Imperial fine-tunes its COSIA operationalization efforts

Rick Gallant

Rick Gallant, Vice-President, Oil Sands Development & Research, Imperial Oil speaks at COSIA’s 2013 Performance Update

Determining the best ways to truly leverage the value that COSIA can bring to its member companies is a fine-tuned team effort at Imperial Oil Limited.

Rick Gallant, Vice-President, Oil Sands Development & Research, is Imperial’s gatekeeper of COSIA projects, and he works closely with a team that represents many parts of the organization to ensure alignment in Imperial’s operationalization approach.

“We have a business management group that meets monthly to manage our overall participation in COSIA, what we’re involved in and want to be involved in,” says Rick, who sits on the COSIA Shareholder Steering Committee (SSC), which consists of leaders from each of the 13 member companies who meet on a quarterly basis to discuss key concerns and areas of interest. Rick is also on the COSIA Board and Human Resources, Strategy and Monitoring subcommittees.

Included in these discussions at Imperial are representatives from Operations; Research; and Safety, Health and Environment.

“Each business area has an environmental business plan that they incorporate in their annual planning process,” says Rick. “Beyond operating and financial aspects, these plans integrate Imperial’s environmental commitments or initiatives that are specific to environmental priorities.”

Imperial has more than seven full-time equivalent team members dedicated to COSIA work. Babak Jajuee, Imperial’s COSIA lead, spends about 50 per cent of an average day managing COSIA projects and commitments. Babak works with each of the four COSIA Environmental Priority Areas (EPAs): Land, Water, Tailings and Greenhouse Gases. Imperial has a representative and an alternate who sit on each of COSIA’s EPA Steering Committees (SC). These SC representatives also head up Imperial’s own internal technical working groups for each EPA.

Each of Imperial’s technical working groups has two key strategies. The first strategy is to scan through the existing COSIA joint industry projects (JIPs) to see which ones might align with Imperial’s business objectives and determine opportunities for participation.

“The main role of the technical working groups is to take a look at projects other member companies are bringing to the table,” explains Babak. “The biggest value that all member companies are getting from COSIA is that we can leverage each other to develop environmental solutions faster, and that’s a great thing.”

The second strategy involves identifying projects Imperial wants to develop as COSIA JIPs. With so many projects on the go, it was a challenge to determine which projects Imperial should bring forward.

“The key connection needed was between our COSIA team and our business/operations teams,” says Babak, who brainstormed with Rick and business managers to implement the concept of idea-generation workshops as a solution to this need for internal connection and alignment.

“Throughout the year, we have idea-generation workshops across the EPAs,” says Babak. “These workshops allow us to fine-tune ideas that we identify as high priority for our business.”

The high priority areas for Imperial involve two key oil sands projects, Cold Lake (in situ) and Kearl (mining), plus their future in situ developments. Once the technical working groups discuss potential ideas, they meet with business managers for these operations to discuss feasibility.

After taking part in all of the technical idea-generation workshops, Babak communicates findings and recommendations with business managers and Rick, who is then able to effectively and efficiently represent Imperial at the COSIA SSC. Rick said it’s a process that works well for Imperial and ensures full alignment within the organization.

Each of Imperial’s internal EPAs holds about three to four idea-generation workshops per year, and by the end of the year, the organization decides which projects are presented for consideration internally before being offered to COSIA. As part of the process, resources are allocated in terms of budget and staffing. If a JIP is put forth to other COSIA members, Imperial works with those companies to establish parameters and requirements for participation (financial or in-kind).

Rick acknowledges that change doesn’t happen instantaneously and that many of the initiatives presented by Imperial and others will take years to achieve full commercialization.

The good news is that Imperial and all member companies in COSIA are committed to working together for a mutual cause of environmental improvement.

“We are passionate about accelerating innovation,” states Rick, “and working with COSIA helps accomplish that. We want COSIA to be the organization that is finding solutions to the industry’s environmental challenges.”