This month’s edition of the Pipeline Technology Podcast sponsored by Pipeline & Gas Journal features Michael Reed and Andy McDowell of P&GJ discussing the inaugural Pipeline & Gas Journal Awards gala, which was emceed by podcast host Russel Treat.
In this episode, you will learn about the application process, how winners were chosen, and how the event was planned. Russel, Michael, and Andy also recount their favorite moments of the award ceremony, including presenting unique award categories, having cherished conversations with guests, and watching the reactions of the winners. Finally, Michael and Andy discuss what to expect for the 2022 awards event.
2021 Pipeline & Gas Journal Awards: Show Notes, Links, and Insider Terms
- Michael Reed is the editor of Pipeline & Gas Journal (PGJ). Connect with Michael on LinkedIn.
- Andy McDowell is the publisher of Pipeline & Gas Journal. Connect with Andy on LinkedIn.
- Pipeline & Gas Journal is the essential resource for technology, industry information, and analytical trends in the midstream oil and gas industry. For more information on how to become a subscriber, visit pgjonline.com/subscribe.
- The first annual Pipeline & Gas Journal Awards was held on November 18, 2021, in Houston, Texas. Read this recap of the event recognizing excellence in the pipeline industry.
- The 2022 event is slated for November 17, 2022 in Houston. Nominations for the 2022 awards are being accepted through July 15, 2022. Apply today.
- Pipeline & Gas Journal is the essential resource for technology, industry information, and analytical trends in the midstream oil and gas industry. For more information on how to become a subscriber, visit pgjonline.com/subscribe.
- Satelytics is the foremost remote sensing leader with a full staff of Ph.D. level expertise. The company uses proven science, adept software, and powerful technology to meet the toughest business challenges.
- Listen to this Pipeliners Podcast episode featuring Sean Donegan, the President and CEO of Satelytics.
- South Stream Transport BV, a subsidiary of PAO Gazprom, is responsible for safe, reliable, and uninterrupted operation of the TurkStream Pipeline system.
- TurkStream is a new export gas pipeline stretching from Russia to Turkey across the Black Sea. The first of the pipeline’s two strings is intended for Turkish consumers, while the second one delivers gas to southern and southeastern Europe.
- Whistler Pipeline is an approximately 450-mile intrastate pipeline (Whistler Mainline) that transports natural gas from an interconnect near Coyanosa, Texas, in the Permian Basin, to a terminus near Agua Dulce, Texas, which provides direct access to South Texas markets and consumers.
- T.D Williamson serves the gathering, transmission, and distribution sectors of the pipeline industry with a global portfolio of products and services, including advanced isolation, integrated pigging, and integrity assessment solutions.
- Dick Williams (Richard B. “Dick” Williamson) is the Chairman of the Board of T. D. Williamson, Inc.
- Listen to this Pipeliners Podcast episode featuring Tod Barker of T.D. Williamson as he discusses how to use dig feedback to improve pipeline integrity.
- Inline Inspection (ILI) is a method to assess the integrity and condition of a pipe by determining the existence of cracks, deformities, or other structural issues that could cause a leak.
2021 Pipeline & Gas Journal Awards: Full Episode Transcript
Announcer: The Pipeline Technology Podcast, brought to you by Pipeline & Gas Journal, the decision-making resource for pipeline and midstream professionals. Now your host, Russel Treat.
Russel Treat: Welcome to the Pipeline Technology Podcast, episode 17. On this episode, our guests are Andy McDowell, Vice President, and Michael Reed, Editor-in-Chief at Pipeline & Gas Journal. We’re going to talk to Andy and Mike about the recently announced 2021 Pipeline & Gas Journal Award winners.
Andy and Mike, welcome to the Pipeline Technology Podcast.
Andy McDowell: Thanks, Russel, appreciate you having us here today.
Michael Reed: Russel, it’s great to be here again.
