Greg Coombs / Project Engineer
Describe the work you do for Alyeska: I am a project engineer working in Engineering Design Services. My accountabilities include taking a project from a basic idea to a completed operating facility. The basic steps of this process include defining the project, selecting the best options, and getting a design package completed for the implementation of the project.
Describe your role in this summer’s first maintenance shutdown: I was the project engineer for the two projects worked on at Pump Station 3 during the shutdown. The work included the removal of the piping tees connected to the legacy pumps, and the installation of a new 48‑inch ball valve to replace the old valve in the manifold building. My primary role was to be onsite to deal with any engineering issues that may have come up during the shutdown. I liken my role to that of the Maytag repairman; luckily no major problems came up during the shutdown. I credit that to the work done by the Project Manager, Tom Coghill, and the Construction Manager, Mike Hale, as well the work done by the construction crew from CASI, and their site superintendents, Erik Gabrielson and John Thilges. The planning and preparation to get ready for this shutdown really paid off.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work? I enjoy the time I spend with my wife, Yolanda, my daughter, Danielle, and my son, Jason and his family. I also enjoy swimming, riding my bike, running, reading “Jack Reacher” novels, figuring out Sudoku puzzles, and playing with our cats, Tiger and Smokey.
Bryan Brown / Human Resources Information Systems Manager
What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Outside of work, I enjoy time spent with my family – sometimes that’s nothing more than dinner and a movie, or maybe just a good movie at home. As a family, we also enjoy camping and fishing - I think the kids prefer the “catching” trips more than just the “fishing” trips.
In addition to family activities, I spend as much time hunting and fishing as I can manage. And, I try to attend as many Alaska Aces’ games as possible.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? This is a much harder question to answer, but I think it gets back to the people and what Alyeska really means to the state of Alaska.
For the “people angle” - I have a long history with Alyeska. I was here twice before as a contractor and my wife worked for Alyeska for over 10 years and it just never got out of my system. Many of the people I met my first time here more than 10 years ago are still my friends today. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some really great people.
And as for the “state angle” – Alaska is my home and always has been. I’ve seen our state go through many changes and challenges and (as many of us) can see more challenges on the horizon. Alyeska Pipeline Service Company is truly at the heart of our oil industry and has a significant impact to the state’s overall economy. It means a lot to me to be working for Alyeska, and, in my own way, giving something back to the state I call home.
What is your favorite part of the pipeline, and why? My favorite part of the pipeline is definitely the haul road. Being technical in nature, you would think I might go for some of the high-tech gadgets we use in monitoring, measuring and maintaining the pipeline, but not in this case.
I tend to gravitate towards the extreme and unusual, and the haul road definitely fits that bill. As a contractor, I was lucky enough to get to drive the entire line for work…and I loved it. It was cold with low visibility, and at one point we had to spend an extra night at a pump station because it was “too cold” to drive…a great adventure that I got paid to go on.
I could go into detail on how vital the haul road is, etc., etc., but I thought I would just keep it to the exciting and “fun” reason I like it. I think many who know me would say I should have been a truck driver anyway.
Sean Wisner / Fire Chief / Health & Safety Supervisor
Describe the work you do for Alyeska? I currently hold the position of Fire Chief / Health & Safety Supervisor for Alyeska Fire and Rescue at the Valdez Marine Terminal.
What do you like best about your job? The most rewarding aspect of my job is the camaraderie and “esprit de corps” of being involved in the fire service. I also enjoy the opportunities for developing, implementing, and instructing training programs for the fire brigade and rope rescue team at the Terminal. I am very proud of the work that I do as Fire Chief, especially when the opportunity arises to help someone in need or save a life in the line of duty.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Outside of work, I enjoy the volunteer work that I do for the Valdez Search and Rescue Team and the Alaska Avalanche Information Center. I also have several hobbies such as backcountry skiing, snowmachining, kiteboarding and surfing, to name a few, although most of my free time is dedicated to sharing my love of the outdoors with my 6-year old son and 3-year old daughter.
Sam Swatzell / SERVS Operations Supervisor
Describe the work you do for Alyeska? As Interim Operations Supervisor for the Ship Escort Response Vessel System (SERVS), our mission is to transport oil safely from the Valdez Marine Terminal to 17 miles past Hinchinbrook in Prince William Sound. It’s an extension of the pipeline to me. I supervise eight response coordinators, which are responsible for prevention and the open water response arena. Currently, if there was an event I would be slotted in the group supervisor role. I am taking courses in order to participate in the Incident Management Team (IMT).
