Alaskan grit, determination and pride

About Us

Erin McGowan / Intern, Supply Chain Management

"My dad helped build the pipeline in the ‘70s and I am proud to say that I was able to be part of carrying on that work. I took this internship very seriously because I know that the livelihood of our state depends on the work Alyeska does every day."

What were your expectations for this internship when you first started? When they said the interns would be doing summer-long projects, I assumed that meant I would be focused on one big task for the duration of the summer.  I was really surprised by the wide variety of tasks I was able to assist with and what a broad view of the Fairbanks operations I was able to see. I was able to work with several groups within Supply Chain Management in Fairbanks, and I even got to see a pump station and go out on the line. It was a great way to see the work that goes on in Fairbanks and get a system view of Alyeska’s operations.

What was the most interesting or educational project you worked on and why? I really enjoyed the Pump Station 4 legacy project I worked on.  I researched, inventoried, and repackaged four pallet boxes of legacy parts from Pump Station 4. The inventory list I made will be used to determine what parts can be surplused. It was interesting because I got to see a lot of cool parts that have made up the pipeline. It was like getting a mini operations and maintenance history lesson.

Who is someone who really mentored you, and how did they do that? Everyone in Fairbanks has been so friendly and really taken the time to tell me about what they do and what makes Alyeska and the Fairbanks office a great place to work. Because most of my time was spent doing inventory control activities, I’d have to say that Sam Craft, Inventory Controller, and Cheryl Graan,  Inventory Logistics Supervisor, spent the most time with me making sure I knew how to do the job right the first time. As Sam said, “we plan our work, and then work our plan”, that way we know we’ve done the job right.

Tell us about one of your favorite experiences you had during the internship. I liked that I had an opportunity to see a pump station and go out on the line to collect data with one of the engineers. It was really fun to see what goes on outside the office and gave me a good idea of what positions my role in materials supports.

Describe what you’ve learned about the TAPS culture. I think I most identify with “take a system view” because I have a background in operations and I know how decisions can affect people down the line. When I went back to school to get a bachelor’s degree in business management I felt like I would be more connected with the total operation rather than just one aspect of it to do my own job. I think taking a system view is very important and it’s good to be aware of how people’s jobs interact and how you can make a positive impact on someone else’s job so that everyone is working as one across the state.

Now that you’ve spent many weeks working on TAPS, what’s your impression of Alyeska, TAPS, or its people? This internship was an amazing opportunity to work for one of the most important companies in the state. With over 90 percent of the state’s income coming from the oil in the pipeline, and declining throughput threatening that income and the integrity of the pipeline, Alyeska has clear challenges ahead to maintain the pipeline and increase throughput. However, Alyeska has risen to meet that challenge and is passing on over 36 years of knowledge and experience to the next generation of Alaskans to continue this legacy through their internship program. My dad helped build the pipeline in the ‘70s and I am proud to say that I was able to be part of carrying on that work. I took this internship very seriously because I know that the livelihood of our state depends on the work Alyeska does every day.  Alyeska is a great company because every employee, whether they are an accountant in Anchorage, a warehouseman in Fairbanks, or a pump station technician on the slope, knows that they contribute to making Alaska a great place to live and work. I am very grateful for this opportunity and I really hope to be back next year!  Thank you!

Ryan Newcomer / Project Quality Assurance Specialist

As part of the Projects Team, I get to see a lot of field action involving the variety of projects across Alyeska. I’ve traveled many areas of the pipeline and I would have to say that I’m continually impressed by the safety culture everywhere, but I have to commend the everyday efforts at Pump Station 1. The culture at this busy site has taken on an everyday habit of performing work in a fashion that ensures the safety of its people and environment.

Every morning starts with a safety meeting that reviews incidents from the Loss Prevention System (LPS), followed by a safety topic. The safety topic allows afterwards for people to take the microphone and speak up of incidents good or bad. It’s evident the high level of experience that is crowded into the dining hall every morning as people share their stories and in a sense provide a lessons learned to everyone. The stories and examples I’ve heard at these meetings can be very moving and are as a constant reminder that there are dangers we’re exposed to everywhere. Furthermore, individuals are commemorated for their quality safety efforts that were noticed as well as anonymous potential safety issues caught by attentive eyes. These morning meetings deliver a steady reminder that the work performed at Alyeska requires a reinforced safety culture, practiced by everyone, to ensure we all go home safely.

Jeri West / CASI Senior Aide, Corp. Comm. & Environment

Bowling for Kids:  Strike! Strike! Strike!  by Jeri West, CASI Senior Aide, Corporate Communications & Environment (in middle of photo).

