Alaskan grit, determination and pride

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Five cultural attributes

From Alyeska President Tom Barrett

At Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, our recent work has included focus on organizational culture, or simply put, “how we do business.” And “how we do business” is critical to “how well we do business.” For more than 35 years, our commitment to safe and reliable operations has yielded safe delivery of nearly 17 billion barrels of crude oil. With throughput declining, technical challenges mounting, and our workforce changing, we need to leverage and strengthen our cultural values to continue delivering outstanding results.

To identify five behaviors on TAPS that are essential for future success, a diverse team of Alyeska employees worked together over six months. The team highlighted five attributes that are at the core of exceptional performance.

First, take a system view; make informed decisions, consider the total pipeline system. Second, make sound decisions; involve the right people and data and follow the right processes to achieve sound and timely decisions. Third, learn, improve and innovate; learn from experiences, innovate to overcome challenges and seek to constantly improve. Fourth, “speak up, step up;” share concerns, opportunities and ideas, and take action to resolve issues. Fifth, act with discipline; we do serious work and we take work seriously, shortcuts or a casual attitude will not achieve excellence.

Safely moving enormous volumes of crude oil every day is what we do. Our livelihoods, TAPS sustainability, Alaska’s economic health, and national energy security depend on “how we do business.”

Alyeska’s learning & development team creates new training program

“Learn, improve, innovate” is one of Alyeska Pipeline’s five cultural attributes. In this spirit, Alyeska’s learning and development team recently created Alyeska University (AU), a developmental training program launched through Alaska Pacific University that is tailored to meet unique needs of employees while delivering graduate-level business and leadership courses.

“I signed up for Alyeska University because it is a great opportunity for development,” said Jennifer Bleicher, Senior Operations Coordinator in Valdez. “I’ve wanted to pursue a graduate degree, and this is a step toward that. Also, the program was being offered by my employer and supported by management. In my role, I don’t often travel out of Valdez for work, so this was also a chance to work with coworkers from across the company and learn about what they do.”

Twenty Alyeska employees enrolled in the inaugural session. These first-time AU participants are employees who hold management and supervisory positions and individual contributors aspiring to strengthen leadership skills. AU modules build on one another and center on management scenarios. Alyeska University consists of six modules provided by APU and four modules provided in-house with Alyeska training personnel. Course objectives include strengthening communications, planning, sound decision making and financial management skills.

“‘Learn, Improve, Innovate’ provides a goal to aim for, both at a company level and at an individual employee level,” said Tom Betz, Alyeska’s Learning and Development Manager. “Alyeska University is designed to maximize personal potential and create a learning environment essential for future success.”

Alyeska’s Cultural Attributes provide a path and framework for employees to constantly assess personal performance, team-level performance and the overall performance of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System.

As North Slope crude oil production declines, less and less throughput in the pipeline compounds and increases the complexity of operating TAPS. Programs such as Alyeska University provide opportunities to learn how to apply the Cultural Attributes – especially “Learn, Improve, Innovate” – and position employees to meet the challenges of declining throughput.

Alyeska President speaks at AFN

Alyeska President Tom Barrett's remarks to audience at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention, Oct. 20, 2012:

Startup of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System in June 1977 forever transformed Alaska’s economy. Moreover, from its earliest days, Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s supporters believed that overhauling Alaska’s business identity needed to compliment and support the legacy and culture of Alaska Natives. In that spirit, Alyeska Pipeline signed an Alaska Native Utilization Agreement in 1974, several years before the first oil even flowed. Alyeska committed to engaging the Alaska Native community with training, job placement and career opportunities. Today, Alyeska upholds this commitment with continual emphasis on scholarships, professional development and jobs for Alaska Natives.

This is an exciting time for our company. We just celebrated 35 years of safely moving oil and are looking ahead to the next 35. Such milestones are achieved only through the teamwork and the innovation of our workforce. The enduring relationship between Alyeska Pipeline and Alaska Natives has strengthened this ingenuity and unity, and benefited all involved.

The strong ties that Alyeska Pipeline maintains with Alaska Natives set our people apart. You need look no further than the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention, where Alyeska employees staff booths and registration tables, provide support behind the scenes and connect with friends and family.

Very few organizations can say that as a direct result of an agreement made decades earlier, their entire organization is more capable, more diverse, and overall, is better able to serve its stakeholders. So on behalf of Alyeska Pipeline Service Company, I say to the Alaska Native community, gunalchéesh.

Valdez weathers the storm

It was a dark and stormy night...

