projects but assisting those in other corners of the globe as well. It’s an incredible wealth of knowledge to access when you have, for instance, something like a CCUS challenge in Europe and our Canadians can assist in the development of a solution.

Organizations like us regularly bring that global knowledge base into the fold for clients. It gives us an opportunity to bring the best-of-the-best minds to the situation at hand, and that’s quite fortunate for us and some of our partners in the industry as it applies to Canadians’ expertise.”

Q; Would Fluor’s oilsands and heavy oil expertise be another example, given the world’s heavy oil resources? Do the underlying expertise principles transfer over to other areas?

A: “It’s important to think about what we did with heavy oil processing in Alberta (innovation) over the last six decades — the innovation and advancement of technology from that has helped Canada become a significant contributor to oil production in the Western world. It’s an incredible feat. And that came from right here in our local industry. When we translate that to the current state, we have the same spirit and quality of individuals, academic systems, and pipeline of talent available to apply to a transitioning market.

For a quick example, we get into this debate all the time in the service industry of how you are going to survive in a non-heavy oil market. It is about adaptation and not about survival — we are right there right now — and the adaption is underway these past one to two years. We know the facilities. We know the codes and standards. We know how to apply efficient technical decisions. With our partners, we have experience in all areas relating to energy transition and for example we have been in CCUS for decades. There are a lot of challenges being asked of the market now that our collective industry is well positioned to take on.”

Q: It sounds like at Fluor, leadership is about knowing when to lead and … [how you] can draw contextually on expertise from all corners of the organization globally. Does that apply to existing energy systems and those of the next generation and include external collaborators?

A: “When we look at the skill sets that we need to service our clients, what I’m finding is that there’s a heightened level of collaboration. So, it might not just be Fluor that solves the problem; it might be a combination of expertise from different facets of the sector. For example, as we get into these different processing elements, there are multiple technologies, licensors, vendors, fabricators, constructors that, when combined, can provide a required solution with a deeper level of collaboration. It’s not just going to be a typical engineer, procure and construct industry anymore — it’s going to be collaborating on an overall solution. We’re now part of a collaborative melting pot that is very motivated to help the industry meet its goals.

The other component is the critical engagement of the greater community that exists within our academic partners and the next generational talent that is coming into this space. The innovation and spirit of what is possible comes from those that are challenging the status quo; we are collaborating with external schools and organizations that are fostering this type of incubation. It will be exciting to see where we can take this industrial vitality.”

Q: These days, many people equate a company’s ESG performance with leadership. That includes investors, employees, governments and the public. Fluor has always been a leader in this space, so presumably it has been able to respond seamlessly.

A: “ESG has been a mainstay of Fluor for many years; however, this concept has taken a front-and-centre seat in industry. There are so many factors now that we can categorize under ESG. When we think about the industry and leadership, it’s a great place for us to make sure that we don’t forget that our business requires a balance. The engagement of our employees, clients, communities and the resultant services model has changed and so has the recipe that’s required to create success — it has transformed right in front of our eyes. And I say it is a required change in the dialogue because I think that the industry is still on a journey to ensure we recognize the total impact of our decisions.

Those impacts could be the traditional environmental aspects but also societal impacts regarding engagement with Indigenous peoples and the communities we work in. It’s about empowerment, collaboration, respect, and becoming true business partners. Fluor will continue to raise its awareness, engage with the stakeholders and continue to invest in this journey toward creating the required balance.”

Q: In terms of the ‘G’ in ESG, how does Fluor think about governance around capital spending, risk management, etc.?

A: “One of the things that we want to continue to be for our clients is that dependable partner. And so, when we are being asked to become involved with solving a client’s challenge, developing an innovative solution, or leading a very large project like LNG Canada on the West Coast, we want to continue to be known as that dependable partner. We believe dependency and trust comes with us delivering on our promises. When we talk about governance, we focus on our core values of safety, teamwork, integrity and excellence … they drive our processes and our thinking.

