Melody Shangin / Electrical Engineer
Meet Alyeska's rockstar electrical engineer Melody Shangin. NBC News Learn recently spotlighted Melody and her work to inspire America's -- and Alaska's -- future engineers! Visit www.nbclearn.com/engineering/cuecard/117615 to hear her story and tour TAPS with her.
Janine Boyette / Response & Remediation SME
Reva Paulsen / Assistant Chief of Staff
Dave Heimke / Director of Engineering
Betsy Haines / Vice President, Risk & Technical Support Division
Melanie Myles / Director of Oil Movements
Don Duke / Maintenance technician, North Pole Metering Station
For Don Duke, 40-plus years of working on TAPS feels like a blur.
"I sit back now and realize how fast the past 40-plus years have gone," said Duke, a maintenance technician at North Pole Metering Station. "At one time, I was the youngest technician at Pump Station 8. Now, I certainly am not the oldest on TAPS, but I'm definitely well-seasoned."
He's held numerous positions in many places and worked alongside hundreds of pipeline people, from those who started oil moving down TAPS to those handling the demands of 2.1 million barrels a day to lifelong mentors, new friends and even his son, Donny. He's been part of countless TAPS milestones and notable moments, from "standing 20 yards away from the pump building at Pump Station 8 when it exploded on July 8, 1977" to representing Alyeska at the Smithsonian Institute's opening of a TAPS exhibit in Washington, D.C., in 1997.
In this, his 41st year at Alyeska, Duke is being recognized with the 2017 Atigun Award for Lifetime Achievement, an honor that the humble man admits is special.
Most days over those many years, Duke says he has learned something new, faced invigorating challenges, worked with someone smart and interesting, and felt pride in being a part of Alyeska, the Alaska-based company that operates TAPS. He's spent the majority of his adult life working for the organization.
Earlier this year, Duke was asked how he preferred to have his name printed on the Atigun Award.
"After a little thought, my response was 'Just another Alyeska employee striving to do the right thing every day,'" he said. "That is truly how I feel. I am afforded this award only because of the many people who have supported my job in many capacities over the years, and to that I respectfully say, 'Thank you.'"
He added, "And I accept this especially on behalf of all the field employees who operate and maintain TAPS 24 hours a day, every day."
While others appreciate Duke's modesty – it's an omnipresent trait – they also say they can't think of anyone more worthy of this recognition.
His supervisor, Carol Adamczak of the Fairbanks Shops Team, nominated Duke for the award and wrote, "Don Duke is the single best example of a TAPS employee that goes the extra mile. Don is the consummate example of integrity … is known for his thoroughness and attention to detail. … (He) sets his standards high and leads by example.”
Another nominator, Oil Measurements Manager Scott Iverslie, added, "Don is an excellent example of an individual with high personal standards who is self-motivated and exhibits the ideal behaviors of Alyeska Pipeline's Cultural Attributes."
Duke's son and coworker, Donny, added, "He has truly epitomized what it means to be an exemplary TAPS employee. He has been a shining example of ownership, integrity, selflessness and humility on the job, and in every other facet of his life."
Duke's sense of ownership in his work, company and pipeline runs deep. He literally grew up with TAPS and Alyeska. His military family moved to Alaska in 1973. He graduated from Eielson High School three years later. After a summer stint working as a track laborer on the Alaska Railroad in '76, he hired on with Alyeska, a few months before pipeline startup.
Duke first served as a mail handler at the pipeline's busy Ft. Wainwright office, then in warehouseman positions in Fairbanks and at PS8. He advanced to an operations technician position at PS8 and then, in June 1993, moved to North Pole Metering (NPM) Station. He's been there ever since.
"From janitor to manager," he joked of his responsibilities at NPM. In reality, his week-on shifts are filled with reviewing metering data, ensuring the facility's planned and unplanned maintenance is on track, quality bank sampling/maintenance, checking meter performance and coordinating with a nearby refinery, along with countless onsite projects.
"You can make your day what you want," he said, "but there is never a lack of something to do."
He added that there's also the occasional surprise. Some of which, he joked, have "caused early gray hair."
"Part of the job is knowing that you can be called on any time day or night to troubleshoot a problem," he said. "Unless you have been in that position a few times it is hard to explain. Generally most problems can be resolved and then there is a sense of pride that comes with doing what we’re paid to do."
