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TAPS: Supporting Alaska

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About Us

Mike Day / SERVS Operations Manager

When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I’ve worked on TAPS since January 16, 1990. I’m a 4th generation Valdez resident. My family is here, and this is where I want to be. When commercial fishing took me away from home too much for my liking, working for Alyeska's Ship Escort Response Vessel System (SERVS) was a great opportunity.  I continue here because I enjoy the work, I enjoy the people, and I love Prince William Sound.

Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I’ve been fortunate to have many jobs and experiences with Alyeska.  I started at SERVS as a contractor, worked on the Terminal for Price/Ahtna, and started with Alyeska Maintenance in 1996. I have a little IT background, so I got to work on several corporate IT projects with the Pipeline, many external vendors, and on special projects.

I moved around the Terminal a lot, but spent my time with Maintenance and the Marine Team during that time. I did a few years in Supply Chain in the Valdez Warehouse before moving back to Maintenance as the Planning and Scheduling Supervisor. Then I went back to Operations in Oil Movements, then Maintenance again with the Instrumentation & Electrical team. If this sounds like a circle it is—I’m back at SERVS again.

Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? TAPS is like a family, so of course there is a culture. We are all people who care about Alaska, about the importance of what we do for Alaska, and about each other. That translates into a number of things, safety performance, pride in our equipment, and trust in processes, systems, and each other to make it work.  That is what we pass on to others every day.

What do you like best about working for Alyeska? I learn something every day.

Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska's values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? I came from the fishing industry to SERVS in 1990. Alyeska performs training with about 1700 people each year from fishing communities around Southcentral Alaska. It has been fulfilling to see Alyeska’s safety culture take root and probably actually save lives in that industry, and in individuals I have known all my life. There have certainly been other events that have made that improvement, but I like to think that Alyeska and TAPS Contractor’s safety culture and systems, emphasized repeatedly in training, drills, and exercises with such a diverse group of people has been a great example of those values.

What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? I was sitting on Berth 5 on a clear sunny spring day with a few friends.  There wasn’t a breath of wind.  Port Valdez was like a mirror.  The avalanches would come down the mountain three miles away on the north side of the port and you could watch as the snow hit the water and the ripples came all the way across the port to Berth 5.

We are privileged to live and work in a beautiful place.
 

Mark Desinger / Measurements and Scheduling Supervisor

When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I have worked for Alyeska about 31 years in aggregate since 1974.  I wanted to work for big oil because that’s where the money was and Alyeska hired me first.  Now I continue to work at Alyeska because my job is like solving puzzles, and I love solving puzzles.

Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I was hired as a plotter operator at Alyeska’s remote terminal in building 1555 on Fort Wainwright in 1974. I quit to make more money. Six years later I was hired as an operations technician at Pump Station 8. I left that job because the week on days/week off/week of nights schedule was killing me and an opening occurred as a Measurement Specialist. That position was more in sync with my formal training and interests and had a schedule that I liked.

What do you like best about working for Alyeska? Working with highly intelligent and knowledgeable people solving problems.

Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska's values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? As an example of innovation: Certain Pump Station 8 technicians (without the help of engineering) figured out a way to run the topping unit heater using the naptha that was flowing into the resid stream (essentially being wasted).  We implemented that and didn’t burn hundreds of gallons of turbine fuel a day. 

What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? The time spent developing a spreadsheet with Gary Minish to perform the calculations associated with prover calibrations. Not only did I learn a lot about Lotus, but we solved the problem of multiple witnesses coming up with six different volumes during a prover calibration. This was a huge step forward for Alyeska.

Tom Turnipseed / Lead Tech, Shops Team, Pipeline Maintenance

When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I came to work for Alyeska in January 1978, when I was 19 years old. I’d graduated from UAF the year before and worked for a short time for North Pole Refinery when I learned Alyeska had three Topping Units to be commissioned. I still remember how cocky I was when I strutted into the Fairbanks employment office and told them that Alyeska needed me to start and run those Topping Units. Surprisingly, they took me seriously, granted me an interview and within a few weeks my next 34+ years was set.

I loved the work and the people from the first day I arrived. There was a belief that we were all part of something really great, something bigger than all of us, and I still believe that the terms “the pipeline people” or “my pipeline” were born from those first few years, and are reserved for the people who were here back then. Everyone from the President down knew everyone else by name. We didn’t just go to work together, we went home every other week and continued to get together. We were close. It isn’t so much that way anymore, but the good times kept us coming back until coming back had become a way of life, something as implicit as breathing air.