It was 3 a.m. on Friday Sept. 21, and Area Operator Brian Falicon was keeping an eye on the Abercrombie Creek levy, about 4 miles upstream from the Valdez Marine Terminal. TAPS crews had been working on repairs to the area all week, but a record 4.3 inches of rain in a 24-hour period had caused area streams and creeks to overflow. Fast moving water was eroding the diversion embankment and threatening the PetroStar metering skid, which measures the crude oil taken off TAPS by the local refinery. Falicon saw conditions deteriorating, and made a call to his supervisor…

"Water, Water, Everywhere"

Valdez has been a rainy place this fall. The town is no desert and on average it receives nine inches in the month of September. But this year is different; one storm after another has dumped rain and blown winds through the Sound. By Sept. 17, over 12 inches had already fallen on the town and the forecast called for an additional nine inches or more. Earlier that night, thunder and lightning echoed in Port Valdez, halting tanker loading operations.

Despite the extreme rain, the rest of the Terminal was in good shape. Thanks to a tip from the local NOAA meteorologist and lessons learned after the major flood in 2006, crews had spent the week before ramping up, identifying possible problem areas – like Abercrombie Creek- and staging equipment and materials.

Teams from SERVS had set up pumps to clear water out of the crude oil storage tank dike cells. Operators driving vac trucks were making their way around to various sumps to keep them operational, and others were working to re-divert water back to the settlement ponds, and keep culverts clear of debris. At the heart of it all, the Ballast Water Treatment plant was chugging away, processing the run-off in addition to normal operations. Because the run-off didn’t contain any grease or oil, BWT was able to double their capacity to keep up with the storm.

“The response on Terminal embodied teamwork,” said Scott Hicks, VMT Director. “Everywhere, people were working together; the work reached across teams, and shifts and companies. Folks were sharing equipment and experience; there was quality communication and a strong commitment to doing the work safely.”

Back to Abercrombie Creek…

Thanks to Brian’s call, by 4:30 a.m. on Friday, Operations supervisor Bill Reiswig, and integrity management engineer Alex Lai were on site, and response teams from Houston Contractor Company and Ahtna were building up the levy an additional two feet. In 2006, the creek flooded and reached the skid- but not this year. Crews worked tirelessly at dawn and reinforced the levy with large rocks, dirt and gravel. The storm would eventually bring another 10 inches of rain to the area, but the retaining walls held.

“We never got into a critical situation because of everyone’s efforts,” said Reiswig. “There was a lot of good work done. It could’ve been worse, but we were ready.”

Alyeska cleans, inspects tanks on Valdez Marine Terminal

This summer, Alyeska performed scheduled tank cleaning and inspections on crude oil storage tanks 13 and 14 on the Valdez Marine Terminal. The storage tanks hold 510,000 barrels of oil and are over an acre in area. The inspections are thorough, looking at the tank from “head to toe;” everything is measured and reviewed from the roof thickness to the condition of the tank floor. The inspection is conducted by a variety of different means, including ultrasonic testing and visual inspections. The cleaning and inspections are supported by contracting partners Peak Oilfield Services, Team Peak, Dunkin and Bush, and Houston Contracting Company.

This photo was taken inside Tank 13. In the foreground are concrete roof supports- there are 61 in all- and beyond is the roof, which is over 60 feet above.







2012 TAPS Torch Run. Live United!

Pictured right: Alyeska's Betsy Haines, Director of Oil Movements and Olympic athlete, proudly holds the TAPS torch.

In honor of the Olympics, Alyeska’s United Way campaign theme is the 2012 TAPS Torch Run. The torch started at Pump Station 1 and each pledge made during the campaign moved the torch closer to Valdez. And the torch has arrived in Valdez, blazing a path across 800 miles of Alaska in less than a month.

TAPS employees and contractors have made $631,557 in pledges to United Way, surpassing the original campaign goal of $515,000. The final pledges will be compiled on Oct. 25.

“I am so proud to be associated with the TAPS workforce for making our communities a better place,” Alyeska President Tom Barrett said. “Our campaign is in early phases, yet it is already characterized by generous giving, increased outreach in Day of Caring activities, and great fund-raising efforts up and down the line.”

Thank you to our employees and contractors for making the pledge and for all the hard work and volunteer efforts.

Pump Station 6 straight pipe project

One of the major projects Alyeska undertook this summer was the Pump Station 6 straight pipe project. The Pump Station 6 manifold building was removed and the Mainline manifold piping connections and valves with the exception of CKV-60B have been eliminated. This is similar to the work completed at other ramp down stations Pump Station 2, Pump Station 8, Pump Station 11 and Pump Station 12.

These ‘Straight Pipe’ stations are not anticipated to be required for future operation of TAPS. By eliminating the non-essential elements of these pump stations, Mainline integrity is enhanced and maintenance resource requirements reduced. Furthermore, risks associated with dead legs and potential corrosion issues are mitigated. Pump station 10 is the next in line for a straight pipe project.