Sure, there are many business-as-usual days, but Duke has also been in the middle of many extraordinary moments. TAPS startup in June 1977. Operating a vac truck all night following the Steele Creek sabotage spill in 1978. Being part of what he calls "the best crew ever on the pipeline" at PS8 in the late '80s when more than 2 million barrels a day raced down the line while the station’s topping unit produced more than 3600 BPD of turbine fuel. Commissioning the new NPM facility to accommodate refiners in 1998. Accepting Alyeska's sixth-consecutive World's Most Ethical Company Award honor in New York City earlier this year.
"Over the long haul, we will all have good days and bad, but Alyeska has been a great place to work," he said. "I have grown up and matured around Alyeska but Alyeska has also grown up and matured around me."
Despite his years of different positions and demands, as well as the evolution of TAPS, Alyeska and the company’s culture, Duke is known by many as a model of consistency, patience, responsibility and safety. Adamczak added that he has "a stellar safety record and is a great influence on anyone who works with him."
While Duke's commitment to his work is evident, he said his deepest passions are his faith and family. He married his high school sweetheart, Dee Dee, in 1981. They had two sons, Donny and Dustin, both college grads. And in April, Duke became a grandpa. He beamed while carrying and introducing his infant granddaughter, Everly Monroe Duke, to coworkers and friends during June's TAPS 40th anniversary event in Fox.
"My father's dedication to Alyeska is surpassed only by his dedication to his faith and family," said Donny.
Duke said he's extremely proud of his sons and noted how special it has been to have Donny work on TAPS. After a college career studying biology and chemistry, Donny spent years working at the Flint Hills Refinery in North Pole, just down the line from his dad. When Flint Hills shut down, he landed a lab technician job for Alyeska in Valdez, where he works today.
"There has been no greater honor in my life than to follow in his footsteps and have the privilege to call him my dad," Donny said. "He is an impossible act to follow. If I can merely be half the technician, and father, that my dad has been, I will consider my personal and professional life to be an overwhelming success."
A lifetime of faith, family and friends in Alaska. Forty-plus years of TAPS work, memories, experiences and connections. For Duke, the key to successful longevity is hard work, humility and humor, working in the present with a view to the future, and pride in the people he works with and the company he works for.
"If I'm gonna work, I can't think of too many other places I'd rather work," Duke said. "Well, maybe playing third base for the St. Louis Cardinals."
Geneva Walters / Development Manager
TAPS nostalgia is everywhere these days. The 40th anniversary of TAPS operations arrived on June 20 and everyone is telling a TAPS tale: pipeline people far and wide, current and former TAPS workers, families and friends who grew up here or have never stepped foot in Alaska, media members and politicians in our state and beyond.
Geneva Walters has one heck of a TAPS story – she's held numerous roles at Alyeska for the better part of 20 years and her family's TAPS connection dates back to the pipeline's construction era. While she can certainly reminisce with the best of them, her position as Development Manager is focused on the future of TAPS and Alyeska.
"It's really impactful to think about 40 years, but how do we pay that forward?" she explained. "I'm working on the future 40. And it's both humbling and exciting to be given that responsibility."
For her years of diverse work, pipeline pride and ambitious vision for guiding the company and pipeline toward a sustainable future, Walters is being recognized with a 2017 Atigun Award for Professional of the Year.
"When you talk about someone who gives 110 percent, that's Geneva," said Susan Parkes, Alyeska General Council, Vice President, and one of Walters' mentors. "For her, the work isn't just a job or a paycheck. It's personal. She's a great example of TAPS pride – she has personal pride in her work and she also wants to make this company a better place."
Walters and her Technical Development Program team have created a comprehensive technician progression program and more than 160 training programs to educate and inspire hundreds of Alyeska staff and TAPS contractors. (That includes the popular "Roadwise" online training.) The programs range from one-hour online courses to classroom curriculums. Walters said her team has nearly 90 new trainings "in the oven," as well.
The group also has revamped how trainings are delivered, tapping the talents and institutional knowledge of Alyeska's workforce to teach new employees. This has been especially critical at pump stations and the Valdez Marine Terminal, where working relationships are close, pressure is high, instruments are complex and there is a balance of longtime employees and new hires.
"It's about taking ownership and having a commitment to make sure everyone knows what they need to know to be successful," she said. "It's happened from Pump Station 1 to Valdez, but a great example is Power Vapor where there's been a complete overhaul of the training. Now techs help design and deliver the training. It's impressive to see their depth of knowledge and willingness to transfer that knowledge."
