Jenna Compehos / Valdez Compliance & Documentation Specialist
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I have been employed on TAPS since March 2007 as a contractor and became an Alyeska employee in August 2010. I continue to work for Alyeska not only because I love my job and admire my coworkers, but also because I have vested interests in the community of Valdez and its partnership with Alyeska.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history? My first position was with the Fire/Safety Team as an Administrative Assistant. Later I became a Minor Modifications Specialist with the Compliance and Documentation Team and presently I’m supporting the Utilities Team as a Compliance and Documentation Specialist. I learn new things every day and I’m eager to continue to learn all aspects of the business as I continue my career with Alyeska.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? There are many things that make up the TAPS culture, most importantly our ethics and Code of Conduct, both of which we hold in the highest regard. Employees of Alyeska are accountable for their professionalism, understand regulatory compliance, all while producing quality work in a safe manner. I think it is very important to understand that the people of Alyeska are the “TAPS Culture” and in order for new employees to learn it, they need to identify the importance and how it benefits them as well.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? Alyeska invests in their employees by providing education and opportunity, and promotes success and safety in our everyday routine. But the best-kept secret is the people. I cherish the relationships I’ve built within the company and look forward to the future with Alyeska.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? Safety, Teamwork and Innovation are three things that the Compliance and Documentation Team strive for daily. Safety is all encompassing, in the procedures I work with, the personal protection equipment I wear in the field, and the Safe Performance Self Assessments I perform not only in the workplace but in my personal life as well. I think without the safety aspect, innovation and teamwork can’t be fully established.
Don Duke / Metering Technician, North Pole Metering Station
When did you start working for TAPS and why have you stayed? This is my 36th year with Alyeska. I came to Alaska as a military dependant and graduated from high school at Eielson Air Force Base in 1976. After seasonal work as a track laborer with the Alaska Railroad in summer of 1976, Alyeska offered me a job. Alyeska helped pay for my college education and my job has presented me with many opportunities. It has enabled me to raise and provide for my family. I still enjoy and am challenged by what I do.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. My first jobs at Alyeska were mail handler at Fort Wainwright, warehouseman at Fairbanks Airport Gate 21, warehouseman at Pump Station 8, and for many years I was an operations technician at Pump Station 8.
Describe the TAPS culture. “Safety first.” We are constantly re-evaluating our work with safety at the core of everything we do. At times this can seem very time consuming. But what we must remember is that “Safety First” is for our own benefit.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? Everyone’s job at Alyeska is what he or she makes of it. There is always something new to learn. I have grown up and matured around Alyeska but then Alyeska has also grown up and matured around me. As employees and the pipeline age together, we face new challenges in this era that are very different from years past. Low throughput and cold crude temperatures continue to challenge us to think outside the box, and keep our jobs interesting.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? Every time we complete a job without incident, we are ready to move on to the next task at hand. What we need to remember and reflect on is that the task completed was not completed without incident by happen chance. Job success is due to careful planning, implementation, completion, and experience — with an emphasis on safety.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? I have many. One of my favorite was representing Alyeska in Washington D.C. at The Smithsonian Institute’s opening of their exhibit and tribute to the Trans Alaska Pipeline in October 1997. I have great memories of operating and maintaining the best run Topping Unit on the pipeline at Pump Station 8 with the best crew EVER on the pipeline. I’ll also never forget standing about 20 yards from the pump building at Pump Station 8 when it exploded July 8, 1977.
I’m thankful for the patience and grace offered to me by many, many co-workers (then and now) who taught and trained me on things you could never fully grasp from a class or a manual.
Bill Reiswig / Valdez Marine Terminal Operations Supervisor
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? Prior to moving to Valdez, I worked for 11+ years in the timber and road construction industries. In April of 1989, I arrived in Valdez and worked as a contract technician in the Marine Eepartment before joining the Ship Escort/Response Vessel System as an operator. I spent a little more than a year at SERVS prior to being hired as an Alyeska technician at the Valdez Marine Terminal.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I had been an Operations Technician at the Terminal for over 17 years when I accepted a position as Senior Operations Coordinator. A little more than a year later, I accepted my current position as Valdez Marine Terminal Operations Supervisor.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? There is definitely a culture on TAPS. TAPS employees take pride in doing things right and working to high standards in all aspects of their job. Culture is learned through observation of behavior and leading by example.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? The people I work with.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? The demonstration of our values during the snow removal effort this winter was just as amazing as the amount of snow that fell.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? I think I had the most fun at work when I was project lead back when our group was named “Oil Movements Team” (OMT). I have also enjoyed training and mentoring many newer employees over the course of my career.