Russel: I asked you guys to come on to talk about the recent Pipeline & Gas Journal Awards. I’ll just start a little bit and talk about what the event was. There was an event that was held in Houston. As we’re recording this it’s a few weeks before Christmas and the event was just a few weeks ago. It was an event that recognized innovators, thinkers, and contributors to the pipeline industry.
I’ll ask this question first. Why do you think it’s important, this being the first year we did the event, that this event occurred?
Andy: Russel, it’s a great question. At Gulf Energy Information, one of the big things as part of our events group is to put together quality award ceremonies. We’ve been doing that for just over 20 years. We celebrated our 20th anniversary with the World Oil Awards.
It’s just a great opportunity to get the industry together, to really celebrate and highlight those companies and individuals that are just the true innovators. They’d put safety, technology, innovation and we really saw a need for that in the midstream sector. There are obviously a lot of associations and other groups that recognize those types of people, but with our award strategy and how we put that structure together we really saw an opportunity there to help try and fill a void. It was a great event. We were really excited about it.
Russel: I will say it was a load of fun. I had a very good time. What was the process? I know that it was kind of interesting. We had promoted this on the podcast a few times leading up to the event, but even after the event, I had some people reach out to me and say, “Hey, how do I apply?” I’m like, “Well, you’re kind of late to the party at this point, but next year you can apply.”
What’s the process that you guys followed to find and select the winners?
Andy: We keep a pretty standard methodology in place across all of our award platforms. This event was held in particular on November 18th. We launched the initial save-the-date earlier in the year, say February/March.
We then run a three-month nominations window, which typically runs about mid-April to mid-July. During that process is when all of the categories are outlined, and the methodology is explained. There’s an online portal that you can come in and then nominate companies or individuals at your organization that you’re familiar with in the industry.
All of that is under strict guidelines to be done at midnight at the end of that three-month window. So much so, you just referenced there about people wanting to know how to get involved.
We have people email us the next day with “I had a technical issue or I had this,” and we, unfortunately, have to turn them away. We have to have something timestamped by that date to keep the methodology in place and the overall quality of the event.
From there, it runs through our editorial team and our third-party advisory board to narrow down the nominations to a select group of finalists. It’s an incredible honor just to be named as a finalist across the midstream sector in the 11 categories in which can be won.
When our finalists are announced, all of those go to the advisory board, which is a third-party group of individuals with technical experience either at the operator/owner level or consultant former from that level. We don’t want to have anybody (a) judging anything that they’re uncomfortable judging, or (b) judging something that their own company may be involved in.
Russel: I imagine just getting that committee together to do that, that independent, third-party committee, getting that committee together, and orienting them around the rules, and making sure that you have good quality, qualified, technical people and no conflicts of interest, that’s got to be a bit of a challenge in itself.
Andy: It is. Mike was directly involved in that process as well as some other folks at our organization who’ve been involved in the midstream group for a long time.
I will say this. I’ve been involved in building a lot of advisory boards across events or awards. This one was actually, we had people coming to us once they found out about it, saying, “Hey, we really want to be involved. We want to be a part of this.” We had to run them through the traps until, just like you said, to make sure they were qualified to do it.
Russel: It’s interesting that you had people reaching out. That’s good.
Andy: We had a select number of people that we were targeting with this, and then if they couldn’t do it themselves, they nominated somebody else within their organization or somebody else. It’s a small group at the end of the day or a small world, I really should say. Word spreads even if you don’t want it to at that point.
Russel: That’s absolutely well said.
Michael: Also, a few of them reached out and asked people that they knew if they had anything they would like to nominate. From that, some of them thought, “Hey, I’d like to judge.”
Michael: It is a small group like Andy said.
Russel: How many people did you actually have on the selection committee?
Andy: Mike, we had seven or eight I believe totally?
Michael: I’m going to say seven. At one point, there might have been eight, and someone had to drop out just because of other commitments.
Andy: Russel, that number can fluctuate. It just depends on the number of people that want to be actively involved. That’s what we ask from our judges.
Russel: I would assume the skill set you’re looking for to be able to properly evaluate everything as well.