Walters and her team are now reimagining the way all Alyeska staff are welcomed and trained, from new hires on day one to 40-year veterans, people just starting their careers to company leaders.
"We've set a bold vision to create formal training requirements for every critical system on TAPS,"Walters said. "This applies to everyone and it starts with onboarding. This is a special place and from the start, you're part of the family. We want them walking away on day one with that feeling."
Parkes added, "She's a real change agent. She isn't afraid to put ideas out there that might force people to think beyond the confines of how we’ve always done things."
As a young girl, Walters would ride her bike through East Anchorage to Alyeska's bustling Bragaw offices, where she would visit her father, Donnis Walters. It was the '70s, the TAPS construction era, and her father was using his math skills to help the engineering team calculate placements of the new pipeline’s vertical support members.
"The pipeline was a big part of our life – he was always telling stories," Walters said. "He loves the people he worked with and has lasting friendships. I go in the field and they always ask about my dad."
In 1991, Walters would once again have the opportunity to visit her dad on the job. He had become a TAPS operator who spent more than 15 years working at Pump Stations 1, 6 and 10. She was an Alyeska summer hire on her way to college in Oregon and thrilled with the opportunity.
"The first year, I ended up at Pump Station 10 and did my share of sweeping and mopping," she said. "But they also took me around and made me part of the work there. I'm grateful for that. And I still work with some of them."
Each summer home from college, Walters worked for Alyeska.
"I worked as a secretary for Engineering, in the mailroom and on projects," she said. "I took whatever they would give me!"
The English major's enthusiasm, hard work and wits eventually helped her get hired full-time. She's worked in preventive maintenance, system renewal, strategic reconfiguration and training, and at pump stations, in Fairbanks and in Anchorage, where she's currently based.
She left Alyeska for around six years, traveling the country for a variety of communications and safety jobs, including working on recovery efforts in the City of New Orleans following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
"But I always kept tabs on Alyeska," she said. "It's a special, special place. If you've only worked here, you might not recognize that. But none of those other positions matched Alyeska."
Walters returned as a Technical Development Manager. She missed the people and company culture, of course, but really missed the field. She remains especially fond of Pump Station 10, where she got her start.
"I really love showing people our pipeline," she said. That's something she does often – part of the new technician training includes giving TAPS tours.
As Alyeska moves into its next 40 years of TAPS operations, Walters wants to provide that same level of support, understanding and excitement for employees in all corners of the company. The company shares that enthusiasm.
"We are really excited about her team taking their successes from the technician training to our onboarding process and leadership training," said Parkes. "She has made some pretty bold suggestions and we know that she will put her heart and soul into it."
Walters expanded, adding, "My first day in this job, I thought 'How do you know? How do you know if someone is properly trained and qualified?' That was a touchstone for me. … We took lessons learned for training technicians and that led to, How do we develop all of our employees? How do we measure that? How can you demonstrate your knowledge and competency within your department?"
That's a lot of questions and there are always countless unknowns in Alyeska's complicated work. But Walters said that she and her team are confident, excited and prepared to guide the company into a sustainable future.
"To do my job well, I need to know a little about a lot," she said with a smile. "And when I've asked to learn something, no one has ever said no. The TAPS family has invested in me and been so gracious and generous with their time. I'm a product of their investment."
Rachel Baker-Sears / Projects Compliance and Admin Lead
The quest for continuous improvement can be arduous. For Rachel Baker-Sears, the journey holds constant immersion in safety, compliance and risk, and an endless search for savings and efficiencies. She must be a teammate and a leader, a facilitator and a solo act. She has to initiate and inspire, collaborate and compromise. Her efforts and communication need to touch practically all levels and locations of Alyeska and TAPS.
Yeah, it's busy and complicated, and she wouldn't have it any other way.
"It's challenging work but I love it," said Baker-Sears, the Projects team's Compliance and Admin Lead who will reach her 20-year anniversary at Alyeska in June. "It's very motivating to come to work and know that I have these challenges in front of me and that I can influence change. And it's gratifying to see the results of that."
Others say that it is equally rewarding to work with Baker-Sears, who is receiving the 2017 Atigun Award for Integrity. The award recognizes her commitment to the highest ethical standards and achievements in meeting commitments to protect the operating integrity of TAPS and the integrity of Alyeska business practices.
"Rachel is the embodiment of integrity through her words and actions," said Julia Redington, Alyeska's Director of Project & Project Controls. "Rachel is incredibly hard working and a conscientious leader that consistently delivers above expectations. I maintain tremendous respect and appreciation for Rachel and the Atigun Integrity Award could not go to a more deserving person."
