Message from CHOA President- Caralyn Bennett

Now for some good news: summer has arrived, WTI closes above 40 USD/bbl and the Supreme Court of Canada dismisses the most recent appeal of the TMX approval.

2020 has dealt the globe, our country, our industry, and our region any number of surprises and, speaking for myself, I welcome a bit of good news and a bit of much-sought-after stability.

As an organization, the Canadian Heavy Oil Association (CHOA) has been “holding our own”.  We have been tremendously fortunate to on-board six new board members for two-year terms:

  • Malek Eid, Vice President Corporate Strategy and Development at the Mikisew Group of Companies
  • Carrie Fanai, Program Lead, Bitumen Value Chain Optimization, Enterprise Technology at Suncor Energy
  • Brad Gamroth, Treasurer of CHOA and Director of Finance at RGL Reservoir Management
  • Almas Kassam, Director, Strategic Engagement at Cenovus Energy
  • Justine Strawbridge, Director Asset Retirement at Husky Energy
  • Jen Turner, Director of Communications at Project Reconciliation

Check out the profiles we posted on LinkedIn if you want to learn more about each of them and find out why they joined our board and the impact they hope to have.  CHOA’s new Board members will join the following continuing Board members:

  • Caralyn Bennett, President of CHOA and EVP and Chief Strategy Officer at GLJ
  • Louisa DeCarlo, Chief Executive Officer at Canadian Spirit Resources Inc.
  • Kudjo Fiakpui, Senior Advisor, International Relations at Alberta Energy Regulator
  • Gordon Holden, Secretary of CHOA and Chief Operating Officer at Surmont Energy Ltd. and Principal at Energy Strategies & Projects Associates
  • Allan To, Vice-President of CHOA and Senior Advisor-Sustainability at Suncor Energy
  • Heath Williamson,

Board positions represent just one of the ways the CHOA supports our members, providing volunteer leadership opportunities to develop skills and experience, while at the same time supporting Canada’s energy industry, specifically the heavy oil and oil sands sector.

We are now in the process of rolling out a revised organizational structure aimed at enhancing the effective integration of staff, board and volunteer operations to ensure that we continue to create growing value for both our members and sponsors.  While many aspects of our organization will remain the same, you will likely notice that more of our day-to-day operations are being coordinated through committees comprised of volunteers and board members.  To this end, we have established three over-arching committees:

  • Content and Events Committee, led by Carrie Fanai,
  • Operations and Finance Committee, co-led by Louisa DeCarlo and Brad Gamroth, and
  • Revenues Committee, co-led by Almas Kassam and Jen Turner.

As part of its re-organization, the CHOA has gone virtual; we no longer have a physical office. This has proven to be particularly effective in COVID19 times.  Emails and phones remain the same, but our mailing address is now in care of RGL Reservoir Management, one of our long-time core organizational sponsors.  We can’t thank RGL Reservoir Management enough, including Hansine Kostelecky, our past Treasurer, for their steadfast support over the last decade. Our  new Treasurer, Brad Gamroth, didn’t drop out of the sky from nowhere!

We have also reduced our human resources from 2.3 to 1.0 FTE; Jill Sugars, our Operations Manager, remains at the helm supported by approximately 90 volunteers. In fact, you may have noticed our recent advertisement for a Project Coordination Volunteer and another for the CHOA Journal (advertisement).  A sincere thank you to those who applied; you can expect to hear from us imminently.  For others out there, please stay tuned, as we expect to be posting additional positions over the next several months as our needs are more clearly defined.

True to form, the CHOA continues to develop and deliver valuable content for our members through these challenging times – most recently in the form of virtual events, blog posts, feature articles and podcasts including the following:

Our virtual event turnouts have been outstanding, so thank you to everyone for registering, attending and providing feedback.  Please login through our webpage to access any you have missed, as we are now archiving select content behind our member wall.  Also, if your organization is interested in advertising or sponsoring a webinar, event or podcast, please reach out to us for more information.

You will also notice that we have been and will be sharing information on select events from other industry organizations, like COAA, COSIA and the SPE.  By working with other industry organizations, the CHOA hopes to facilitate knowledge sharing and enhanced collaboration to our mutual benefit.  On that note, stayed tuned for the 2020 SPE/CHOA Slugging It Out Conference currently scheduled for September 9th.  We are revisiting the event format and content now and expect to provide an update sometime this summer.

Overall, CHOA is rapidly adapting, so to provide relevant and energizing value to our members and sponsors – through 2020, the balance of this decade, and decades beyond. We greatly look forward to you being with us on this journey!

Finally, an especially huge “thank you” to those who contribute funds or in-kind services to our organization.  The purpose of the CHOA is to strengthen Canada’s energy industry by providing our members and sponsors, and the general public, with technical, educational and social programs that accelerate and expand their knowledge, relationships and influence in our heavy oil and oil sands community.

In order to continue to do this, we are asking for your financial support. Please click here to make a donation today.


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