FACILITYCalgary publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Rick George
February 12, 2013
My recent bumping into Rick George in elevators led to an interview arranged by his book publicist. I am pleased he was able to fit me into his busy ‘retirement’ schedule . . .
In his post-Suncor career, Rick George has been busy writing a book, SUN RISE, Suncor, the oil sands and the future of energy – and investing in new oil technology adventures though NOVO Investment Group. Still in Calgary – proudly – he is very active. While prying answers out of him about Suncor or his new investments was difficult, he was forthcoming and engaging on other subjects which made the interview easy once we finally got connected.
I wanted to ask questions that weren’t in his book; here are highlights from that conversation . . .
On the day of our interview last week, the day Suncor announced a $1.4 billion writedown on its Voyageur project, I led off asking him about that
… no comment. I don’t believe in leaving and then commenting on what the company is doing. We took the company from $1 billion to $50 billion. That means we made far more right bets than wrong ones.
… should have done some things quicker. 08/09 was painful.
Is fracking a genuine global game-changer for the industry?
… for now it certainly is making a big difference, rejuvenating mature basins, but its not a panacea globally. It’s been tried in many places where it hasn’t worked, eastern Europe in particular. The science isn’t new, but techniques and where it is being deployed have produced some amazing results. It is one important piece in a wide range of improving technologies to get more oil and gas out, more effectively, cleanly and with less impact on the environment.
How are book sales?
… very good
I asked Rick how he sees the market, over the next 90 days?
… pipeline infrastructure issues and Keystone will dominate the news – and will be solved
. . . and over the next 5 years?
…a solid investment climate, jobs – the oil and gas industry is a great wealth creator. New technologies, improved extraction processes – changing science – will continue to improve the industry and its environmental performance. The biggest challenge will remain the supply of oil patch labour.
. . . the next new thing in oilsands development?
… new technologies, better land reclamation practices, elimination of tailings ponds, better equipment, use of solvents. Consider the world uses 90 million barrels a day, and with China developing a middle-class, that is going to increase.
Work/life balance – what does Rick George do for fun?
. . . outdoors - downhill skiing is big, golfing and biking in the summer, bird shooting in the fall.
What keeps you up at night, what do you worry about?
. . . nothing
Any significant sea-change moments that changed your life?
. . . yes, just one. Marrying Julie 40 years ago. She has been a huge influence on my life – a relationship I’ve cherished for 40 years as we’ve lived in 12 places, had lots of adventures. We love it here in Calgary and intend to stay. We are both involved in a lot of charity work which gives us both a lot of satisfaction. We’ve enjoyed a lot of success and believe strongly in an obligation to give back to the community, to stay involved in the community.
What qualities, looking back, have distinguished your preferred suppliers, partners and employees?
. . . I enjoy people for whom it’s not just a job – the kind of people who, when you articulate your vision – go beyond, try to advance a business or a project. Share that vision, and just turn them loose, you’d be amazed what people can achieve.
I asked him what his investors, shareholders and partners look for when they choose Rick George?
. . . integrity. And experience. I’ve worked in Canada and around the world, upstream, downstream, on shore, offshore – I know the industry from one end to the other and that gives a balance of perspective that many people don’t have.
Any question I’ve not asked – that you are anxious to answer?
. . . the oil and gas industry is a huge deployer of capital – and a hugely important part of Canada’s economy. We need to continue our history of make more right bets than wrong. The key to success is having, and empowering, the right people to execute a strategy. That was true for us at Suncor, it is true for me today.
What are you reading?
. . . The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, The Hedge Fund Mirage: The Illusion of Big Money and Why It’s Too Good to Be True, and Lone Survivor
. . . Range Rover
Thanks Rick and best wishes in your new endeavors. You certainly don’t seem retired or retiring to me.
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