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Day in the Life: Keith, President and Founder, RenuWell Energy Solutions

With more than 30 years of experience in seismic and geoscience research in the oil and gas industry, Keith was looking to be part of the bigger energy ecosystem.

On-the-job learning

A self-proclaimed on-the-job learner, Keith built his career through experience and by filling in knowledge gaps with workshops and courses. Growing up in Taber, where most jobs were connected to farming or oil and gas, he decided to pursue a career in geophysics and his first job started when his boy scout leader referred him for a seismic crew role. From there, Keith studied geophysics for a semester at the University of Calgary and worked on an experimental field crew at Geophysical Services Inc (GSI)/Texas Instruments. This led him to a position in data processing at CGG Canada where he completed six months of in-depth geophysical training. A year later, he was back at GSI/Texas Instruments working in the research department where he learned computer programming and upgraded his skills in mathematics, geology and geophysical theory.

Keith had the opportunity to work internationally because of his blend of experiences. He was able to join the emerging field of reservoir geosciences and manage applied research and development groups in Canada, Europe, Asia and Australia.

Working in this sector is a fundamental part of my identity. It has given me the opportunity to live and work in my hometown, on three other continents and in many different countries, and it has given me the opportunity to be a life-long learner.

Keith, President and Founder

The winds of change

After more than 20 years working in oil and gas, a trip to Denmark in the early 2000s sparked Keith’s interest into renewable energy. His cousin, a power engineer for the City of Copenhagen, convinced him that renewable energy systems were the way of the future. That spark ignited and became Keith’s first company, Elemental Energy. He planned to import wind turbines from Denmark and install them on Alberta farms, but he couldn’t navigate Alberta’s newly privatize electricity sector. Renewable energy technology was still in its early stages of development in Canada and oil and gas was still the predominant energy source in Alberta.

While Keith waited for the renewable sector to mature, he continued working in geoscience research where he led a team developing software for advanced geoscience applications and provided support for the integration of reservoir engineering and geoscience applications for the Weyburn CO2 sequestration pilot. He continued learning about renewable technology by experimenting with a solar hot water system and energy efficiency upgrades on his home. In 2008, Keith’s family decided to leave Calgary and spend a year living in ecovillage communities focused on regenerative agriculture and renewable energy. He also participated in a series of energy efficiency and renewable energy workshops provided by Natural Resources Canada. At the end of that year, he was given an opportunity to return to a consulting role solving production-related problems on Western Canadian heavy oil fields.  

By 2015, solar technologies were becoming more cost competitive, and Keith seized the opportunity to begin integrating them with the conventional energy sector. He started the RenuWell Project, which uses abandoned wells and oil and gas infrastructure as brownfield sites for solar, wind and geothermal development.

Finding the value in your work

Keith had two major motivations for making a career change from traditional oil and gas industry to renewables. First, he recognized there are limits to the amount of oil and gas that can be produced from lower-cost, conventional fields. “There will soon be a time when the demand for low-cost energy will exceed the available supply,” says Keith.

The other motivation for Keith was climate change. He believes the global climate is changing due in large part to the amount of Greenhouse gases (GHG’s) being released into the atmosphere. Keith states, “I see the benefits and opportunities of moving towards a lower-carbon economy. I felt it was important to spend my time and energy working towards a more sustainable future.”

Overcoming challenges

Keith’s current job gives him the opportunity to put his lifetime of unique and diverse experiences to use at a time when the world faces difficult and complex energy-related challenges.

Change is seldom easy, and it is often frightening because we are creatures of comfort and the familiar ways have been proven – what if these new ideas won’t work? But, changes are happening in the Canadian energy industry already, for example, solar projects are being developed on abandoned oil and gas leases.

Taking the leap

Renewable energy is growing at a rapid pace, and the skills and talents of oil and gas workers are needed in this sector.

“I never imagined how much demand there would be for renewable energy skills as the energy transition begins to take hold,” says Keith.

Keith’s advice to anyone considering a career change to another sector? Educate yourself on areas of the industry you don’t know much about. Question ideas that are often seen as proven facts. Share your ideas and listen to other viewpoints.

Don’t be afraid of change. Don’t hesitate to make a shift even if it means a pay-cut. My most rewarding jobs came because I was willing to take a temporary pay-cut to get the job. In my experience, it always works out better in the end.

Keith, President and Founder

Company

RenuWell Energy Solutions Inc.

Location

Airdrie, AB (office)

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