Message from CHOA’s President Caralyn Bennett

As the incoming President of the Canadian Heavy Oil Association, I am tremendously excited and wholeheartedly privileged to be tasked with painting the picture of our vision for the CHOA in 2019 and beyond.

The task at hand necessitates some reflection.  As times change, and we’ve had a lot of change in the last decade, it’s always worthwhile to take a step back and consider the default context in which we operate and make our decisions.

So I ask: Why does the CHOA exist as an organization?  Simply, we exist to accelerate the careers of our members and to strengthen Canada’s energy sector.

It is also important to remember, that we came to be as a result of a specific need within Canada’s heavy oil industry.  In large part because of the staggering size of our heavy oil resource base and the tremendous amount of variability within it, a need emerged to create forums for sharing knowledge, advancing technology and, ultimately, developing our country’s heavy oil resources safely, responsibly and sustainably, to the benefit of society, both nationally and globally.  Does this sound familiar and, perhaps, relevant?

The CHOA was created to address this need and we have been busy successfully delivering on our mandate for almost 35 years.

So then, What is the CHOA’s role tackling today’s challenges?  While we remain true to our purpose and steadfast in our Connect Share Learn mandate, today we see an important role for our organization, proactively supporting our industry and facilitating its successful evolution. One thing is clear, as an industry, we are not going back to the past, so we better have our eyes up as we move towards the future. Think of that hill on your training run – you can’t be looking at your feet, you need to focus on the crest and commit to the pace.

We are faced with the greatest challenge of Canada’s oil and gas industry in several decades and, to me, that sounds like an incredible opportunity for achievement. One that we can attain if we commit to the mindset that “failure is not an option” and if we commit to working together.  Remember, not so long ago, we did change Canada’s and the world’s energy future with the development of commercial oil sands mining, CHOPS and SAGD technologies – and that’s to name just a few.  It is time for us to take action to re-instill pride in our world class industry.

Our success, I think, will depend on our ability as an industry to attract and empower talent and our capacity to develop and implement both incremental and step-change technologies to meet or preferably exceed the expectations of our global commitments, the investment community and our own home-grown regulators.  We have a noble challenge in front of us as we strive to make the world a better place.  If you are a problem solver, if you are an innovator, if you are a collaborator, you are in the right place at the right time.

The health of our industry will also depend in no small measure on improving the dialogue about our relevance, our importance to society. We need to take more ownership in the conversations about our industry and do our part as individuals and companies to rebalance the conversations.

With this in mind, the CHOA is engaging in two new initiatives in 2019: a developing professionals initiative and an advocacy initiative.

In October, developing professionals and members in general can look forward to a formal workshop, Changing the Discussion: How to Talk About Oil and Gas. You can also look forward to a series of intimate leader-mentee events where developing professionals can pick the brains of a leader in a personable casual end of day setting.

To be clear, our advocacy efforts will not be about policy setting or telling our members what they should think.  Rather, our efforts will focus on sharing our stories, recognizing our points of pride and building our skills for better conversations within and outside of industry.  We can be a part of resetting the message.

New initiatives aside, the CHOA will be working to reinforce our core deliverables, facilitating technology development and knowledge sharing through our technical and our professional development and networking events, and we will be working to modernize the delivery of our content.

You can look forward to a refreshed website and our new blog where we will share event updates, member and sponsor profiles and articles from our Journal. Going forward we will be hosting the Journal from our site, expanding the content to include monthly in situ project and technology highlights and a regular advocacy column. We will also continue to build our social media outreach with the support of our members. Finally, we will be moving our home base, so stay tuned for an exciting announcement on that over the next couple of months.

Last year was a strong year for the CHOA, we turned a corner, and, thanks to our staff, volunteers, Scott Rempel, our past President and the rest of the board, we are well positioned to launch forward, refreshed, in some new directions for 2019. I look forward to experiencing and being a part of the CHOA’s impactful contributions to industry and to seeing you all at our events.

Caralyn Bennett

CHOA President


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