Andy: Exactly. For those of you wondering as well, I’ll just preemptively answer this by saying we keep them a secret for a reason. On the upstream side of our business, we had, when we went live with our judges, we had nominees and finalists reaching out to them, offering to take them to lunch and talk about the technology.
We quickly learned that the brand itself is old, well established, highly valuable. You’ve got to trust us that we’ve got the right people judging this content.
Russel: I’m not surprised by that actually. That’s fascinating. I’m sure if you did it that way here, you’d have the same issue. It’s interesting that you keep those guys confidential. Certainly, Pipeline & Gas Journal has the connections and knows the people to get the right folks involved.
Andy: They’re welcome to share it themselves.
Andy: We just don’t promote it heavily from our end. They don’t have to sign a confidentiality agreement or anything like that to participate.
Russel: For me, the way that you did this entire process, including the event itself, this may sound a little hokey, but I found it fun. It was like the Academy Awards of the pipeline business.
Andy: That’s ultimately what we would love for it to be branded as. People say that all the time about the World Oil Awards now, and we just celebrated 20 years there. We’d love for that to be the similar trend, hopefully a little bit sooner than 20 years. It’s fun to dust off the tux, especially two years into COVID. It was a nice event.
Russel: I got a lot of comments about cleaning up pretty good. [laughs]
Andy: That’s the ultimate fit during COVID or during the holidays. If you can still fit in your tux, you’re still doing good at the end of the day.
Russel: That’s a whole ‘nother conversation right there. Tuxes are not cheap, and they don’t grow as we grow if you gather what I’m saying. We were talking about tuxes. We should talk a little bit about the event. For those that weren’t able to go, what was the nature of the event? How was it put together and all that?
Andy: Our events team in Houston did a great job. It was held at The Westin Memorial City hotel. We had one of the ballrooms reserved there. Had just under 100 people in attendance.
We, of course, encouraged black tie, although being a first-year event, a lot of people showed up, perfectly normal of course, in a coat and tie or just a coat, but said, “Oh, wow. We didn’t realize this was as big of a formal deal.”
We had great food. It was a very enjoyable cocktail hour leading up to the event itself. If Russel hadn’t mentioned this before, he was our MC [Master of Ceremonies]. As the host of this podcast, we really welcomed his voice and his involvement in that.
We awarded the 11 winners. It lasted just under an hour. It was great. Obviously, there’s always room for growth there and wanting to add more categories. We had various keynote speakers before. For a first-year event, it was of great quality, high value. Some of these at the end of the day are better to be quick and to the point. Here are the winners, and let’s go have an evening as opposed to feeling like we’re dragging it out a little bit.
Russel: I thought y’all did a great job. I had a great time. I had a lot of people talk to me. We had a table. We brought a bunch of guests. They all had a great time. They were all very happy to have been invited and have the opportunity to do it.
I really liked the way that the actual awards being given out was done, how you all had a script. We would announce the winner, and we’d have a little walk-up. As they’re walking up, we’d be reading an overview of their technology. We’d do photographs. They get the nice award that they can set in the conference room or the entryway to their office and all that. It was extremely well done I thought.
Andy: Thank you. Thank you very much. We appreciate the good feedback. In addition, as you just mentioned, I’ve never received follow-up like I had post-Pipeline & Gas Journal Awards this year, and I know Mike as well. Emails, people reaching out on social media, just saying, “Hey, it felt so good to get people back together.”
We’re in the media and market intelligence business, but you can market something as perfectly as you want to prior to the event, but until you actually see it, touch it, witness it, be a part of it, you really don’t quite grasp what the overall goal was. We’re very excited about it. It should be an annual event that only just continues to grow from here.
Michael: It was our first live event since Pipeline Opportunities Conference the time before last, for Pipeline & Gas Journal that is. I, myself, had only been to maybe two live events since COVID started. I thought people were extremely festive and happy to be there. More so maybe than any event I’ve been to before, particularly during the reception.