Redington and others who know Baker-Sears will tell you that she doesn't drop the ball, miss a deadline or overlook a detail.
"She is an amazing person to have on our team," added Redington. "She always takes time to share her knowledge and develop understanding on different project processes throughout our team as well as across TAPS."
Baker-Sears, based in Fairbanks, doesn't back down from a challenge or an opportunity to improve her work, her team's work, her department's work and Alyeska's work. It's fitting that she leads the AMS-003 Continuous Improvement Team, which ensures that Alyeska project management practices, procedures and tools are effective and efficient.
Redington added, "She has passion around continuous improvement."
Baker-Sears started making a difference, and learning the complexities of TAPS work, shortly after arriving at Alyeska. She helped centralize the reporting and tracking of the organization's commitments.
"The previous lack of consistency and visibility caused serious integrity related issues, such as duplication of effort, missed deadlines and commitment gaps," she explained. "The team I worked with was able to identify and consolidate the commitments company-wide so they could be effectively assigned, prioritized, and tracked using a central system."
When Baker-Sears moved to Projects in 2006, she noticed that different projects used different formats for safe project procedures. She developed uniform guides and templates for working procedures that improved efficiency and safety. Today, she regularly reviews different types of project procedures and work practices so that "they make sense, are organized, easy to follow, clear and concise."
"I really enjoy helping people get their job done more efficiently," she said. "My role places me in a position where I can influence changes to our processes and tools to make them more streamlined and fit-for-purpose, and that they help ensure compliance of our work."
Organization is key. She starts Mondays going through the week’s schedule, noting deadlines, meetings and goals. She then looks beyond at the month's deliverables and goals. That commitment to organization is mirrored by her team of project coordinators, who support Alyeska’s diverse projects work and teams.
Baker-Sears said she also recognizes that to be effective in her wide-ranging work, she must be a trusted partner.
"Communication is critical – I have to work with a variety of people and personalities to help motivate the team collaboration needed to accomplish mutual goals," she said. "Your interactions with people come down to how much they trust what you're saying, your integrity and being able to convey that in a way that they are open to. This helps me understand different viewpoints and I’m able to see the bigger picture."
For that vision, the focus of the Atigun Award spotlight is now on her.
"I take a tremendous amount of pride in my work at Alyeska and it is a huge honor to receive this recognition," she said. "But it caught me off-guard. I just try to do the best job that I can. I had no idea that people were paying attention to that. … Those people are the reason I’m still here. I work with a lot of talented people. The people here inspire me to do the best work I can."
Alan Beckett / Mechanical Integrity Manager
A small, nondescript plaque hangs on a wall amidst the maze of pods, offices, meeting rooms and supply closets on the second floor of Alyeska's Centerpoint West headquarters. The American Welding Society awarded it to Alyeska in 2002 for Outstanding Development in Welded Fabrication.
Years ago, Alan Beckett's office was near the plaque and he often read its words: "In recognition of the advance technology and high quality of welding used in the construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System, which, as a significant supplier of our nation’s oil, remains one of the technological marvels of the modern world, and a testament to the quality of work undertaken by the welders and engineers who constructed it."
Beckett, currently Alyeska’s Mechanical Integrity Manager, has changed offices a few times over the years, but the message on that otherwise unremarkable plaque remains powerful and inspiring to him. It symbolizes how his work and his Mechanical Integrity team's efforts are connected to an extraordinary past while reminding them of their great responsibility to the future.
"For over 25 years, I've had the unique privilege and passion for continuing the legacy established by the welders and engineers who built TAPS by meeting the challenges of engineering repairs to the pipe," Beckett said. "And now, along with a new generation of bright and technical savvy engineers, I have been entrusted with the future opportunities to search out and discover integrity threats and address them before they curtail TAPS operations for the next generation of Alaskans."
For his own history of exceptional work, vision, leadership and commitment at Alyeska and TAPS, Beckett is being recognized with a 2017 Atigun Award for Engineer of the Year.
"I am honored and very humbled by the personal recognition," Beckett said. "But I know full well that my past successes represent the combined efforts of the entire TAPS family, both Alyeska and contractor co-workers, past and present."
Kurt Helms, a Welding Engineer for Houston who is based in Fairbanks, has long worked with Beckett, dating back to their early '90s meeting while installing a sleeve on TAPS in Thompson Pass. They have since bonded over welding, TAPS fixes and even Ham Radios. He's seen Beckett cool under pressure, collaborative in a team environment and skilled in all settings.
