publisher Mark Kolke, in conversation with Steve Wuori
November 26, 2013
Dad was a civil engineer, mom was a domestic engineer – Steve Wuori is 2nd of 4 kids. Born in Michigan, raised in Hanover, New Hampshire, Civil Engineering at Michigan Tech, a recruiting poster, a day-long interview, a job offer …
Who stays in one place for 33 years anymore?
OK, not in one job, but with one employer – who does that anymore? A president with the largest pipeline system in the world in the case of Stephen (Steve) J. Wuori, President, Liquids Pipelines and Major Projects it has been a ride that began at the eastern end of Enbridge’s (originally Interprovincial Pipeline - IPL) Line #1, that carried oil from Leduc #1 to Superior, Wisconsin before shipping to Sarnia.
When he was Recruited from Michigan Tech, they wanted one (1) civil engineer that year – and against stiff competition, he won the day and has been with the company ever since.
He has been in Canada 18 years now – in Edmonton and Calgary – and last December, became a dual citizen, taking his oath of Canadian citizenship in Calgary.
In Finnish, Wuori (no silent letters) means mountain. It seems he’s climbed a few and true to his Nordic roots, skiing both downhill and cross country are leisure pursuits – that is if you can imagine someone in his position having much leisure.
I like him, that’s not hard to do. Interviewing c-suite people is always easy – because senior executives are well schooled in being interviewed, presenting their corporate position. Steve does that well, but there is more to it. He’s part affable, part professional, part humble, part Republican, part rooted in his Apostolic Lutheran faith, part proud of his family children and grandchildren, part grieving the loss of his son in an accident, part ...
Not so much the sum of those parts – but real.
I asked Steve how he sees the pipeline industry in the near term - over the next quarter – what’s the marketplace like for the next 90 days?
… going strong in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Montana – subject to constraints in capacity. We have a marketing arm (Tidal Energy Marketers) to help small shippers aggregate shipments – but otherwise we are shippers who don’t compete with our customers. Our customers are producers and domestic refiners. Working in expansion of Alberta Clipper. Increased use or more sophisticated imaging tools – medical technology similar to MRI’s – to improve the integrity of existing pipelines.
And over the next 5 years?
…. I believe that both Keystone XL and Northern Gateway will get approved and be built. I expect our Alberta Clipper application for capacity expansion will be approved. Our Chicago-Houston twinning of the Spearhead pipeline will boost our shipment of Alberta bitumen to 775,000 barrels/day by mid-2014. That will relieve a bottleneck and help our shippers get better pricing. And, the U.S. government may rethink its PADD structure.
What qualities distinguish your preferred colleagues, collaborators and suppliers?
… no pretences, ‘heart on your sleeve’, sense of humour, honesty, ethics. Awareness of who they are, not who they pretend to be. They take risks. Trust, service. An example, Roger Zarowny (been buying suits from him since 1994).
What distinguishes you that causes people to choose Steve Wuori, choose Enbridge, to do business with – why are you been selected over your competitors?
… I like to think the craftsman is worthy of his tools. I need to know my industry more intimately than anyone. Leadership. You can’t have followers without it.
What do you lose sleep over, what do you ‘Wuori’ about?
... not much.
Who or what influenced you most – that has made a difference in your life, or that was a major turning point?
… my father. I never heard him raise his voice in anger. His restraint. His ethics. Lou Bressett, my boss at Lou’s Restaurant where I scrubbed pots after school. I was feeling great, I worked myself up from $1.75/hr. to $2.25/hr, I had a motorcycle and I thought not going to college might be a fun option. I could work and play hockey. Lou set me straight – told me “you don’t belong here” and informed me how quickly he would fire me if I didn’t go to college.
What about pipeline integrity? And what happened, what really happened at Kalamazoo (the big spill) ?
…we must be able to keep up with the best technology in our new lines and in existing ones. Line #1, built in 1950, is still going strong today. On Kalamazoo, two things. 1. our operators didn’t believe the pipe had broken; 2. they tried to restart it twice. What should have been a puddle from the rupture became a major spill.
In regards to shipping bitumen, isn’t their greater risk to corrosion inside the pipe due to sand content?
… great question – but no, all that sand stays in Fort McMurray. ½ of 1% by volume is the maximum amount of sand and water we allow into our pipeline system.
Work life balance?
… golf – I’ll never get good enough to be angry. Diet coke on the rocks. I take all my vacations. Not doing that, as I tell our employees, is stealing from your family. All my vacation belongs to my family. Skiing, downhill and cross-country, time at SylvanLake cottage. I’m a newshound. People can teach me things.
What do you read?
… Killing Kennedy and Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly, Tom Clancy novels, Jack Reicher novels. I’m a life-long Louis Lamour fan, I still have all my Hardy Boys books. And my bible.
… an 11 yr. old Trailblazer and a 9 yr. old Prius.
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