Energy Ink

Pat Daniel latest CEO to ride off into the sunset

February 27, 2012

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Pat Daniel will not be around to see the controversial Northern Gateway pipeline through to its conclusion – whatever conclusion that might be.

This morning, Calgary-based pipeline company Enbridge Inc. announced that the 65-year-old Daniel will retire at some point in 2012, although the company didn’t give an exact date when that would happen. Al Monaco, Enbridge’s president of gas pipelines, green energy and international (who comes up with these job titles?) will take over as president immediately. The firm didn’t announce who will succeed Daniel as CEO whenever he steps down.

Daniel is the latest high-powered petroleum CEO in Alberta’s energy sector to announce his retirement, or retire outright. In December, long-time Suncor Energy Inc. president and CEO Rick George announced his retirement. And in January, TransAlta Corp.’s Steve Snyder also retired after 16 years as the top executive of the Calgary-based power generation and marketing company.

The retirements of Daniel, George and Snyder drive home an issue we’ve been hearing a lot about over the past 12 months or so, that being the concern that as the baby boomers age and retire, there isn’t enough talent to replace them.

Monaco appears to have the chops to take over as president for Daniel. He’s 52, so he’s not close to retiring, and with over 25 years experience in the petroleum business, he’s got the resume you would like to see in a senior executive.

His role as president of green energy is also worth noting. Enbridge has been buffing up its green credentials since it dipped its toe into the renewable and alternative energy market in 2002. The company has since invested in wind (eight), solar (three) and geothermal (one) projects that represent 1,150 megawatts of green power capacity. Will Monaco make investing in green energy an even bigger priority for Enbridge? Time will tell.

For now, the priority is advancing oil and gas projects, particularly the $5.5 billion Northern Gateway project, which would ship 525,000 barrels per day of petroleum from Alberta’s oil sands to Kitimat, British Columbia.

The proposed conduit is currently undergoing a regulatory review and it has become one of the most controversial  energy infrastructure projects in recent memory.

Daniel and other company executives have been pitching the pipeline as a “nation-building” project because – if it is built – it would allow oil sands producers to sell their product to markets on the West Coast of the United States and Asia and fetch world prices.

But the project has faced strong opposition from aboriginal groups along the pipeline corridor and environmental groups as well. It’s far from certain that it will be approved by the National Energy Board and built.

Stickhandling Northern Gateway through the regulatory process and getting it sanctioned and built was going to be – I thought anyway – the crowning achievement of Daniel’s distinguished career. Now it will be up to Monaco, and whomever takes over for Daniel as Enbridge’s CEO, to get the project across the finish line.

 

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