What do you like most about working for Alyeska? I like working at SERVS because of the marine environment. Before I worked for Alyeska, I was a mariner for many years. I was raised in Homer, Alaska and commercial fished for almost 20 years. I mainly fished Cook Inlet salmon, and halibut and crab in the Bering Sea. If you ever get the chance to eat Blue King Crab from the Bering Sea take it. It is excellent! I also enjoy working with all the people in Alyeska, contractors and the folks on the vessels.
Looking back at 2009, what changes did you make regarding safety? The Operations team made a commitment to get out in the field more. We made a pledge to listen to any concerns the employees may have about safety, ask how the work is going and take the opportunity to conduct a Loss Prevention Observation (LPO).
What do you enjoy doing outside of work? During the winter I enjoy downhill skiing and in the summer, I ride my motorcycle with my wife Donnely. I care about Alaska and its environment. My personal eco-system is the water and the coastline of Alaska – where I work and live.
Larry Shier / Pipeline Civil Maintenance Coordinator
Describe the work you do for Alyeska: I currently work at the Yukon Response Base as a Pipeline Civil Maintenance Coordinator. I’m based here with three other employees who support our baseline maintenance work, and an equipment mechanic. Part of our responsibilities includes supporting the oil spill response efforts and assisting with the maintenance of the pipeline Right-of-Way. Right-of-Way maintenance entails monitoring the pipeline for any negative impact by the forces of nature and ensuring that critical components can be accessed for emergency response and preventive maintenance.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work? I like all types of boats and being on the water. My avocation is a little limited in interior Alaska with only four months of open water, but I’m able to make up for it because I conduct boat operations and oil spill response training and drills on the Yukon River as part of my job.
What do you envision as the most challenging aspects of operating TAPS in the next three to five years? The most challenging aspect will be working through and implementing solutions to address the challenges of low and declining pipeline throughput. The next most challenging thing to address is attracting and retaining new employees.
What do you enjoy most about working for Alyeska? I really appreciate that opportunities for taking on challenges and career advancement still exist at Alyeska if you choose to channel your energies in that direction. This is as true today as it was when I came to work for the Marine Department in June 1977. All TAPS employees are continually solicited to provide input and allowed to be involved in initiatives that make TAPS a viable concern well into the future.
Holly Schoenborn / Pipeline Advisor
Describe your work history with Alyeska: I started work as a Pipeline technician on July 14, 1980. I was one of approximately 10 female technicians in a workforce of over 400 technicians. It was, to say the least, intimidating at times. Most of my career has been spent in pipeline operations: 9 years as a technician, 8 years as a Pump Station Supervisor, and presently 9 years as Pipeline Advisor. Between 1997-2002., I moved into the Employee Concerns Program. This gave me and in-depth view of all the departments in the company and how they functioned (or should function).
Describe the work you currently do for Alyeska: Right now, I work for Senior Pipeline Director John Baldridge as a Pipeline Advisor. Everyone wants to know what an advisor does, but I’m afraid if people knew, they would want my job! Seriously, I have one of the best jobs in the company acting as a consultant to the Pipeline Director on an ever-changing variety of topics. I also advise and support the O&M Supervisors and the Area Managers when asked. I usually work the “people related issues” ranging from policies to hiring and other duties as assigned. The “duties as assigned” makes the job interesting, challenging and always changing. The trick is to give good advice by drawing on the experiences, skill sets, and networks I have established over the years.
Can you describe in 1-2 sentences a particularly memorable incident that occurred during your years with Alyeska? Touring the pipeline and terminal with the new BFEP hires -- nicknamed the “techlings” because they are training to become technicians -- has been a great experience. I enjoy their enthusiasm, eagerness to learn, and their questions, all of which ultimately cause me to learn more about my work environment and to appreciate it.
What do you enjoy doing outside work? This time of year I want to plant something! I love to garden, read, do home improvement projects and spend time at my cabin.
What do you enjoy most about working for Alyeska? It is the people. In the past 30 years I have met some incredible characters and have made some lasting friendships.