Terry Fair-Vakalis / Business Analyst, Business & Strategic Planning
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I began working for Alyeska as a temporary contractor in Valdez, not really expecting to stay employed past my given contract term. But as each assignment finished, more opportunities presented themselves, then more after that. There isn’t a company out there I would rather work for than Alyeska Pipeline. We operate and maintain the lifeblood of this great state, and I am proud to be a part of it.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. Each job I have held has been one adventure after another. I began working in Valdez as a temporary office clerk in 1996, archiving records for the Projects Team. When that assignment was over, other temporary opportunities to help out around the Terminal became available. I worked at Ballast Water Treatment, Valdez Maintenance, then Alyeska hired me in 1999 when I was working at OMT (now known as Valdez Marine Terminal Operations).
In 2003, I moved to Anchorage to fill a temporary opening in the Accounting Department, which eventually became permanent. I went back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree in accounting. It took me six years to finish a four-year degree. I became a General Ledger Accountant, handling a variety of functions to include billing for mariner and connector reimbursable agreements, treasury/cash management and benefits accounting. This year I passed the CPA exam, and I currently hold the position of Business Analyst in support of the Valdez Marine Terminal and the Ship Escort/Response Vessel System.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? There is a culture of pride in what we do, and we want to do it safely while protecting our environment. This requires an immense amount of knowledge and commitment on the part of each employee. It is vital that we continue to foster an environment where this important knowledge can be transferred to those who will continue to operate and maintain our facilities into the future. Our daily interaction with our colleagues and the decisions we make must reflect that mindset.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? Being in touch with the operation in some way is the most rewarding aspect of my career at Alyeska. Moving oil through the pipeline, the Terminal and Prince William Sound is why we are all here, and seeing the folks in action who make it happen day after day makes each day worth showing up for.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? Through the years, I have seen this company at its best and at its worst. I have seen the worst of circumstances bring out the best of us. The commitment each of us has to fulfilling our core mission of moving oil safely has pulled us together as one to see through the toughest of challenges — spills, incidents, natural disasters, whatever chance has thrown us.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? There is no one single memory that stands out as my favorite, but the common thread is the memories I share with each and every person I have worked with through the years. I have made friendships that will last a lifetime. The people I have worked with over the years are all part of my extended family.
David Barnum / Ballast Water Treatment technician
We asked long-time Alyeska employee, David Barnum, to reflect on his time working on TAPS. Here is his story:
“Back in 1976 I was working at a local restaurant The Sheffield House. I had moved to Valdez from Anchorage in 1974 to help my dad for the summer. I was assigned dinner shift in the kitchen. My Dad gave up his lease in 1976 and I was asked to manage the kitchen. We agreed that in six months that they would increase my salary by $350. In six months nobody said anything, so I asked the hotel manager if he knew anything about it. He said that he didn’t but he would look into it. They ended up giving me only $150 increase. I wasn’t happy with that so I applied for a position at Alyeska. Who would know, 35 years later…
Over the years I have had the opportunity to work in all the operating areas and also in maintenance. I spent a few years in Marine/Oil Spill (Alyeska took over Oil Spill for several years in the 1980s), a few months in Oil Movements and Storage, and a short time at Power Vapor. Most of my career has been at the Ballast Water Treatment (BWT) Plant. Over the years, BWT has taken over more processes, and over the last several years, our main ballast and industrial waste water sewer treatment system has gone through many changes. We are much better informed and part of the decision process now then we were in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
One night back in the early ‘80s, I was working in Marine on Berth 3 and the sump wouldn’t pump. There was high discharge pressure so we called BWT to make sure there was a path to the ballast tanks. They said that they thought there was a path to the tank and would go check it out. BWT got back with us and they found a bypass valve tagged, locked and closed from a job that had been long completed. That would not happen today with our master card isolation procedure system.
