MSC Member Spotlight: GPD Group

Last week, we spoke with GPD Group’s Brian Peterson PE and Doug Nihiser PS to learn more about their practice and discuss their capabilities in oil and gas in the Appalachian region. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q. To start, could you introduce GPD and give a brief history of your practice?

Brian Peterson: GPD has been in business since 1961. We are approximately 650 employees strong with fifteen offices throughout the United States. Our Great Lakes region is comprised of offices in Pittsburgh, State College, Indianapolis, and then with six offices in Ohio. I have been with GPD for twenty-two years and am a civil engineer by trade.

Doug Nihiser: I am a professional surveyor in five states and have been with GPD for about eleven years.  I have been primarily running survey crews in the energy sector for about seven years now, which involves coordinating the engineering, environmental and geotechnical teams.

BP: Our energy team has grown from a need to be aligned with a lot of our customers’ demands. In the energy industry we are primarily known as a survey and engineering consulting firm. We ebb and flow with the changes in the industry, but what we focus on is being responsive, flexible and efficient for our clients. We do that through delivering survey, different civil engineering design options, and construction support.

Our energy footprint definitely extends beyond oil and gas. We do a lot of renewable work, substations up to 345kv, electric and gas transmission & distribution design, civil, water, environmental, geotechnical engineering, and the midstream survey work.

DN: We also do environmental, road permitting and geotechnical consulting services.

Q. How did GPD come to develop the practice in the Appalachian Basin?

BP: The team on our oil and gas work comes as a collaboration of our Cadiz, Columbus, Akron, Youngstown, State College, and Pittsburgh offices. We pulled the resources together that we were experienced with energy related clients and then housed them in our energy practice for design, survey, engineering, and permitting support services. We were doing natural gas transmission/distribution work before the Marcellus Shale boom and were also very lucky to have contacts with companies involved in that “boom,” so we became a trusted choice for them to bring along.

Q. What would you say differentiates GPD from other engineering and environmental consultancy firms?

DN: A lot of it is our locality. Our strong great lakes presence was set in place prior to the boom, so we can easily service the Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York areas. We definitely have familiarity with the region.

BP: I would also add that the size of our teams and our ability to be responsive separates us. We have the resources to make our clients feel as if they are our only client.

Q. What value have you experienced since becoming a member of the MSC?

BP: From my perspective, it has given us a lot of access to a very collaborative effort towards permitting, regulations, industry standards, safety issues and puts it in a very safe environment to talk openly with your peers. We’ve learned a lot regarding DEP and certain water requirements – I definitely think it’s been an invaluable collaboration and learning tool.

DH: I enjoy being around individuals that are in a similar field. As we all know, oil and natural gas is a rather niche market and it’s nice to be able to talk to your peers about what you’re seeing, any issues you see coming up and learning how they’ve handled similar situations. Also, the MSC is on the forefront of the industry, so we hear aboutthings ahead of time.

Q. If there is one thing you want to tell a neighbor or friend who is unfamiliar with the industry, what would that be?

DH: I would say “open your eyes” to the industry. When everyone thinks of oil and gas, they think “big and scary”, but when you get into it, you realize it’s just the opposite. We have the best intent for the environment and public safety. It’s not the big, bad wolf that everyone thinks it is. What’s amazing to me is that we’ve had a revolution here for about ten years now, and so few people even know this is going on. It’s hidden in plain sight.

BP: I agree, and I would also add that everyone thinks of it as just “black crude.” No one thinks of it being the plastics in your car, the red solo cup you’re drinking out of. No one thinks of those items as products of the industry. It’s much bigger than everyone thinks.