Russel: There was a whole lot of “Hey, I haven’t seen you in forever going on.” [laughs] We had a pretty diverse group of guests, and I was surprised by how many of them already knew one another. Even if they’re not working in the same disciplines or whatever, they knew one another. They’ve heard of one another and all of that. Like I said, it was a lot of fun.
We should talk about the winners. We probably don’t have time to talk about all the winners, and I do not want to go through and read all the technical stuff that I read being an MC. By the way, for the listeners, that’s why they asked me to be the MC. Nobody else wanted to go through all the technical lingo.
Russel: [laughs] I thought one of the more notable awards, and I’m familiar with this company, was the one for best digital transformation. That was Satelytics. They have a very interesting technology where they’re gathering satellite information for an entire basin, a big regional area, and then processing that data, and providing information to operators, saying, “Here are things you need to go investigate.”
One of the things they’re doing that’s really interesting is they’re sharing the cost of gathering the imagery amongst everybody in a basin. It’s a really interesting and future thinking kind of technology, and it has the opportunity to add a lot of safety value to our industry.
What about yourselves? What did y’all see that y’all thought was notable?
Andy: From my end, I really enjoyed seeing some of the companies being awarded as well as the individuals of course. I had a special tie to the best offshore pipeline project award, which was won by TurkStream and the South Stream Transport. I had a chance to visit with them a couple years ago regarding this project outside of their offices in Amsterdam.
It was in particular interest to me this time just because their deputy head of comm — we’ve exchanged emails with and so forth over the past couple years — flew over from Amsterdam to attend the awards on behalf of TurkStream. It was so great to have him there to be able to receive that award on behalf of the company.
This is a global awards ceremony. It was really nice especially just still with COVID going on that he was able to see the commitment to the process and be able to come over and be a part of that. I was actually chatting with him afterwards. It was interesting just how this project moved from engineering and construction now over to the operations side because why he was reading this card that he received as part of the award and said, “Oh, I can order extra awards. This is great.”
There’s so many employees and colleagues that he wanted to be able to have copies or actual physical awards to present to that are no longer involved with the project, but they were instrumental in starting it. This is a great way to recognize something that could potentially be many years in the making. It just showed the value and the importance that he thought it brought to their organization, to the company itself.
Russel: I didn’t realize that. Now, I’m learning something new. The fact you can actually order multiple awards and give them out to individuals, that’s the kind of thing that you end up treasuring that over the course of a career.
Andy: It’s a thought-out process with several of our other brands that have gone through this and run the traps for us before. We were getting a lot of inquiries about how can others be rewarded for this. The companies can come in and purchase those from our website and then have the ability to share those with other folks that were directly involved with the particular project in essence.
Russel: Mike, how about yourself? What were some of the awards that you thought were particularly noteworthy?
Michael: Sander, who Andy just spoke of, that was pretty noteworthy, in part because he came all the way from Amsterdam not knowing if they’d won anything. That, to me, is some significant confidence.
Michael: Probably more in my area of expertise than some of the more technical awards. I thought that the Whistler Pipeline winning for project of the year was pretty significant. It reminded people that on occasion there can still be a pretty good-sized pipeline built in the United States. That one is about two billion cubic feet a day of incremental natural gas capacity from the Permian to the Gulf Coast. Most people in the industry have heard of it.
Something else I found impressive was for the person of the year award, just the range of people was extremely impressive. Dick Williams, who won it, is pretty much a legend in the industry. He’s been in the industry for 50 years. A lot of people were extremely happy to see him win. Any of the other four nominees would have been perfectly great representatives. Those two were probably the most significant in my mind.
Beyond that, for the technical awards, I was really happy to see how pleased the recipients were. They were just elated, grinning ear from ear. It’s something that reminds me of, part of it’s how hard they have to work to do these things. Part of it is just the P&GJ name goes pretty far with them.
Russel: Pipeline & Gas Journal has a lot of credibility because you guys have been around a very long time. You’ve been publishing technical content for a very long time. You’re seen as an authority, a trusted authority in our space. If someone else was doing these awards, it wouldn’t have nearly the weight or significance it does coming from Pipeline & Gas Journal. That’s certainly true.