That's part of our culture overall and those core values allow us to focus on making sure that our overall governance model ties back to the customers as well. When we talk about the safe, high integrity, teamwork and excellence values — that’s exactly what we strive for and portray in every deliverable and interaction. Clients can trust that we will deliver on what we promise.”

Q: You’re consistent about leadership through collaboration. Do the same principles apply to the world of data use and leadership?

A: “The collection, analysis, and use of data has taken on a whole new position in our world. So if I speak about just the engineering process for a moment, the ability to create and manage data is helping the industry transform the services industry in a way that is as impactful as moving from a 2-D drafting table to the 3-D CAD modelling in the ’90s.

Data is allowing us to make decisions in a different fashion, and it’s not just about the computing power. It’s processing that data to run scenarios to potentially find better solutions. That’s where I believe we’re seeing the largest impact from our academic and industry collaborations and how they really focus on the use of data to help make decisions and drive the concept of information management from our design side through to commissioning and operations. Those efforts, I think, are going to help us springboard into modernisms that we haven’t even thought about.”

Q: Fluor has built lots of facilities globally. Given the attention being paid to facilities and say, emissions production, how are you thinking about future design dynamics in a way that conveys leadership?

A: “Fluor has always been a part of providing collective solutions with our clients to meet or exceed their specifications, the local regulatory requirements, whether that is related to emissions, building codes, engineering practices or others. As we consider what’s been happening with the ESG dynamics, including targets and net zero goals, there has been a very clear call to action for the industry to provide solutions. The leadership that Fluor and the services market can provide is demonstrating what is possible, what innovations can be included, what experiences can be leveraged from other parts of the world or other parts of the industry — there is a definite opportunity for this to drive the right solution.”

Q: If you look into the 10-year rearview mirror from a leadership perspective, what do you see in terms of substantive change?

A: “That’s an interesting concept — we will look back and I believe we will be proud of the change that has taken place. I think we will be in the midst of transitioning from developing new ways to extract resources from the earth to creating the most efficient way to use the existing production to the best of our ability.

But as leaders in the industry, I think that we will have recognized that we were at a significant crossroads as we came out of a global recession and that the opportunity presented itself to get the best out of what we had available — our people, our resources, our communities, and our industry as a whole.”

Sidebar: Fluor’s role in the energy transition is to safely and sustainably design, build and maintain projects that create a better world. As a global leader in professional and technical services with engineering, procurement, fabrication and construction capabilities, Fluor works closely with its clients and with governments on projects that support their decarbonization and sustainability journeys.

In addition to conventional oil, gas, and chemical projects of varying scale, the company is executing energy transition projects across the entire energy value chain including mining of battery metals, asset decarbonization, carbon capture utilization and storage, clean hydrogen, small modular reactors, energy storage, gasification, green chemicals, chemicals recycling, offshore wind energy, renewable fuels, and infrastructure.

At the heart of Fluor’s project delivery model is a collaborative approach. Fluor works closely with clients, licensors, suppliers, and communities to bring value to all stakeholders involved. That same delivery model emphasizes the building and maintaining of progressive, transparent relationships based on mutual respect and trust with Indigenous communities.

As markets see energy transition projects solidify, those projects increasingly entail highly integrated, complex systems. Fluor is uniquely able to view client challenges on these projects through the lens of technology owner and constructor — a vantage point that provides a view of the big picture, as well as the details of each project.

In all, Fluor brings more than 100 years of EPC experience in transitioning fuel and energy sources. An unrivalled base of knowledge and experience from successfully executing hundreds of energy transition projects around the globe, including more than 50 currently in development globally, establishes the company’s presence on the pathway to carbon neutrality. Fluor is also at the forefront of research and development, guiding and enabling emerging technologies through commercialization and continuously improving its own proprietary technologies that serve a vast array of projects.

Under a purpose to build a better world, Fluor has carved its spot in the energy transition to be one of working closely with clients to help solve challenges and capitalize on opportunities, realize the return on investment, and deliver project solutions safely, sustainably, cost-effectively, and on schedule.

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