Hurricane Sandy tore through hundreds of communities on the East Coast leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. With an estimated 10 million people without power, energy companies are working around the clock to restore transmission.
Con Edison of New York provides electric service to approximately 3.3 million customers and gas service to approximately 1.1 million customers in New York City and Westchester County. The company also provides steam service in parts of Manhattan, electric service to 301,000 customers in southeastern New York and adjacent areas of northern New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania; gas service to 130,000 customers in southeastern New York and adjacent areas of eastern Pennsylvania. Based in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is the largest regulated utility in the U.S., with approximately seven million customers across six states.
In US Black Engineer & Information Technology (USBE&IT) magazine's third look at an array of professionals in energy and energy-related industries, USBE&IT presents some of the men and women behind the scenes.
They are in companies like American Electric Power, ComEd, PECO, Con Edison, and Duke Energy. Among their ranks are the president and COO of a utility with an $8 billion book value, an engineer who found out how tough he really was during BP’s Deepwater Horizon accident, a renewable energy planning and green building design specialist involved in the design of Cornell University’s new technology center in New York City, the director of energy finance and sustainability management of the nation’s largest housing authority, several nuclear power experts, and a business and energy arbitrator who can practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Read and spread the word about these talented men and women who’ve got the power.
American Electric Power (AEP)
Senior Integrated Resource Planning Analyst
As an AEP senior analyst, Edward Achaab, 34, develops a plan that identifies the amount, timing and resources required to ensure a steady supply of electricity to customers at a reasonable cost. He also develops information to support testimony in rate cases and in resource filings for AEP, a major provider of electricity in 11 Midwest U.S. states and Canada. In 2010, in addition to natural gas analysis, Achaab began forecasting oil and refined product usage. Soon, he was generating updated forecasts that met customer demands and became the group’s oil expert. A math and science maven since his childhood in Ghana, Achaab enjoys the energy sector’s intriguing challenges that test his mental, spiritual and cultural faculties. He says the emerging area of relatively low-cost and low-emission shale gas exploration will revolutionize global electric generation, as it is a bridge fuel while we decrease use of coal and increase sources of renewable energy.
President & Chief Operating Officer
Appalachian Power – American Electric Power
Charles Patton, 52, is candid. He says, “As the president and chief operating officer of a utility with one million customers, 3,600 employees, a book value of more than $8 billion and revenues of approximately $3.2 billion, I have oversight over every aspect of our business.” That means maintaining the physical power plant’s optimal performance; employee health, safety, productivity and well being; and customer satisfaction. During his 26-year career in electric utilities, Patton came to understand the industry’s underlying importance to economic growth and the comfort and technology it brings to everyone. He says the industry needs infrastructure investment but is hampered by a weak economy and customers shocked by electricity’s escalating expense caused by higher cost “and EPA clean air requirements.” Managing industry upgrades while maintaining affordability for residential, commercial and industrial customers is complex. Still, he says, “Depending on what region of the country that you live, for $5-10 a day, you can heat and cool your home, charge your gadgets and power lights, computers, televisions, washers, etc. It’s actually somewhat amazing.”
Baker Hughes (BH)
Stephen Appiah, Project Manager
Baker Hughes provides oil field technology and services, with a focus on shale gas. BH has more than 58,000-plus employees in more than 80 countries. As a manager involved in marketing and business development, drilling and evaluation, Stephen Appiah, 50, improves and optimizes the commercialization of product and service launches. He monitors business initiatives and assists in publishing an internal newsletter. As a youth in Ghana, he decided on engineering after a childhood of dismantling and reassembling household appliances to see how they ran. At BH, as a process design coordinator, he designed a marketing model for energy generation using gasification: converting coal, biomass or natural gas feed into synthetic gas, which is used to fuel turbines to generate electricity. Appiah takes mentorship seriously, working with high school students’ interest in STEM personally and through the National Society of Black Engineers alumni.
Performance Drilling Engineer
One might say that drilling is Obi Nnanna’s obsession. At BH, Nnanna is an engineer and a project manager, meeting oil company representatives. He is responsible for improving shale-drilling operations by optimizing drilling, bottom hole assembly design and thorough engineering analysis. Nnanna, 27, conducts and performs well recaps, cost saving analysis and analyzes best practices. His interest in black gold stems from growing up in oil-rich Nigeria. In 2010, while completing his MBA degree, Nnanna co-authored two papers presented at a Society of Petroleum Engineers conference in Denver and the country of Oman. In 2011, he attended the Murchison Drilling School, in Albuquerque, N.M., where he studied, among other things, drilling optimization, abnormal pressure and gas cap, casing and cementing. Prior to Baker Hughes, Nnanna spent two years as a field-drilling engineer at Drilling Engineer for Halliburton. He says, “As a member of the first Black Greek letter fraternity, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, I am heavily involved in encouraging high school students to attend college and pursue a career in science and technology.”
