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.
Nelson Carpluk / BFEP Business Analyst
How long have you worked on TAPS? I did a summer internship in 2010 and continued as an Intern through the remainder of that year up in Fairbanks. Including the internship, I have been with Alyeska about 2 years.
Why did you decide to start working for Alyeska? Once I completed graduate school I was able to start full-time as a Business Analyst for the CFO division through the Building Foundations for Excellence Program. I see this as a great job within an organization that gives you room to grow. I greatly value my short time spent in Fairbanks, getting to know many of the employees up there and getting a small grasp on just how much meaningful and challenging work is done there and along the line. My work group here in Anchorage has been great, and nothing but supportive, and I owe a great deal to them for aiding me in the learning process.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? I would say the people I work with and the great senses of humor I have encountered. I also think our company is thought of very highly in this state and our reputation is due to those who work here. When you value both the work you do and the people doing it, it makes for good company.
Do you think there is a TAPS culture? If so, what is it? Do the right work, with the right people, for the desired results, safely. This sums it up. It is evident people here take pride in their jobs and in what they accomplish along the way. Support from fellow employees often extends to not just the job or work, but to concern for family, friends, and community.
Alyeska values safety, teamwork, and innovation. Do you see these values at work around you? Yes, there are many talented people tackling new issues with innovative thinking and attention to safety. The nature of maintaining the pipeline in our challenging environment presents new technical issues each year that require the innovative teamwork and ideas that are common in this workforce. Employees are continuously looking for solutions to safety, process, or technical issues.
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? Hopefully retired, but remaining active and busy. It’s hard to imagine that far out, but I would think I would still be in Alaska, ideally with some strong grandkids to pass on appreciation for this great place we live in.
Jenna Compehos / Valdez Compliance & Documentation Specialist
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I have been employed on TAPS since March 2007 as a contractor and became an Alyeska employee in August 2010. I continue to work for Alyeska not only because I love my job and admire my coworkers, but also because I have vested interests in the community of Valdez and its partnership with Alyeska.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history? My first position was with the Fire/Safety Team as an Administrative Assistant. Later I became a Minor Modifications Specialist with the Compliance and Documentation Team and presently I’m supporting the Utilities Team as a Compliance and Documentation Specialist. I learn new things every day and I’m eager to continue to learn all aspects of the business as I continue my career with Alyeska.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? There are many things that make up the TAPS culture, most importantly our ethics and Code of Conduct, both of which we hold in the highest regard. Employees of Alyeska are accountable for their professionalism, understand regulatory compliance, all while producing quality work in a safe manner. I think it is very important to understand that the people of Alyeska are the “TAPS Culture” and in order for new employees to learn it, they need to identify the importance and how it benefits them as well.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? Alyeska invests in their employees by providing education and opportunity, and promotes success and safety in our everyday routine. But the best-kept secret is the people. I cherish the relationships I’ve built within the company and look forward to the future with Alyeska.
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 three things that the Compliance and Documentation Team strive for daily. Safety is all encompassing, in the procedures I work with, the personal protection equipment I wear in the field, and the Safe Performance Self Assessments I perform not only in the workplace but in my personal life as well. I think without the safety aspect, innovation and teamwork can’t be fully established.
Don Duke / Metering Technician, North Pole Metering Station
When did you start working for TAPS and why have you stayed? This is my 36th year with Alyeska. I came to Alaska as a military dependant and graduated from high school at Eielson Air Force Base in 1976. After seasonal work as a track laborer with the Alaska Railroad in summer of 1976, Alyeska offered me a job. Alyeska helped pay for my college education and my job has presented me with many opportunities. It has enabled me to raise and provide for my family. I still enjoy and am challenged by what I do.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. My first jobs at Alyeska were mail handler at Fort Wainwright, warehouseman at Fairbanks Airport Gate 21, warehouseman at Pump Station 8, and for many years I was an operations technician at Pump Station 8.
Describe the TAPS culture. “Safety first.” We are constantly re-evaluating our work with safety at the core of everything we do. At times this can seem very time consuming. But what we must remember is that “Safety First” is for our own benefit.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? Everyone’s job at Alyeska is what he or she makes of it. There is always something new to learn. I have grown up and matured around Alyeska but then Alyeska has also grown up and matured around me. As employees and the pipeline age together, we face new challenges in this era that are very different from years past. Low throughput and cold crude temperatures continue to challenge us to think outside the box, and keep our jobs interesting.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? Every time we complete a job without incident, we are ready to move on to the next task at hand. What we need to remember and reflect on is that the task completed was not completed without incident by happen chance. Job success is due to careful planning, implementation, completion, and experience — with an emphasis on safety.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? I have many. One of my favorite was representing Alyeska in Washington D.C. at The Smithsonian Institute’s opening of their exhibit and tribute to the Trans Alaska Pipeline in October 1997. I have great memories of operating and maintaining the best run Topping Unit on the pipeline at Pump Station 8 with the best crew EVER on the pipeline. I’ll also never forget standing about 20 yards from the pump building at Pump Station 8 when it exploded July 8, 1977.
I’m thankful for the patience and grace offered to me by many, many co-workers (then and now) who taught and trained me on things you could never fully grasp from a class or a manual.