I recently dusted off my bowling shoes and participated in the Bowl for Kids’ Sake, Big Brothers Big Sister of Alaska signature fundraiser event. Big Brother Big Sister helps to provide mentors to children who need and want a caring role model.

My strike team was made up of Melanie Wagg, Shelly Martin and Jake West (my husband). To see the energy in the bowling alley was amazing - people smiling, cheering, clapping and high-fiving. People came up to our team and thanked us for being a part of the event.

Knowing the money our team raised will help provide mentoring to children made it well worth the time. I believe helping our children will lead to a stronger foundation for our community.

I encourage people to get out in your community and make a difference. Have you ever found yourself saying, I’ve always wanted to volunteer, but I don’t have the time? Or maybe you are already volunteering and don’t realize it. Pick something you are passionate about. For example, I’m passionate about helping our children have a better future, so I pick organizations that help children.

Melanie Wagg, Executive Assistant, had this to say: “It gave me such joy and gratification to know that I was helping contribute to such a valuable cause. I am so thankful that through my company, I am able to participate in this event.”

Melanie Wagg is pictured in the right of the photo, and Alyeska's Shelly Martin, Management Systems Specialist, is to the left.

Mark Howdeshell / Maintenance Strategy & Support Supervisor

Mark Howdeshell is the Maintenance Strategy and Support Supervisor assigned to the Pipeline Operations Department in Fairbanks. Howdeshell leads a diverse group of employees who cover a myriad of tasks including planning, scheduling, coordinating, documenting, and reporting the maintenance that takes place on the pipeline from Pump Station 1 to the front gates of the Valdez Marine Terminal. He is also involved with several other specialized tasks such as the Planning/Scheduling and the Vendor Notification Action Teams and the C181 PassPort Replacement Project.

Howdeshell came to Alyeska after a 21-year career in the Army that culminated in 2006 at Fort Wainwright. He spent his entire career in aviation maintenance finishing up as a Chief Warrant Officer 3 Aviation Maintenance Technician. His assignments included stops in Germany, South Korea, Saudi Arabia (Desert Storm), Kuwait (Operation Iraqi Freedom), Kansas, Alabama, North Carolina, and many other destinations. After retirement, Howdeshell led a team of logistician contractors on Fort Wainwright.

When asked what he likes best about working for Alyeska, Howdeshell said, “Much like some of my best units in the Army, Alyeska is a family. I was welcomed with open arms and count it a blessing that I work with some of the most conscientious people who want nothing more than to do the work the right way the first time. We have a bunch of passionate people working this line!”

Mark and his team strive to live up to the company’s cultural attributes. By definition, their role in supporting maintenance on the pipeline lends itself to continually look at everything at a system level. Recognizing how an action at one location may or may not affect other locations is key in the planning process. Additionally, his team is striving to explore avenues in which to continually improve in their processes and the processes within the company.

Mark and his wife Jo moved to Alaska in 1999 with their two children. His son is currently studying aeronautical engineering at Daniel Webster University in New Hampshire and his daughter is a junior at West Valley High School. Howdeshell is also the Pastor of First Baptist Church in Fairbanks.

Ada Chapman / SR. Business Analyst

The Trans Alaska Pipeline System is often referred to as Alaska’s economic backbone. Behind this iconic infrastructure are employees with stories of why for TAPS. Meet Alyeska employee Ada Chapman, a lifelong Alaskan who began her career on TAPS more than 13 years ago.

Originally from the small village of Tanacross, Chapman began her career hoping to gain more experience in the oil industry. It is because of Alyeska Pipeline’s reputation in safety, excellence and teamwork that she continues to work here, she said.

Chapman was first hired as an accounting associate through the Building Foundations for Excellence Program, a program that provides Alaska Natives with an alternative pathway to enter the TAPS workforce. Today, Chapman is a Senior Business Analyst in the Business & Strategic Planning Team.

“I started as a BFEP and graduated from the program to an Accounting Specialist,” Chapman said. “In 2002, I was relocated to Anchorage, as an accountant, which included a lot of time implementing the Oracle Project Accounting System.”

To Chapman, the most challenging part of her job was the successful implementation of Oracle, due to its complexity and long hours. The most gratifying part of her job: being part of the TAPS workforce.

“Working alongside TAPS employees has been so rewarding,” Chapman said. “I have numerous fond memories on TAPS.”

While working at Alyeska, Chapman has raised her four children and finished her MBA. Outside of work, Chapman volunteers her time on the Finance and Investment Committee for the Doyon Foundation, and the Leadership Committee for the Alaska Native Professional Association. This year, Chapman co-chairs Alyeska’s Corporate Area Safety Team, which promotes “safety and health awareness for all Anchorage-based workers and management.”

For Chapman, working on TAPS means she gets to be a part of the world’s best operated and maintained pipeline.