You talk about Dick Williams, and a couple of comments I’ll make about that. One is that one of our guests who I’ve known for years pulled me aside and said, “Man, that’s the perfect guy to pick because everybody here has used one of their tools.”
Michael: That’s true.
Russel: Everybody here has worked with that company and those tools and know who that gentleman is. Further to that point, one of the other nominees was there, someone I’ve, again, known for many years at a whole table of people there. They didn’t win, but they didn’t care. They were having a great time.
They went up after and were taking pictures of their whole team. There was an area where we could get photographs with people getting their awards, and they were going up there and taking photos. They were just excited to be nominated.
Andy: They really were. That’s what we talk about during the evening and leading up to the awards itself is it really is a tremendous honor to just be recognized as a finalist. There’s a lot of things that come out from that where you’re referenced in certain articles, or things in the magazine, or press releases, and all the post and the pre-event marketing at the event, of course, itself.
Obviously, everybody can’t win. We really try and stress the importance of just being recognized as a finalist being named on that shortlist.
Russel: Yeah. If you look at the list of names that were nominated for the lifetime achievement, any one of those people, it’s a very distinct list. I’d just like to have my name on that kind of list. That’s a pretty distinctive list, right? The other thing I would say is that for the technical awards, they were very technical.
Michael: They were.
Russel: When we’re reading through the reads and summaries of the winning awards and such, what they did, and why it was important, if you’re not a pipeliner, you’re probably not going to understand what that award was.
That’s significant, too, because it means that it’s people who know our space that are looking at this, and they’re really being acknowledged and recognized for key technical contributions. Ours is a technical business.
Andy: Absolutely. Completely agree. We always, throughout the nominations process, folks will ask us, “What kind of information are you looking for? How should I present this to you?” I always like to turn it around as if you were submitting an editorial article through Mike and his team. Do you want it to be technical? Do you want to have some sort of case history or have some relevance to it? What technology were you able to use to either increase flow rates, have increased safety, or reduce this, increase that?
Whatever that may be, you want to tell the encompassing story. You want to keep it third party, and to keep it as technical as possible, because that’s what’s ultimately going to drive the success to become a finalist, and then hopefully a winner as well.
You do not want it to be commercial. You don’t want to have the flag in the corner, just waving it side to side. That doesn’t work. You got to stick to the technical side of it and, really, “How is this helping our industry?”
Russel: You’ve got to be adding real industry value and it’s got to be clear. What is the technical innovation, and how is it adding industry value? I’ll just use one example. Every time I do a podcast about integrity management, I always say a disclaimer, I’m not an integrity management guy. But having done a lot of those conversations, I feel like I’m getting at least dangerous with the lingo.
The winner for Best Pipeline Integrity Award was… I’m just going to read the title because it really goes to the point I’m trying to make here of what we’re talking about is, was “Accurate Gap Gouge Classifier and Sizing When Coincident With a Pipeline Dent” by T.D. Williamson.
The read talks about how they use a multiple data set, multiple ILI technologies in a single tool trained to accomplish this specific value proposition. That’s the kind of thing that these technical awards are being acknowledged for. That’s very specific.
For folks that work in that domain, they know what that means when they start talking about “How do I look for gouges and coincident metal loss and identify both of those together?” That’s pretty advanced stuff in the ILI part of our business at this point.
Andy: The specificity of that particular nominee leads to during the nominations process this year, we received so many nominations. I forget which category it was in particular, but we went to the advisory board, or actually, they came back to us and said, I think there were, I don’t know, 16, 18 nominees in this one category.
They said, “Look, there are a dozen to 14 to 15 of these that deserve recognition. Here’s how we suggest doing it.” We actually expanded from 9 to 11 categories, breaking apart one of those and being a little bit more specific because of the detail, or the amount of detail I should say, that the nominations came in as allowed it to be a much more specific topic than even we were initially planning.