"He's one of the finest individuals you could ever wish to work with," Helms said. "This award is a long time coming and well-deserved."
Beckett's engineering work is immersed in the present and future, but he could easily moonlight as a TAPS historian. He has a deep appreciation for the pipeline’s significance, its place in the world, the monumental effort it took to build it and the sweat stains and brain power required to maintain it.
"TAPS started with the thought that it can't be done, too many regulatory obstacles, relentless environmental opposition, too difficult and complex a design," Beckett said. "And yet, with the engineering genius of Dr. Hal Peyton as TAPS initial Design Engineering Manager, a practical balance between the negative mindsets that prevailed at the time and practice of engineering judgement was forged to accomplish what has been considered by many as one of the technological marvels of the modern world."
Beckett then mildly joked, "This is an awesome challenge to be entrusted to a guy who thought he should become a baker."
Yes, as a youth, the Pennsylvania-raised Beckett weighed culinary arts versus vocational school. His parents preferred the latter, which pretty much meant he accepted the latter. Pastries' loss was pipelines' gain as he went from wheat to welding, kneading to engineering, mixers to metals.
In high school, his interest in metals technology was encouraged by a mentor, a retired metallurgist from the steel industry, who guided Beckett to study metallurgical engineering and welding engineering at LeTourneau College in Texas.
"That way I could learn to weld and have some practical skills to get a good job just in case I failed at becoming an engineer," he said. "Over 40 years later, I am still ready to pursue a job in welding pipe if I need to."
The engineering gig has worked out pretty well. He admitted, "I have not welded at work or home for about 10 years. I sold all my welding equipment. Welding is kind of like playing the piano. Once you learn you can always pick it back up with practice … that is, if you still have the eyes for it."
Long before he had eyes for Alaska, Beckett was offered a vision of his engineering future on TAPS. Alyeska chief welding engineer John Wormeli spoke at LeTourneau during Beckett's junior year in 1975 and showed "Weld #38031," a documentary about welding 48-inch pipe on TAPS.
"This film grabbed my attention and started my lifetime interest in pipeline welding," Beckett said.
After college, he spent 15 years as a welding, nondestructive testing and materials engineer at Columbia Gas Transmission Corporation, the nation's third-largest integrated natural gas transmission company. Based in Charleston, W.Va., his work took him to New York, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia – and eventually Alaska.
An engineer he once tried hiring at Columbia reached out to him about an opportunity at Alyeska. In 1991, he joined a team of four welding engineers on TAPS.
He's since held numerous engineering positions at Alyeska, giving him diverse experience in the design, construction and maintenance, compressor and pump station facilities, and process piping systems. And he's faced serious pressure and problem-solving challenges. He led teams that designed and completed field repairs for the mainline bullet hole leak at PLMP 400, the booster pump piping internal corrosion leak at Pump Station 1, and the temporary pig trap at PS08.
Today, his team of nine integrity engineers are accountable for the detection, identification and assessment of integrity threats for repair, mitigation or replacement of all TAPS crude oil, natural gas and process liquid and gas containing assets using in-line inspection ("smart pigs") and direct examination nondestructive testing methods.
He's a mentor internally, but also shares his knowledge of TAPS and his trade with engineers around Alaska and beyond. In 2005, he received the AWS's A.F. Davis Silver Metal Award for co-authoring "Maintenance Welding on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline." He was a co-recipient of the 2004 President's Award for Excellence in Health & Safety on the TAPS Mechanical Damage Features Assessment Project. His most recent published technical paper, "An Experimental Study To Evaluate The Performance Of Competing Filler Materials Used With Type B And Stand-Off Steel Sleeves," was acknowledged at the 2016 International Pipeline Conference.
Beckett's a respected voice at Alyeska, on TAPS, in his trade and industry. But he said ultimately, his focus remains on the success and the sustainability of TAPS. He knows that responsibility rests on many shoulders, including his own. And he loves it.
"A favorite quote of mine that I feel sums up Alyeska engineering and the value of teamwork is by Lyndon Johnson: 'There are no problems we cannot solve together and very few that we can solve by ourselves,'" he said. "To be a successful Alyeska engineer requires the individual to understand and embrace the TAPS culture; to have been on the firing line with regulator questions and concerns; to successfully handle emergency situations under extreme operational pressure demands; and to have proven they can build consensus and deliver innovative and cost-effective change."