Chuck Cain / Safety Industrial Hygiene Coordinator

When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I have worked for Alyeska for 16 years in several different roles. I continue working here because this is the best working environment I have ever worked in.

Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I have experienced several different job titles on TAPS but they have always been in the Safety/Industrial Health Department. Changes were made along the way to better suit my career goals.

Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? TAPS has a definite culture. To me it is more of a feeling than something I can easily describe. As a whole, I think TAPS employees are a rare breed. We are willing to work away from home, for long hours and often in extreme conditions. There is a sense we are part of something bigger than ourselves. The unique qualities of each individual, the camaraderie, and the shared common goals by management and workers help contribute to this culture. How we can best share this culture and pass it on is to provide a good example to others everyday.

What do you like best about working for Alyeska? I am a safety nerd so my answer is the safety culture. Every part of our business is centered around safety. A specialty contractor recently pulled me aside and shared some interesting information. He indicated he works all around the nation and abroad and often hears other companies talk about safety, “But you guys really mean it.”  That says it all.

Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? An example I would offer is the spill at Pump Station 1 in January of 2011. So many people worked very hard and had one goal in mind: getting TAPS safely running again. While working the spill, I witnessed high-risk work on a daily basis, and not a single injury occurred. I feel that is the TAPS safety culture in action.

What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? It would be hard to pick one favorite memory. I have to say my favorite memories involve the many people I have met on TAPS. I think everyone would agree that many colorful individuals have passed this way.

Sue Wood / SERVS Compliance Coordinator

When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? Following an 11-year mortgage lending career in Anchorage, I moved with my family to Valdez and began taking full-time classes at Prince William Sound Community College. Two years later, I was eager to return to work and had heard that Chugach Alaska was hiring for an administrative position at the Valdez Marine Terminal. I submitted my resume at 4 o’clock on a Friday afternoon, and was called with a job offer at 7:30 a.m. the following Monday. I took that as a good sign, which it was, because I ended up filling two contractor positions over the next two years and was hired by Alyeska in 1996. Alyeska has provided me with a wide range of work experiences and the privilege to work with a lot of smart, fun, and hard-working people.   

Tell us about your Alyeska work history. There have been too many title changes to list them individually. I’ve held various positions in Maintenance, Human Resources, and at SERVS (the Ship Escort/Response Vessel System). I like learning new things and have a hard time saying no when a need arises.  

Describe the TAPS culture.  How is it shared with new employees? Alyeska has had its share of growing pains, but the company has worked hard to establish a culture of open communications and good standards of conduct. It is important that we all embrace these principles and be good role models for our newer employees and contractors.

What do you like best about working for Alyeska? I like feeling appreciated and having a good rapport with my coworkers and supervisors. Also, the opportunities to develop my skills by performing temporary assignments and cross-training keep the work interesting.

Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? The SERVS team constantly demonstrates these values during daily operations and shares them with outsiders throughout the year during drills, exercises and fishing vessel training. 

What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? I have participated in several teambuilding events over the years. And each one, while being lots of fun, has provided a unique opportunity to better understand my coworkers likes and dislikes, our different communication styles, and the essence of the team’s dynamics. The fact that Alyeska supports these types of activities is another great reason to work here.     

Dan Roberts / Technical Studies Advisor

When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I started working on TAPS in 2000. I’m pretty simple as to my reasons for staying: I still look forward to coming to work in the mornings.

Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I hired into the Fairbanks area as Maintenance Engineering Supervisor. During the 2002 company reorganization I was promoted to Engineering Manager. Since then, I served in several more management positions and in January of 2012, started a special assignment as an engineer on the Technical Studies Team. I’m now working on the future design changes needed for TAPS to operate in low flow conditions anticipated in the future.

Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? Working on TAPS is more like being part of a family than a job. That has up sides and down sides. As far as how it is shared with new employees, it is similar. There’s no formal “cultural adjustment.” You just live it. Probably the first, most obvious aspect is how we focus on safety in everything that we do.

What do you like best about working for Alyeska? Hmmm. I’d have to say opportunities to do different things. I’ve had several different positions since I’ve been here that have required me to travel across the entire system, from Pump Station 1 to the Valdez Marine Terminal. Plus I’ve lived in both Fairbanks and now Anchorage. If variety is the spice of life, then this has been like Cajun seasoning.

Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? I wasn’t here very long when we had to respond to the hole being shot in the pipeline at Milepost 400. The experience of working on the incident response was amazing. In incident response, people from all over the company step into roles that are different than their every day jobs and do so under stressful conditions. In those conditions you really see how the ingrained cultural focus on safety and teamwork come into their own. In that situation I was working directly with the engineering staff that came up with the repair plan. That required innovation and flexible thinking as the situation developed and information streamed in from the field. It was really amazing how much got done in a short amount of time.

