Last week, we spoke with Patrick McKone of WSP to learn about the firm and how it serves the oil and gas industry. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: To start, could you give a brief introduction to WSP?
We’re one of the better kept secrets of the Marcellus Shale Coalition! Our ‘footprint’ with MSC is still quite small but we’re actually a huge firm. We’re a world scale professional engineering services firm with over 53,000 employees, with over 550 offices worldwide, so there’s pretty much a WSP office in every major center around the world, allowing us to serve our clients, where they need us.
We do a lot of work for midstream companies and developers. These are the folks that are moving crude oil, ethane, propane, butane and other natural gas liquids from the producer to the consumer, and we help them connect the dots by providing underground storage, which is a large part of what we do within the energy space. A part of our team in power can also provide power supply, not just to the facility that we have but to other assets that the midstream company is utilizing.
Specifically, we like to offer technical services starting during the early stages of engineering and permit planning, to supporting our clients to define the type and size of underground storage facilities required for a given midstream project, as well as designing electrical power supply and distribution. We also offer environmental engineering and ports and marine engineering, an offering which has grown quite a bit through recent acquisitions. It is gratifying that we have that kind of coverage and breadth of technical services that we can offer “one-stop shopping” for a lot of energy industry folks.
Q: How does WSP differentiate itself from other companies in its space?
We’ve established ourselves as the leader in providing underground storage solutions. It’s quite a fascinating business! We’ve drilled more than two hundred and fifty salt cavern storage wells, and we’ve designed, built and operated facilities to efficiently construct the storage cavity underground. We’ve completed more than eighty hard rock caverns, for underground storage. Our Energy team has been providing this service not just to the industry, but to the Department of Energy for more than 40 years. Our clients tell us they want ‘no surprises’ service with an eye to managing risk and our track record shows we’ve done this well. Going forward, we’ve got a good basis for growth and we’ll be bringing innovative solutions that we hope will impress our existing clients, and create a path for new clients to have us work on their projects too.
Q: DoE has come out with some studies and there’s been a lot of talk around the opportunity for ethane storage for natural gas liquid storage hub in Appalachia. Is that something that WSP is following closely or is actively engaged in?
Well, in 2017, we did a study for the Appalachian Development Group, ADG for short, to evaluate ethane storage in the Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia region. The report we produced has become a ‘go to’ document for folks in the region on how ethane storage might be carried out. So, we are actively involved in looking at engineering and construction of ethane storage in the region, as midstream infrastructure develops in the space.
Q: What has been the value of MSC membership?
Being a part of MSC is excellent. Not only do we see it as a natural path for the ongoing development in the Marcellus / Utica. You see, the MSC really provides pathways for members as their own growth plans are realized, such as engaging the regulatory framework that makes energy development possible in the region, and providing a singular voice for key stakeholders. MSC brings a lot of people who are like-minded together, which we really appreciate. Overall, it’s a great way for us to have visibility into this essential and resource rich region.
Q: What is one thing you’d want to tell a neighbor or friend not in the energy industry, what would it be?
Well you’ve probably heard some about the US being the world’s leading crude oil and natural gas producer. This is good but leadership in energy production is only a stepping stone. When you have a sound energy backbone, it’s a great way to nurture growth that isn’t just energy. What I mean is that the environment, quality of life and global competitive position all improve as we achieve confidence in energy supply. So, if we get behind our energy future, it’s pretty much a natural path to growth in so many areas that you might not expect.
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