Bill Reiswig / Valdez Marine Terminal Operations Supervisor
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? Prior to moving to Valdez, I worked for 11+ years in the timber and road construction industries. In April of 1989, I arrived in Valdez and worked as a contract technician in the Marine Eepartment before joining the Ship Escort/Response Vessel System as an operator. I spent a little more than a year at SERVS prior to being hired as an Alyeska technician at the Valdez Marine Terminal.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. I had been an Operations Technician at the Terminal for over 17 years when I accepted a position as Senior Operations Coordinator. A little more than a year later, I accepted my current position as Valdez Marine Terminal Operations Supervisor.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? There is definitely a culture on TAPS. TAPS employees take pride in doing things right and working to high standards in all aspects of their job. Culture is learned through observation of behavior and leading by example.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? The people I work with.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? The demonstration of our values during the snow removal effort this winter was just as amazing as the amount of snow that fell.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? I think I had the most fun at work when I was project lead back when our group was named “Oil Movements Team” (OMT). I have also enjoyed training and mentoring many newer employees over the course of my career.
Terry Fair-Vakalis / Business Analyst, Business & Strategic Planning
When did you start working on TAPS and why have you stayed? I began working for Alyeska as a temporary contractor in Valdez, not really expecting to stay employed past my given contract term. But as each assignment finished, more opportunities presented themselves, then more after that. There isn’t a company out there I would rather work for than Alyeska Pipeline. We operate and maintain the lifeblood of this great state, and I am proud to be a part of it.
Tell us about your Alyeska work history. Each job I have held has been one adventure after another. I began working in Valdez as a temporary office clerk in 1996, archiving records for the Projects Team. When that assignment was over, other temporary opportunities to help out around the Terminal became available. I worked at Ballast Water Treatment, Valdez Maintenance, then Alyeska hired me in 1999 when I was working at OMT (now known as Valdez Marine Terminal Operations).
In 2003, I moved to Anchorage to fill a temporary opening in the Accounting Department, which eventually became permanent. I went back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree in accounting. It took me six years to finish a four-year degree. I became a General Ledger Accountant, handling a variety of functions to include billing for mariner and connector reimbursable agreements, treasury/cash management and benefits accounting. This year I passed the CPA exam, and I currently hold the position of Business Analyst in support of the Valdez Marine Terminal and the Ship Escort/Response Vessel System.
Describe the TAPS culture. How is it shared with new employees? There is a culture of pride in what we do, and we want to do it safely while protecting our environment. This requires an immense amount of knowledge and commitment on the part of each employee. It is vital that we continue to foster an environment where this important knowledge can be transferred to those who will continue to operate and maintain our facilities into the future. Our daily interaction with our colleagues and the decisions we make must reflect that mindset.
What do you like best about working for Alyeska? Being in touch with the operation in some way is the most rewarding aspect of my career at Alyeska. Moving oil through the pipeline, the Terminal and Prince William Sound is why we are all here, and seeing the folks in action who make it happen day after day makes each day worth showing up for.
Can you share an example of how you have seen Alyeska’s values of safety, teamwork, and innovation demonstrated on TAPS? Through the years, I have seen this company at its best and at its worst. I have seen the worst of circumstances bring out the best of us. The commitment each of us has to fulfilling our core mission of moving oil safely has pulled us together as one to see through the toughest of challenges — spills, incidents, natural disasters, whatever chance has thrown us.
What is a favorite memory from your time on TAPS? There is no one single memory that stands out as my favorite, but the common thread is the memories I share with each and every person I have worked with through the years. I have made friendships that will last a lifetime. The people I have worked with over the years are all part of my extended family.
David Barnum / Ballast Water Treatment technician
We asked long-time Alyeska employee, David Barnum, to reflect on his time working on TAPS. Here is his story:
“Back in 1976 I was working at a local restaurant The Sheffield House. I had moved to Valdez from Anchorage in 1974 to help my dad for the summer. I was assigned dinner shift in the kitchen. My Dad gave up his lease in 1976 and I was asked to manage the kitchen. We agreed that in six months that they would increase my salary by $350. In six months nobody said anything, so I asked the hotel manager if he knew anything about it. He said that he didn’t but he would look into it. They ended up giving me only $150 increase. I wasn’t happy with that so I applied for a position at Alyeska. Who would know, 35 years later…
Over the years I have had the opportunity to work in all the operating areas and also in maintenance. I spent a few years in Marine/Oil Spill (Alyeska took over Oil Spill for several years in the 1980s), a few months in Oil Movements and Storage, and a short time at Power Vapor. Most of my career has been at the Ballast Water Treatment (BWT) Plant. Over the years, BWT has taken over more processes, and over the last several years, our main ballast and industrial waste water sewer treatment system has gone through many changes. We are much better informed and part of the decision process now then we were in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
One night back in the early ‘80s, I was working in Marine on Berth 3 and the sump wouldn’t pump. There was high discharge pressure so we called BWT to make sure there was a path to the ballast tanks. They said that they thought there was a path to the tank and would go check it out. BWT got back with us and they found a bypass valve tagged, locked and closed from a job that had been long completed. That would not happen today with our master card isolation procedure system.
I think that the best improvement that we have had at Ballast Water Treatment is the vapor recovery in the BWT tank farm and the Dissolved Air Flotation (DAF) cells. For those that smelled the BWT area before vapor recovery, you know what this means.
I still enjoy coming to work, even after 35 years. I know it’s time to retire (my coworkers remind me) but it’s hard to just walk away when it is something that you enjoy doing.