Alyeska surplus program sends needed suplies to communities

On July 25, a few Alyeska employees will wake up extra early to board the M/V Aurora, on its way to the Prince William Sound community of Tatitlek. They’re making the special trip to drop off an ambulance from Alyeska’s surplus program. The community hasn’t had a working ambulance in several years, and when a resident needs transport they have had to ride in personal vehicles not suited for the job.

Alyeska’s surplus program donates unneeded but functioning equipment to communities and qualified non-profits. Alyeska employee Lee DeWilde, originally from the village of Huslia, facilitated Alyeska’s donation of another ambulance to that village. He drove the surplus ambulance to Nenana, where it will be barged on the next available barge up the Koyokuk River — hopefully before freeze-up. Other surplus donations have benefited the Fairbanks Pipeline Training Center and the Rescue Mission’s Recycling Center.

“Getting a ambulance for our village will sure be better than trying to get someone to the airport or the ferry dock in the back of a pick-up truck,” said David Totemoff, Tatitlek IRA Village President.






Let the gold times roll!

In July every year, Fairbanks celebrates Golden Days, honoring the early pioneers who settled the Interior of Alaska. This year’s theme is “Let the Gold Times Roll!” and that’s exactly what happens with parties, concerts, a street party, and other festivities culminating in a grand parade with floats, bands, and of course politicians.

For the past several years, Alyeska has joined in the celebration by sponsoring Young Pioneers Day. Volunteers from Alyeska and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society serve free hot dogs, chips and drinks to the first 800 kids and caretakers. Free activities include arts and crafts, kids’ game a petting zoo, pony rides and face painting.

Thanks to Alyeska’s emphasis on safety, activities also include free eye exams for the kids, a Red Cross hypothermia activity and preparedness relay, and representatives from the Fairbanks Police Explorers and Volunteers in Policing.

“Alyeska Pipeline’s Young Pioneers Day is an event every youngster in our community looks forward to each year,” said Chamber Executive Director Lisa Herbert. “It is a great way for them to learn about the rich, golden history of Fairbanks. The community really comes together to put on a fantastic, fun-filled day for our future leaders. The Chamber, with support from investors such as Alyeska, is always looking at ways to continuously engage our youth, and Alyeska’s Young Pioneers Day does just that.” 

Employee volunteerism: Lorena's story

Lorena Hegdal is the Director of Right of Way and Emergency Preparedness & Compliance. At Alyeska and in the Native community, Lorena has build up a reputation as someone who will support and counsel students, interns, potential job candidates and new hires. She recently discussed the importance of mentoring the younger generation.

I had the good fortune of being born and raised in Nome, Alaska, where my family spent the entire summer at our fish camp. I went to the University of Alaska and, after considering a career in teaching, I realized my patience level with kids was probably not conducive to being a good educator. So, I ventured into engineering because math came somewhat easy to me. I’ve been at Alyeska for over 12 years and every day is interesting, challenging and educational.

AISES is the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, which is a national group that was formed in 1977 to substantially increase American Indian and Alaska Native representation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields – as students, professionals, mentors, and leaders. ANSEP is an Alaskan home-grown program, engineered and developed by Dr. Herb (Ilisaurri) Schroeder, which began with a single student in 1995. The program has grown each year and expanded; annual student enrollments increase each year along with a commensurate increase in graduates.

Most importantly, numerous Alaska Natives, American Indians, and Native Hawaiians are graduating with well over 200 bachelor degrees earned since 2002 (several masters and a few PhD’s have also been awarded). The program has expanded beyond Alaska and also into the middle and high schools for college preparation. 

Both programs are successful and work toward the same goal of ensuring and motivating students to succeed in the STEM fields, where some students have been told that they could not succeed.

In the early 1980s, I began hosting an annual fall picnic for AISES students at my home in Fairbanks. Students gather off campus and eat muktuk, grilled and smoked salmon, herring eggs, and other goodies donated by friends from across Alaska. Both AISES and ANSEP students attend the annual picnic and have the opportunity to visit in a home environment. I continue to provide financial support for the programs and also mentor students.

Both ANSEP and AISES students that have successfully completed college continue to support the programs through financial donations, mentorship, leadership, and camaraderie. The students that come from rural areas and reservations truly understand the issues and challenges and are more creative in finding engineering solutions in their communities.

It’s important to help these students because it’s just the right thing to do. Moving from a small town or village to the city can be overwhelming. Programs that reach into the middle and high schools provide exposure to the larger cities, campus life, and to STEM field graduates who are also Alaska Native.

Throughout my career and work with students, I’m the lucky one. I’ve had the opportunity to see students succeed, to encourage and mentor fellow Alaska Natives at work and watch them excel in their career growth.

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