I think that the best improvement that we have had at Ballast Water Treatment is the vapor recovery in the BWT tank farm and the Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) cells. For those that smelled the BWT area before vapor recovery, you know what this means.
I still enjoy coming to work, even after 35 years. I know it’s time to retire (my coworkers remind me) but it’s hard to just walk away when it is something that you enjoy doing.
Deborah Hughes / Operations Engineer
How long have you worked on TAPS? Two years.
Why did you decide to start working for Alyeska? I decided to work for Alyeska since it would provide me a challenging and unique career path.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? Even though I’ve only been here for two years, I already feel part of the Alyeska team and feel that my suggestions and recommendations are welcome by senior employees, many of whom have been with the company 30+ years. Knowing that I directly affect the success of TAPS is what I like best about working here.
Do you think there is a TAPS culture? The TAPS culture is based on teamwork between all the different parts of the organization. We interact daily with each other and depend on all parts to operate as efficiently and safely as we do.
Thirty Alyeska employees have been with us since TAPS first began transporting oil 35 years ago. Where do you imagine yourself 35 years from now? Happily retired with my husband after a successful career with Alyeska!
Joseph Cody / Distributed IT Services Lead
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I’ve worked for Alyeska for the past eight years. After I received my undergraduate degree in computer science, I found out through an employee about the Building Foundations For Excellence Program (BFEP), which is essentially a two-year internship program that places you in a permanent position if you successfully complete the program. I’m one of the many success stories from this program as it allowed me the opportunity to grow and learn my profession in the context of supporting the Trans Alaska Pipeline System.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? The two main characteristics that come to mind are safety and people. A safety mindset is embedded into everything we do here. From conducting meetings to performing a physical task out along the pipeline, all of these activities start with a safety discussion. We empower and emphasize to our TAPS workforce the importance of the speak up/stand up principle so that everyone feels comfortable with raising an issue of any kind without fear of repercussions. This is not just a statement in a policy, as we have programs and teams whose function is to support this principle.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? The strong sense of family and community that you get from each individual that works on TAPS. Everyone here is genuinely concerned about ensuring your success, both professionally and personally.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? Since I’m a member of the Crisis Management Team Technical Support Team, I was able to witness firsthand each of these values on display during the Pump Station 1 incident and unplanned pipeline shutdown in January 2011. The amount of teamwork and innovation between the various response teams was phenomenal. What made this event a true success story is the fact that no one got hurt in the process of the response.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? It would probably have to be the time when I was the safety escort for the Alyeska Safety Moose during one of our company summer picnics. The kids really enjoyed that experience!!
Ryan Newcomer / Project Quality Assurance Specialist
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? This is my first full-time position with Alyeska after participating in the intern program for two summers. I was excited to take my new position because of the great culture and work ethic that the people of Alyeska demonstrate. It’s the welcoming and helpful environment I’ve experienced so far that makes transitioning into the company a pleasant experience. I always wanted to return to Alaska after receiving my degree, and Alyeska has been that foundation for my career in Alaska.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. In 2008 and 2009, I was a summer intern within the Analytical Lab Services Group, working under Bob Carson, with help from Kevin Dillard.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? I think it’s clear that there is a special culture at Alyeska. It’s something you notice from day one, and it’s so prevalent that you can’t help but to contribute and become part of the culture. It’s a culture you can appreciate.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? The location, opportunities and people are just a few of my favorite things about Alyeska. The high quality of work that is performed across all disciplines makes me proud to say I work for Alyeska.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska's values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? Safety is a word which you’ll always hear at Alyeska. It’s obvious that safety is of the most importance and can be felt anywhere in the company, from Pump Station 1 all the way down to Valdez, and even in the Anchorage office. A good example of teamwork can be seen throughout Alyeska because we require the communication and team efforts of many disciplines in order to function as a whole.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? I would say some of favorite memories on TAPS have been my internship opportunities while in college. Our first day was a series of life stories from fellow Alyeska employees and it showed just how much history is in this company and its people. Some of the best advice I’ve been given was during these sessions. The work I was able to perform as an intern gave me the valuable experience necessary to succeed after college.