Don Taylor leads 25 engineers and project services specialists on assignments that include developing safe, reliable operations on the high-pressure sections of platforms, and helping to maintain BP’s equipment in subsea flow lines and topsides equipment. He also manages efforts to produce tens of thousands of additional barrels of oil through new wells and maintains current production. In 2000, while an intern, Taylor had his initial exposure to a chemical engineer’s daily work and says he loved it. Ever since, his career has been involved in modifying onshore and offshore operational facilities. In April 2010, Taylor was interim lead engineer during the Deepwater Horizon accident. As most of BP’s leadership was focused on the oil spill, Taylor was given the opportunity to serve as a technical reviewer, and he worked with the BP team to maintain safe, reliable production for the largest single production facility in the Gulf and one of the largest in the industry. “I was able to see what I was made of in a high-stress situation, which showed me that I was fit to handle more responsibility,” he says.
At Houston’s Calpine Corp., which owns, leases and operates natural gas-fired and renewable geothermal power plants, Chris Jones is the attorney for Southeast and Midwest Power Operations. He represents 15 power plants in 10 different states in areas including regulatory, litigation and environmental. When Jones, 46, was a young man, a master electrician who was a friend of Jones’ dad introduced him to STEM by taking him on as an apprentice. The work they did piqued the boy’s curiosity about electrical engineering. A memorable accomplishment for Jones as a young electrical engineer, at another utility, was designing from start to finish the electrical infrastructure for the Space Center Houston, a NASA-related educational facility. The work, he says, showed the essence of how an engineer can transform book knowledge into useful experience. During the past 10 years, the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity member has served on at least six different STEM scholarship committees. He says engineering students must be diligent, as they will ask themselves, "Why am I talking so much math when other disciplines don't take half as much?"
As the section manager of Bronx Gas Construction at Con Edison, Gina Callender is responsible for about 15 union crews and 10 contractor crews. They respond to gas leak repairs, install gas services and gas mains, and perform other gas construction duties. Con Edison of New York provides electric service to about 3.3 million customers and gas service to approximately 1.1 million customers in New York City and Westchester County. Callender was selected to be part of a special project, the Con Edison Liberty Audit Project Team, which fielded questions from the Public Service Commission’s consultant and responded to questions directed to the utility’s executives. From an early age, Callender showed an aptitude for math and science, and has dedicated herself to repaying the support she received by serving as an active recruiter for Con Edison. Looking forward, she says that Con Edison is facilitating conversions for residential and commercial heating, which will save customers money and improve New York’s air quality.
Section Manager – Transmission Line Maintenance Department
As the person responsible for maintaining Con Edison’s overhead transmission system, Orville Cocking must meet federal and state guidelines by overseeing the inspections, security and repair of the physical assets and making sure flora does not interfere with the lines. Cocking says personal curiosity and a desire “to have an impact” brought him into STEM, and that “being a part of the team that delivers energy to NYC and Westchester allows me to do all the above.” A project that required “incredible” teamwork, Cocking says, was the design of the Con Edison Parkview substation. It involved building a structure and the associated feeders from the Bronx to run under the Harlem River, and the renovation of a popular park. To ensure future generations of Con Ed personnel, Cocking participated in an 18-month company training program for college seniors and graduates called Growth Opportunities for Leadership and Development. “I am a mentor for newly hired engineers who enter the program,” he says. “In that role, I try to provide the support, insight and resources for them to be successful in their professions/sectors.”
Contech Control Service, Inc.
Project Business Manager
Emile Nelson, 52, manages budgets, schedules and resources to direct engineers and designer resources on multiple projects for Contech Control Services, Inc., a Texas engineering and construction company specializing in process automation projects for leading energy and chemical process clients. Nelson, an active mentor of HBCU and other college students, urges them to network vigorously and continuously, and takes pride in the work he has done in managing complex computer systems to control multi-million dollar petrochemical facilities. He says that virtualization and cloud computing are making a major impact on the energy and petrochemical sector, with computer servers hosting operator stations and desktops virtually instead of being dependent on stand-alone personal computers. Plus, he sees the widespread use of tablets and smart phones in the plant environment. Away from work, Nelson, 52, spends time with family, travel, keeps up with tech gadgets and hacks at golf.
Energy & Environmental Facilities Engineering
In 2013, the Cornell NYC Tech will open, in temporary quarters, to students. Abena Ojetayo, 27, is involved in the project management support for the physical development of opening Cornell University’s campus on Roosevelt Island in 2017. Her focus: site infrastructure, renewable energy planning and green building design coordination. She gained experience on a similar task in Nigeria working as an infrastructure and energy engineer on the master plan for a model sustainable city. Ojetayo says that students in the young and interdisciplinary field of energy engineering should take courses outside of the engineering major, and particularly in sustainability and economics. An area to watch is Net Zero Energy. “It combines ultra-efficient building design with wireless controls and other convergent technologies [that] will transform the built environment into hyper-interactive spaces that put the user at the center of energy operations and enable us to make real-time smart decisions about our energy use,” she says.