I suppose some of us continued to come back because we realized that who we were and what we’d done in the beginning was going to be forgotten as more and more of us moved on.

Tell us about your Alyeska work history. Every time I wanted to try something new, I just let it be known and it happened.

I started at Pump Station 6, moved up to Pump Station 1, then down to Pump Station 10, spending several years at each location. Then I went into a line-wide technicians project team for a while. I moved on to the Technical Training Team, taught dozens of classes to experienced and new technicians. I was afforded the opportunity to help build the first Oil Spill Academy and the technician development program of the '90s. I went on to play a bit part of developing the manuals that assisted in standardizing many of the pipeline operating procedures. I went back to the field for a few years, returning to Pump Station 6, then Pump Station 5, and was then offered a position in the Maintenance Engineering Department for almost 6 years, where we standardized the pipeline CMMS PM program and pipeline maintenance procedures.

I returned to the field for a short time at Pump Station 1 and was then offered an opportunity to be a part of implementing the maintenance program and materials requirements for Strategic Reconfiguration (Electrification and Automation) facilities. The past few years I’ve been working with the Shops Team.

What do you like best about working for Alyeska? It is and has always been about the people, but it’s also always been about that thing we all called TAPS. TAPS is a living, breathing reality enmeshed in our lives.

Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? The very existence of TAPS is the testament to safety, teamwork and innovation. Who else in the entire world has ever moved more oil, more safely, under such inhospitable circumstances? The fact that TAPS is even here when the initial goal was 8 billion barrels--and now exceeds 16 billion barrel--speaks for itself.

What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? What is the expression? “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  Two million barrels a day was the best of times, while being the worst. Nobody got enough sleep, enough breaks, enough stress relief for years on end. But we had so much fun. It was like being a pit crew at NASCAR. We all knew what was expected of us and stood by waiting for a window to make it happen.

Lisa Booth / SCM Systems & Performance Manager

When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I have been at Alyeska for 12 ½ years.  I applied for an internship back when I was finishing up my MBA in 1999. The internship was supposed to have me work six months in contracts, six months in accounting, and six months in business planning.  It didn’t quite work out as planned, I never did make it to accounting, but have worked in both contracts (Supply Chain Management now), and business planning.

Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I have worked in Contracts, Internet Technology, Human Resources, Business Planning, and now Supply Chain Management.

Describe the TAPS culture.  How is it shared with new employees? The culture is very people-oriented. We take care of each other.  Others are always willing to take the extra time to answer questions, point people in the right direction, help each other, help the community, etc.  I would also add there is a lot of pride in everything we do here.

What do you like best about working for Alyeska? The people! It’s one big family here.

Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska's values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? I would recognize the Building Foundations for Excellence Program, which is how I joined Alyeska. This team was innovative when it was created, and through a lot of teamwork and commitment by a lot of people, it has successfully stayed a viable internship program and has been an avenue for the organization to find many new, up-and-coming employees.

What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? The handful of trips I have made to the field are always amazing.  From the beautiful landscapes, the vast wildlife, and seeing firsthand what the great folks in the field do day in and day out to keep the pipeline operating safely every day makes me very proud to be an Alyeska employee.

Dave Yunker / Pump Station Lead Tech

When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? August 25 will be 36 years with APSC.  I was new to Fairbanks, Alaska, and found out Alyeska had the better town jobs.  After 36 years, this is what I do: pipeline operations technician.

Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I started in the Alyeska mailroom in 1976, then onto light vehicle/equipment accounting, then to Gate 21 as a warehouseman. These jobs were under Alyeska “construction.” Finally in 1977, I moved on to Alyeska “operations” as a pipeline tech at Pump Station 8.  I spent my earlier years there as a technician, then from 1983-2007 I was a flow measurement tech at North Pole Metering Station. Today, I’m a caretaker at Pump Station 7.

Describe the TAPS culture.  How is it shared with new employees? Yes, there is a safety culture.  It consists of training, training, training--with the emphasis on doing the job right the first time with safety included on the front end.  It’s important to continue with the Safe Performance Self Assessment (SPSA) program, stressing how important it is to continually reevaluate for changing conditions.  We need to make sure new employees aren’t afraid to speak up if they see something unsafe.

Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? This past winter, we had several major piping drain-downs and refills for the crude heating enhancements utilizing our legacy mainline pumping unit. This involved very large groups of people working many different tasks.  We would walk down procedures with every person and group to make sure they understood their role in the process. Safe Operating Committees performed with all groups represented to mitigate the risks, and ensure a safe worksite.

What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? I have lots of good memories, lots of stories--a few I’ll always keep to myself!  My favorite, warmest memories probably goes back to the early 1980’s at Pump Station 8.  Everything was brand new and exiting.  This was the Trans Alaska Pipeline, pumping two million barrels a day.  Lots of good people were working together; we were one big family. 

Gwynnedolynne James / Project Cost Engineer – Project Controls

When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? This is my first job with Alyeska.  After working in the Oil, Gas, and Engineering industry for about seven years, I always heard things about competitors or sister/brother companies, but what stood out to me were the consistently positive things I heard about Alyeska from both current and former employees.  I have had immediate family retire from Alyeska and they only have good things to say even to this day.  I thought, “What a great place that must be to work!”  It is only fitting that I carry on the legacy.

Do you think there is a TAPS culture?  If so, what is it?  How do we share and pass on our culture to new employees? There is definitely a TAPS culture. I have noticed it and appreciated it from day one.  I have personally experienced employee commitment, fully empowered employees, a high-integrity workplace, strong trusting relationships, highly effective leadership, effective systems and processes, performance-based compensation and reward programs, customer-focus, effective 360-degree communications, commitment to learning and skill development, emphasis on recruiting and retaining outstanding employees, high degree of adaptability, high accountability standards, and demonstrated support for innovation. These attributes have contributed to a priceless culture!

What do you like best about working for Alyeska? I like the Open Work Environment Policy.  I like that the President, Mr. Tom Barrett, is so accessible and is very in tune with the employee. He makes random special lunch engagements to hear the various voices of the company.  I think this allows for him to get different perspectives from different departments and different experience levels.  The communication that comes from the Executive Office is very informative and open.  It allows for the employees to stay in touch with what is going on with various topics ranging from in-the-office subject matter as well as field concerns.

Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska's values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? I have been with Alyeska for about a year and a half and have sat in countless meetings, and never has a meeting started without a safety moment.  These safety moments are taken very serious and serve as a reminder to take caution and pay attention to everyday safety concerns.

Since I have been with the company, I have felt a strong sense of “team.” My department in particular (project controls) has definitely adopted a “can do” mindset, no matter the situation.  Each member of our team has a role and if they don’t know the answer to a question, they don’t stop until they get you to the right source.  The Alyeska Project Controls team has really made it impossible to fail!

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? In 35 years, I imagine I would be on the “Alyeska Wall of Fame & Success” as one of the valued team members of more memorable and successful projects. I hope to be remembered for assisting with process improvement and implementing positive change; thus, enhancing the safety of delivering projects successfully.  I honestly plan on being retired in 35 years but, if am not, I know it would give me great pleasure to still be part of the Alyeska team that is still safely transporting oil!

Dameon Kowalke / Utility Rover level 3

When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I worked as a contractor for HCC for the last 5 years. After my first week at HCC I told myself I’m going to be in a set of blue coveralls before this is over! I really liked the way the Alyeska employees were treated. I was also impressed by the caliber of person that I saw working for Alyeska. Everyone had a smile on their face 90% of the time. I hope to work here until I retire. This is the BEST working environment I have ever had. I am surrounded by the best people in the trades, provided excellent training, and encouraged to constantly better myself.

Tell us about your prior work history. I was an electrician with Houston Contracting Co. for many years.

Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? There is a TAPS culture for sure. When I think of TAPS, the first thing that comes to mind is professionals. We strive to be the best at what we do, whether working safely, doing our trade, or working with each other and with sub contractors. I am proud to be part of an organization that has a 35 year legacy of professionalism and pride.

What do you like best about working for Alyeska? I love the fact that I am expected to ask questions and, when I do, I am encouraged to ask more. I have never worked in a place with so many SME’s (subject matter experts). Every time I turn around, I am learning something new and no one thinks badly of me for not knowing. Where else in the work force can you find an environment that encourages team work and cooperation and actually means it? To sum it up: when ALYESKA says something they mean it!

Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? I am amazed almost daily by the level of innovation and cooperation that takes place at Pump Station 9. I think that the best example was the Tank 190 incident. I was here as a contractor and I still can’t believe how well everyone came together to make sure that we had a safe place to work and that we could get the station back up and running. From the O&M down there is a great team here.

What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? Air boat training class on the Tanana River!

Jacques Thibeault / Sr. Operations Coordinator, VMT Utilities

When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? My wife and I moved to Valdez two years ago when she started a job with Alyeska as a SERVS response coordinator. I was sailing as a First Engineer in the US Merchant Marine at the time. After hearing about the opportunities and the work experiences with Alyeska from my wife and our friends, I knew I wanted to become part of the team. I applied for a position as a Senior Operations Coordinator with the VMT Utilities department during the summer of 2011 and began working in that position in August, 2011.

What do you like best about working for Alyeska? The employees, in the field and in the office.  Everyone I have interacted with has been very helpful and cooperative. As a new employee I have found this very inviting.

Describe the TAPS culture.  How is it shared with new employees? From my experience so far, I have definitely noticed a TAPS culture. This culture strongly promotes a safe and efficient work environment for all employees to ensure success.

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 all values I have experienced with Alyeska. I have seen these attributes in every aspect in the field with operators as a team working amongst one another to reach a common goal.

Tamara Cohen / Contracting Officer

When did you decide to start working for Alyeska and why have you stayed? I have worked 6 ½ years working for Alyeska. I continue working here for lots of reasons.  I love my job and the people I work with.  I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given throughout my Alyeska career.

Tell us about your Alyeska work history. Since joining Alyeska my positions have included begin an intern for Business Planning, Accounting, and HR; then working as a Business Analyst, Acting Chief of Staff, Sector Coordinator and Contracting Officer.

Describe the TAPS culture.  How is it shared with new employees? Our strong safety culture becomes known and practiced from day one on TAPS.  As I’ve become more integrated into the company over the years, I continue to experience a TAPS culture full of so many opportunities that make a difference – such as volunteering in the community at Bean’s Café, or raising money for a great cause like the United Way campaign, or perpetuating our safety culture through our employee safety committees. We are able to balance life outside of work by using personal days, and maintain a healthy lifestyle with our health reimbursement program.  Making a difference in others’ and our own lives is just one way we share and pass on our culture.

What do you like best about working for Alyeska? It’s people.  I continually have awesome experiences working for and with amazing individuals who are dedicated to the viability of TAPS.

Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? In 2009, I helped coordinate a Leadership Summit to discuss the company’s future.  Leaders of all levels, industry experts, and Owner company representatives were in attendance.  All of the teamwork and innovation that happened before, during, and after this event is truly a great example of Alyeska’s values.

What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? My favorite memories from my time on TAPS are when I’m in the field seeing our mission carried out. It is remarkable.

Rick Larson / Operations and Maintenance Supervisor

When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I've been with Alyeska for 21 years, starting as a mechanic. I am currently an O&M supervisor. I came to Alyeska because of the reputation of the company, the size and the opportunity for advancement. What kept me here for 21 years are those same things as well as the people I’ve met (and worked with) along the way.

Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I’ve been an operator, mechanic, PMT supervisor and currently hold the position of O&M Supervisor which I have been fortunate to hold for the past 11 years. The majority of my current position was spent at Pump Station 3.

Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? The TAPS culture is about doing the right thing, making the right decisions, and owning those decisions--always keeping the door open, and being willing to listen.

What do you like best about working for Alyeska? The close family relationship that each employee holds for each other--knowing that each person is there watching out for their other team members--and the safety program.

Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? During the spill that occurred on January 9, 2011, all of these values were demonstrated by all the TAPS employees. Everyone stepped up to the plate. Shutting down the station safely demonstrated teamwork, innovation and safety. Identifying what the problem was took teamwork between the pump station personnel, Anchorage, and Fairbanks. Once the problem was identified, a plan was formulated and the team got the job done without any incidents – thanks to innovation, teamwork and safety.

What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? The time spent at Pump Station 4; fishing for lake trout at Galbraith Lake; hiking up to Castle Rock; time on the North Slope from Pump Station 4 to Pump Station 1; the wildlife and landscape I have been fortunate to see (and photograph); the people with whom I have worked; the many friendships I have forged--these are all part of my favorite Alyeska memories.

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