MEG Energy CEO: ‘Couldn’t Be More Excited’ About Oil & Gas Future
MEG Energy Corp.’s president and chief executive officer, Derek Evans,thinks the challenge related to steering Alberta’s energy industry into the next generation is “one of the biggest opportunities” in the world.
The industry veteran spoke at the Allies in Energy Executive Forum through Calgary Women in Energy at the Calgary Petroleum Club in February. It included two panels and one combined session with questions from the audience, covering topics such as inclusion efforts, leaderships dynamics, inclusion efforts, among others.
Evans was asked for his outlook on the industry and how leadership has changed.
“I can tell you, I couldn’t be more excited about the future of the oil and gas business,” Evans replied.
“I know a lot of you are probably listening and seeing … federal legislation, the Just Transition, which I find particularly offensive, those words because, quite frankly, we need everybody that’s in this room today to stay engaged in the business,” he told the audience. “The future of our business is going to be something like you’ve never seen before.”
Rather than stepping away from hydrocarbons, Evans wondered aloud about other ways to leverage them.
“We might say … ‘why don’t we bring some of those major energy-intensive manufacturers back to that cheap energy that exists inside the province of Alberta. Why don’t we sell them that energy, manufacture the goods here, strip the carbon out, put it underground in the storage facilities that we have … and why don’t we start sending manufactured products out as opposed to the raw energy that is being used by others to consume those products?’
“I think there’s a great future. It’s the confluence of digitization, decarbonization, and deglobalization. The Three Ds,” he continued. “We have been, as an industry, so focused on playing defense, we haven’t thought enough and spent enough time thinking about what that future could be.”
On leadership, Evans said he has seen a massive change since the era in which he started, characterizing it at that time as command and control. Started by smaller companies, he added, this has changed, pointing to levelled bureaucracy and management layers removed.
“It is super exciting to watch how that whole leadership has evolved and the empowerment of people that goes along with that,” he said. “There has been … multiples of changes in terms of how companies are led. And more importantly in the leaders, themselves, and the empowerment they are providing their employees.”
Workforce attraction and retention
Another topic was the changing deployment of work structures through an energy sector lens. These changes have emerged following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Generally, we have seen companies go with … in the office three days a week, at home two,” said Katie Kachur, vice-president government relations, Canadian Propane Association. “I am starting to see a shift to … back in the office four days a week, home once a week.
“It depends on the company, the size and scale of what you do,” she added. “I just keep falling back on, we have all seen the headlines and know we are facing a labour shortage — not just in the oil and gas sector but many sectors across Canada, so — what do we need to do to attract and maintain a really strong, resilient labour force in Canada? And what do we need to do to set up this labour force?”
Katie Mehnert, CEO of U.S.-based ALLY Energy, said talent is at a premium.
“There is a war for talent but there is a war on our industry,” she explained. “By the way, there is also a war on the clean energy industry,” she added. “Nobody understands what energy does — and kids aren’t getting into this.
“If we have more demand for energy, how are we going to meet that need?”
The workforce has changed forever, stated Mehnert.
“Companies need to understand that the dynamic for recruiting has changed. We are values-based, we are about impact. If you can’t get people to come to the office, you need to ask yourself why.
“Because the companies that are going to win this race in the energy sector are the ones that are about culture and talent. Not about the assets in the ground, I don’t care how great they are. Your greatest asset is your human capital and people are starting to realize that.”
Another significant trend she is seeing is a major competitor companies face for talent are its own employees.
“They are side-gigging,” noted Mehnert. “Entrepreneurship is at an all-time high, so companies are losing talent because people want to go start businesses.”
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