You can always highlight the innovator of the year, but when it comes down to those technical-type topics, this market clearly wants those to be specific recognition, so we welcome that.
Russel: That’s also good to know that even if you’re applying and even if you’re not necessarily in a category that’s listed when you’re applying, don’t have that keep you from applying.
Andy: We have several nominees before that have come in for one particular category, and the advisory board decides it’s better in another particular category. Usually, they’re made aware of that during the process. When it comes from the professionals, the judges at the end of the day, most people don’t complain about that if they think it’s going to be a better fit elsewhere.
Michael: The category Andy was speaking of was the technology award, the advancements in technology. What we did was we broke it into categories for maintenance technology, corrosion and coating technology, and advancement for management technologies. That is better than our original intention. Hopefully, it’ll stay like that.
Russel: If this continues to grow and you keep doing that, there’s no telling how many categories you’re going to have five years from now.
Andy: We’ll probably have to cap it at some point. The most we run right now is 18. We don’t want to keep everybody there all evening.
Andy: There’s definitely room for continued growth, continued improvement, and we’re always willing to expand those where it makes sense.
Russel: Perfect. What’s coming up for next year? What will you guys do differently or the same? What should people be looking for next year around these pipeline awards?
Andy: Great question. Overall, we’re not going to be changing that much. The concept is going to remain the same. The methodology will remain the same. We have already had some preliminary discussions in-house, but we’ll expand probably on the categories.
I mentioned we can do something along highlighting other individuals at different stages in their careers, adding in some more technology topics as well. The plan is to definitely continue this as an annual in-person event. It will be in Houston again in November 2022. We’ll soon be able to go live with our date.
One thing we’re always looking to improve on is just the venue. We thought The Westin was fantastic. We’re looking there as well. We do host some of our other awards ceremonies at other venues, and we’ll probably continue to explore where the best option at this point.
Russel: The thing I would do different next year is plan to get a room at the hotel and not come home.
Russel: I felt even though I was leaving early, I felt like I was leaving too early because there were too many friends and too many conversations hanging around at the bar afterward.
Andy: That is key, making sure.
Russel: I’m sure I missed some fun I would have enjoyed. [laughs]
Andy: That is for sure. Making sure you’ve got the time afterwards. These things typically migrate to other areas of the hotel where continued conversation goes on, and that definitely goes into our decision-making as well.
Russel: I saw some people there that I’ve worked closely with in the past and hadn’t seen in years. It was really awesome.
Andy: That’s great. We appreciate the feedback. We’re super excited about it. I’m so proud of the team for being able to pull this together. First-year award ceremony. I had a lot of blank stares looking at me in March 2021. But, everybody really grasped the concept, did an incredible job, and this is going to be one that’s around for years to come.
Russel: I think that’s awesome. I’m going to have to watch my weight so I can continue to fit my tuxedo and make sure I put it up so it’s ready for next year.
Andy: Yeah, there we go.
Russel: Mike, anything you want to add as we’re wrapping this conversation up?
Michael: Oh, not in particular. I think that like I said before, the response was just awesome. When we first announced it, we were kind of made to feel pretty good because all the responses I heard were basically great. “This should have been going on for a while, and it should definitely be you guys that are doing it.” It kind of gets you to work a little harder when you keep hearing things like that.
Russel: You’ve set a high bar, so keep up the good work and let’s see if we can raise the bar another notch for next year.
Michael: We definitely will. We always like a challenge and we’re never going to settle. We always want it to be better than the last one.
Russel: There you go. Guys, thanks so much for your time. This has been fun. As soon as I know what the date is, I’m going to block it out on my calendar.
Andy: Perfect. We’ll make sure everybody else knows about it as well. Yeah. Thank you, Russel. Appreciate the time.
Russel: I hope you enjoyed this month’s episode of the Pipeline Technology Podcast and our conversation with Andy and Mike. If you would like to support this podcast, the best thing to do is to leave us a review on Apple Podcast, Google Play, or on your smart device podcast app. You could find instructions at pipelinerspodcast.com.
Transcription by CastingWords