What made you choose the power and utility industry?
Actually, the power and utility industry chose me. My first job was with a property insurance inspection company, followed by a position at a large power generation company. It was there that I met one of my mentors, who helped me blend the two experiences into a career. My experiences in both property consulting and the automotive industry enhanced my power generation and insurance expertise.
Let’s discuss your role as a Senior Property Loss Control professional. Why were you drawn to this role?
Over the years, I kept my hand in the power generation and utility industry. When the opportunity presented itself at AEGIS, it just fit. I accepted the job because it allowed me to focus on power generation full time, and I was interested in collaborating and growing with these types of professionals.
You were a founding member of the Natural Gas Storage, Handling and Processing Working Group in 2013. Why did you feel the need to create this group?
My manager came to me because of my experience in natural gas and my chemical engineering background. He asked if I would like to work on gas processing, because he recognized that to do top-quality work, AEGIS needs to know every aspect of the natural gas business. The group began with just four members, and we built the practice from there. Today, we are 12 members strong.
How does the Loss Control Natural Gas Working Group work?
The focus of all the working groups is to stay current on the latest technologies; address how to evaluate certain types of risk; and give consistent advice to members, staff and underwriting on emerging issues. Going back to the genesis of the Natural Gas Working Group, we needed natural gas industry loss control standards. So we had to understand what the hazards were and identify deficiencies and exposure for the underwriters and members. We did this by first accumulating and distilling requirements resources, and then providing risk reduction suggestions and report templates.
Can you share your perspective on how the Natural Gas Working Group became the model for the subsequent working groups, which focus on Renewables, Energy Storage Systems, Prime Mover and Loss Estimates?
The Natural Gas Working Group was formed at a time when natural gas and liquid production was booming. Many new processing facilities, compressor stations, pipelines and other energy-related facilities were being constructed, and even the existing infrastructure was being used in new and different ways. The working group’s role was, and is, to stay abreast of known and emergent issues, as well as to provide exposure insight and expertise to our members, staff and underwriting. Similarly, the Prime Mover Working Group reviews steam and combustion turbine emergent issues, claims, assessment findings, OEM information, industry initiatives and internal experience to ensure properly directed engineering focus is beneficial to our membership. The Renewables and the Energy Storage Systems Working Groups are also very busy reviewing and monitoring their respective rapidly developing and deploying technologies. Finally, our Loss Estimates Working Group provides consistent quantifiable risk management by helping members and underwriters understand how much exposure is associated with a potential loss.
Let’s talk in more detail about the deliverables of the five working groups.
The deliverables include technical white papers that focus on key industry issues and emerging risks for both internal and external use. For instance, last year, the Energy Storage Working Group delved into the nitty-gritty of energy storage to address the risks and answer questions from our members. As a result, they created a white paper on this timely topic. A second deliverable is to ensure AEGIS is abreast of industry advancements and emerging risks, and shares that information with members. Another deliverable is to be certain that field staff has a common understanding of evolving risks and can apply that knowledge consistently across the AEGIS membership. This was the objective in the Natural Gas Working Group when we developed standards to address not only processing but storage and handling. Finally, the working groups support continuous learning for the AEGIS Loss Control team. For example, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board investigates large losses in the chemical industry and provides more guidance in reports they create, which we apply to our practice.
You say, “Because of my chemical engineering background, I am very interested in how a process works. Once I understand the process, I can use my education and experience in fire protection to determine the hazards and the type of protection required.” With this in mind, how did you apply this knowledge to the Natural Gas Working Group?
A baseline fact is that gas is a flammable material. If I understand how the gas process works, I can identify the failure points. By knowing where the failure points are, I know where we could have a release of a hydrocarbon liquid or gas – and release of these can cause fires and/or explosions, which can cause losses.
Do you find that your personal experiences have guided or influenced your career choices and responsibilities? For instance, you are a scuba diver, which entails risk, and you manage “risk” day in, day out.
With scuba diving, I needed to first learn how to breathe underwater, because it was not natural to do that. So I took classes to learn and understand the hazards before I got into the water. Next, I practiced in a controlled environment before moving to a body of water. It’s similar to what we did with the Natural Gas Working Group. In order to evaluate member natural gas facilities, we need to understand what the hazards are and develop the tools to do our assessments.
Looking back on your career path, are there any milestones or notable achievements that influence how you do your job?
My first mentor, who was a chemical engineer like I am, was pivotal in my career. Because he came from a similar “process” background, he knew how to guide me in the right direction. His success in the business shaped my success.
You were the lead team that reviewed and revised boiler protection standards. And you are an AEGIS subject matter expert on Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power plants. How did all this come about?
Back in 1999, there was a boiler explosion at a plant near where I live, and I watched that plant burn. After they put out the fire, I was walking through the debris and wanted to know more, so it wouldn't happen again. I learned more by joining a National Fire Protection Association code committee and working alongside the best people in the industry, who keep the Boiler and Combustion Systems Hazards code current and relevant. At the time, an IGCC power plant was a relatively new technology; it is a combination of a chemical plant and a power plant. This suited me really well because of my natural gas, chemical and power background. I studied the piping and instrument diagrams; process and flow diagrams; walked through the plant; and knew where everything was going. I invested a lot of time to gain a lot of knowledge.
What are the most important things that every employee in the utility industry should know?
On the technical side, if you work in the utility industry, you need to understand the hazards and how to protect yourself and others. On the personal side, building relationships with people is paramount. In fact, I have a member I’ve worked with for nearly 28 years.
How have assessments connected with natural gas storage, handling and processing evolved during the pandemic? What trends do you see continuing after the pandemic is over?
Well, as you might guess, assessments did go remote. But what really changed were the report templates. We can ask specific questions, conduct the assessment remotely and provide a solid report without seeing the site. When we can visit a site, we have a formula in place for shorter site visits. Today, we do a lot of the work up front. We’ve been able to use technology to obtain information from the member companies and can ask questions and obtain pertinent information prior to a site visit. Everything became more focused and more efficient.
What is the working groups' most important contribution to members and the AEGIS underwriters and staff?
By far, it is focused information. There is so much information out there that we need to drill down to what’s important. We try to gather everything that exists and distill it down to what’s essential.
What are you most proud to be a part of at AEGIS?
The relationships that I have built over the years are what stand out to me. During my 13 years with AEGIS, I have been able to continue to grow relationships with some members I previously worked with and also build new relationships with many other members. I have even had a direct influence on some members' decisions to utilize AEGIS Loss Control. At the end of the day, it all comes down to relationships.
When you look ahead, what opportunities do you see that can benefit members?
We have so much talent and so much knowledge here. Our people bring to the table richly diverse backgrounds and perspectives that come together to deliver the best service to each and every member.
You can learn more about the topics that are studied by the working groups from the webinars posted on the AEGIS website.
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