Henry “Hank” Wladkowski / Lead Internal Auditor
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I have worked on TAPS off and on since 1975 as a contractor and direct hire. I had wanted to work on TAPS since 1974, while still in college, and had applied for jobs. I was always turned down with a comment suggesting I stay in school and finish. Post Oil Embargo 1973, times were tough, and there was a major national/global recession in the early to mid ‘70s. I wanted to find work in my field, civil engineering. I had a Transportation Systems Major and Sanitation (Water/Environmental Studies) Minor. Originally, while in college, I wanted to work on various transportation projects. I studied TAPS as it included the process of developing Environmental Impact Statements – one of the first national efforts to do so.
In August 1975, I called Resources Sciences (Williams Bros) in Tulsa OK from a job site during lunch, and in a 15-minute interview, I had a job offer for one eight-week work rotation. I was told a ticket would be waiting for me at an airline counter. The rest is history. TAPS provided the dream opportunity to be involved in a number of aspects of civil engineering.
Why do I continue? It is truly the people, the great opportunities, and the feeling of personal accomplishment in meeting a variety of challenges in a great location – from one coast of Alaska to another other.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I started as a contractor on TAPS in August 1975 as a Field Geotechnical Engineer based out of Old Man Construction Camp, involved in on-site engineering design between Prospect Creek Camp to the Sand Hill area. I worked on other engineering projects over the years along the pipeline and was hired on by Alyeska in December 1990.
My Alyeska positions included Site Supervisor on a corrosion investigation and remediation project; Pipeline Civil Maintenance Coordinator; Pipeline Compliance & Quality Manager; Northern Business Unit Advisor; VP Operations Assistant; Pipeline Business Unit Advisor; Asset Manager; Environment and Safety Director; Safety and Industrial Health Manager; Pump Station 4/Galbraith Management Base Operations and Maintenance Supervisor; and from 2007 to present, Lead Auditor. I have been involved in a number of operational process audits including for the Environmental Protection Program, Safety, Hazardous Waste Management Contractor, Strategic Reconfiguration, Integrity Management, SERVS, Contractor Safety Management, the Loss Prevention System, The Valdez Marine Terminal C-Plan, the Pipeline C-Plan, and others.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? What I still hold tightly is this: Constructing TAPS was a grand project that had many great people- who had good insight and intentions- do the right things by respecting the people and resources they encountered. It was a time in America of great change and challenge, and there was an attitude that it was OK to try something and fail, but we had to keep going to achieve success. This was summarized by the pipeline motto, “We didn’t know it couldn’t be done.”
How do we share and pass on our culture to new employees? By bringing in new hires, interns, job shadowing, job rotation, environmental protection programs, safety and heath programs, and trusting people will do the right things, given the best training and tools available at the time. Sometimes things need to take a little longer or go a little slower, but the outcome aims for the best.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? Two things: First, the people. That includes TAPS employees and the public along the Right Of Way. Second, the respect TAPS employees have for the natural environment in Alaska and in this the country and all the associated natural resources. We have a lot of controls in place to ensure our footprint will ultimately be very small.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? Safety: Process safety; site “walkdowns” and reviews with personnel prior to planned maintenance shutdowns; personal Safety; getting the total recordable injury rate (TRIR) down below 2.00, when employees felt it was impossible pre-2000.
Environment: Employees are involved in various drills and exercises to support the prevention of spills or to prepare in case they must respond to actual incident.
Teamwork: I usually recall the response to incidents more readily, such as the Check Valve 7 discharge incident in 1977, or the 1977 Sagavanirktok River Flood event, or the Milepost 200 re-route, or lifeline generator change-outs or mainline unit change-outs. All the more routine efforts – such as the activities and commitment to ensure successful field crew and daily shift changes – occur seamlessly.