What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? I’d have to say it was my first trip to the Valdez Marine Terminal. Shortly after starting work here, Earnest Maxwell (my boss at the time) and I flew down to the Terminal and drove back to Fairbanks the next day, with stops at Pump Station 12 and Pump Station 9. I’m from the southeastern United States, and moved to Alaska from Houston, so the scenery and wildlife was all new to me. On that one trip to the Terminal, we flew in on one of those rare but beautiful sunny days in Valdez, with the snow-covered mountains in all their splendor. We saw bears and eagles along Dayville Road, I witnessed my first northern lights show as we crossed Isabel Pass, and we had to stop for a moose in the road near Pump Station 9 in a blinding snow. That was my welcome-to-Alaska tour.

William F Smith / Marine Single Point Of Contact (SPOC)

When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I started working on the Terminal in October 1977 as a contractor oil spill mechanic. I worked on all the oil spill boats. Back them we were using twin outboards 85 Merc. I went to work for Alyeska when they took over the oil ppill operation in November 1981.

Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I’ve worked in Oil Spill, Marine, Ballast Water Treatment, Maintenance, as one of the oil spill supervisors in 1989 on the Exxon Valdez Spill, and with Oil Movements and Storage. I always come back to the marine department, though. I like working with the ships, the Chief Mate and captains of the tankers to move the oil to the Lower 48.

Describe the TAPS culture.  How is it shared with new employees? In the Marine Department, there is always a marine tech teaching the employees that there is more than one way to load a ship. There are new things to try, but always load the ship with pride and be safe. It’s important to teach the new folks so they can go home to their family in one piece safe and sound, and also with the knowledge that they did a great job. It’s a team effect to get to job done.

What do you like best about working for Alyeska? I like the week-on week-off schedule, and I have pride in working with the ships to move oil safely. I also have time to work with the Alaska Native Health Board, and I can help with Alaska Federation of Natives. As a Veteran, I get to work on issues that help all Veterans. 

Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? 1989: we live here and we worked as a team to clean up one of the biggest messes. Every time we have a project to do, we get it done. When faced with a problem, we work together to find a safe way to solve it. I have helped as a SPOC on a few projects, like when we painted the berth back in 1993, and almost every job on the berths has been fun.

What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? Working in the oil spill department keeps Prince William Sound safe. This is our home and playground. I enjoyed working in the Marine Department with Capt. Tim Plummer. I also loved working on the water, running and fixing the oil spill boat anchor checks, and all the good folks that have helped me become a better person. After 30 years of working with Alyeska Pipeline, folks ask me when I’m going to retire. I tell them when it is no longer fun to work here.

Lori Howard / Pump Stations 5/7 Operations & Maintenance Supervisor

When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I’ve been working for Alyeska for 31 years. I started as an Operations Technician in 1981. Alyeska has always been an interesting and challenging place to work. I enjoy working with the equipment and get satisfaction from the important task of helping transport North Slope crude oil.

Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I was a technician at Pump Stations 9, 8, 6, and on the Pipeline Maintenance Team. I’ve been a Supervisor at Pump Stations 7 and 9 (the Glennallen Response Base), and at Pump Station 5/7. I loved operating the Topping Units when they were in service and I’ve enjoyed the variety of equipment and locations I’ve learned about. The teamwork and variety of technical expertise of TAPS personnel have made the job extremely rewarding.

Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with employees? TAPS has a distinctive culture of very different individuals being willing to use their talents to keep the oil moving safely. Everyone stays conscious of the safety of each worker, the public and the environment. We are all willing to work together because the job is an important one. Getting many talented people with a variety of points of view to work well together is challenging and the TAPS culture lets it happen.

What do you like best about working for Alyeska? There are challenges every day, the people are terrific, there is a feeling of accomplishment when plans work out, and I love working the field schedule.

Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? Recently, we had a major success in removing a cleaning pig from piping. More than a year ago, a group of project managers, engineers, pipe-fitters, and pump station personnel started discussing options which included the bypass pipe approach. This was a technique new to TAPS. Getting the job planned and implemented successfully and safely required an enormous amount of teamwork and dedication, innovative ways of solving problems, and a continuous focus on safety.

What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? The bittersweet time when the very tight-knit crew of Pump Station 8 had to pull together to “Ramp Down” the facility we had worked so hard to make efficient. This truly showed the dedication and adaptability of the TAPS team.

During construction of the pipeline I worked a contractor position as the Innkeeper at Happy Valley Camp, where I assigned rooms and kept track of housing needs. It is amazing that I still run into people who were also there at the time. Many people have dedicated most of their working lives to making Alyeska Pipeline a successful endeavor.

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