Innovation: Being involved with early field implementation of Drag Reducing Agent (DRA) and In-line Inspection pigging/Integrity Management activities.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? First, after accepting an interview at Galbraith Lake Camp in July 1976 for a Civil Construction Expediter/Coordinator in Section 5/6, I was told I had the job and needed to start immediately. I was promptly entrusted with truck keys, a binder of vital information, and a roll of G&C drawings and told I had to re-establish a civil construction office in Happy Valley “A” Camp to support the next push of civil activities prior to start up in 1977. Also, with an instruction that, “Oh by the way, you have five work crews between Galbraith and Happy Valley, so you need to stop, visit and introduce yourself to the foremen and work crews.”
Second, between January 1977 to November 1977, working on River Training Structures from Prudhoe Bay to Five Mile Camp has many memories. The most vivid is in January 1977, after a Joint Agency Stop Work Order had been issued to a river training structure crew due to a dozer falling through surface ice of the Sagavanirktok River. I took several backhoe operators via helicopter to another spur dike field location in the Dietrich River Valley for a “show and tell” into what turned out to be a quality control/assurance field trip for these operators to gain a better understanding and insight of the work and methods to enable efficiencies and enhancements to improve rip-rap placements between Milepost 124 to Milepost 1. Later, in 1977, the spring breakup washed out several structures and a plan had to be developed and implemented to ensure the majority of prioritized repairs were complete prior to pipeline start-up.
My third favorite memory was when I was asked to return to field supervisory opportunities at Pump Station 12, from 1999 to 2000, and at Pump Station 4, from 2005 to 2007.
Sue Britt / Compliance & Documentation Manager
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I had just quit my job working for the Department of Highways to take the vacation of a lifetime, and was convinced to change my plans. On July 22, 1974, I started working in the Public Relations Office in Valdez. My boss (Gige Hillar, another long time resident) had a long-term vision about how Alyeska was going to vitalize the job market in Valdez. I liked his vision and wanted to be a part of it - and I wasn’t planning on leaving Valdez anytime soon, since it was and has always been my home.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. Over the years, I have worked as an administrative assistant, a tour guide, a technician, and a documentation specialist. When I was chosen to be part of a prototype team for document revision, approval and publishing, it was a perfect fit for me. I enjoy the challenge of the job, advancement opportunities and most of all the people I have met and worked with over the years.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? I believe the TAPS culture is one of knowledge, shared beliefs, and practices, or to put it into one word, it’s a culture of “safety.” We share our knowledge, beliefs and practices with each other daily as we learn from one another. This is done by using the right device for the job, whether that’s a document, a tool, or asking for and providing information.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? I look at Alyeska as a second family. After years of working a seven-days-on, seven-days-off schedule, you realize quickly that you spend as much time with your co-workers as you do at home. During your off week, you get to know your coworkers and their family members at community or school functions. So, I think the best part of working here is my “other family.” You watch them grow, meet new additions, disagree at times, but always stick together. It sounds corny but it really is like a family. We've all grown up together − as a company and as employees.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? Early on, it became apparent to me and my co-workers that documentation was one of our cornerstones to providing a safe work environment, and that the process needed to be improved. Gary Minish (another long-time employee) and I were part of the team that presented a solution to management and the documentation specialist positions were created. To date these positions provide a valuable skill set for the company.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? This is a tough one, most of my memories center around things and people.
I was one of the marine crew that tied up and loaded the first tanker into Valdez. I remember how huge the tanker was once it was alongside, and I was equally amazed that I was able to get the loading arms up to the deck so they could be connected.
I remember when we used to heat our lunches in rod ovens (no longer used to heat rods) because we didn’t have microwaves, let alone stoves – or when the bears used to break into the break shacks and help themselves to the lunches. There was one bear that used to open the office doors using the doorknob, then open the refrigerator from the hinges side, go figure.
One of the best sunrises I ever witnesses was in the early morning while on Berth 4. The best Valdez northern lights I’ve seen were during a tie-up of the Northern Lion (they had mostly Italian-speaking crews). The tie-up crew on board stopped work to watch the lights, and they were shouting and whistling. We didn’t understand the language but we witnessed their excitement at seeing something for the first time.
Another favorite memory is attending the service banquets in Anchorage and meeting other employees, most of whom I had never met. On one occasion, I was seated next to a new employee, one who I didn’t know nor had I met. It turned out to be our new president. I’m still an advocate of posting photos of employees.
Britt is the longest-serving employee in the company.