Senior Instructor (Nuclear)
When Tonya Denise Byrd was 17 years old, she had an internship at Dominion. At 36, she is the the nuclear senior instructor at the Surry Power Station, in Surry, Va. Her responsibilities include the development and implementation of all engineering continuing and position specific training for more than 100 engineers. Byrd has been accredited as an instructor by the National Academy for Nuclear Training. It operates under the auspices of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, which was established by the nuclear power industry. In 2008, Byrd was a fellow at the World Nuclear University Summer Institute at the University of Ottawa. The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. sister is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the National Society for Black Engineers and the Society of Women Engineers.
Director – Human Resources Energy
Drexel Harris, 55, understands utilities from both engineering and business perspectives, which makes him a very effective human resources director at Dominion Resources. The Virginia firm, which operates the nation’s largest natural gas storage system, has retail customers in 15 states. Harris oversees HR support for the gas transmission, storage and distribution business that operates in Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio. In 1977, he gained energy experience while one of the first Black nuclear reactor operators in the U.S. Navy, and later trained other enlisted and officer candidates trying to achieve the his level of qualifications. After decommission, Harris earned his bachelor’s degree, and says he “transitioned from operations and engineering to human resources to influence in a positive way how Dominion recruits and retains women and minorities.” He advises students interested in utilities that beyond doing class work, they must seek energy-related internships, be flexible in accepting assignments, broaden their knowledge base, and, if an internship or job is unavailable to network with sector veterans, stay in the loop about opportunities.
Progress Energy (A Duke Energy Company)
Senior Portfolio Analyst
Duke Energy is the nation’s largest utility, with seven million customers and about 58,200 megawatts of electric generating capacity. Gerald Richardson has an easy job. Not really. In fact, his task is to figure out the optimal way to provide power to meet customer needs, while providing the best price for power traders to use in the broad energy market. Richardson must also determine the cheapest alternative to provide power when one flips the light switch, and his job performance directly impacts the company’s financial bottom line. He recommends that students join AABE (American Association of Blacks in Energy), a national organization that encourages Black involvement in governmental energy policymaking. Prior to joining Progress Energy, Richardson served in the 82d Airborne Division, United States Army, with deployments to Afghanistan and Kosovo.
Senior Energy Engineer
At Progress, Heather Siler, 36, is the account management section's technical expert on energy, energy efficiency and energy management systems. Among other tasks, Siler assists colleagues, and assesses and develops customer opportunities for energy efficiency projects. She became an energy engineer after 10 years in Progress Energy’s nuclear section as a test program engineer and manager. That position taught her about other business units within Progress, and that she had to diversify her skills in energy management and energy efficiency, which she says are the current and next big things. Siler considers building relationships, networking and gaining mentors as the keys to her success. She says that an internship introduced her to energy sector opportunities and encourages students to start looking early for internships with companies in which they are interested. “University or community college co-op programs, as well as organizations like INROADs, can assist you in getting the experience early,” says Siler.
Eli Lilly & Co.
Director – U.S. Distribution Operations
Rashad Gold solves complex, logistical problems daily. He leads a 115-person team and three distribution centers responsible for ensuring that products from the world’s 10th-largest pharmaceutical company, Eli Lilly, arrive at the right place, time and in a cost-effective manner for patients. Gold manages the supply of pharmaceuticals to domestic and international customers, which is sometimes a matter of life and death. As an undergrad, Gold says a high GPA and internships in Eli Lilly’s animal health technical services, and building and process automation divisions established his credentials, and that minoring in applied biology, biomedical engineering, biochemical engineering and Spanish also assisted. The avid traveler has visited several different countries around the world. At Eli Lilly, his ongoing task is “to try to root out and eliminate any kind of waste to allow us to be as lean as possible.”
Senior Regulatory Engineer
Stephanie Hanson’s job is to identify and resolve regulatory issues via direct communication with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency. At Exelon Nuclear, which has the nation’s largest nuclear fleet, Hanson, 32, says her goal is to ensure that the facilities under her jurisdiction are properly managed on a licensing basis and meet applicable standard design criteria, practices, procedures, regulations and codes. In 2010 and 2011, she was a president of a Women in Nuclear chapter. She says the nuclear industry is currently and aggressively pursuing nuclear research, design, development and construction with 19 organizations, studying, licensing, or building more than 30 nuclear power reactors. Hanson entered the industry to be where the action is, she says. “Nuclear energy produces 63.3 percent of all U.S. emission-free electricity and it is the only energy source that can produce large amounts of electricity 24/7 reliably and efficiently. I wanted to be a part of the nuclear renaissance required to meet those demands.” She also shares her expertise by participating in A World in Motion, a program developed to attract, engage and educate city kids from fourth grade through 12th grade about math and science.
Gilbert K. Squires
Oil and Gas Attorney
Squires Benson, P.L.
Gilbert K. Squires is a licensed Professional Engineer and a member of the bar in Florida and the District of Columbia. He can also practice in the U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, U.S. District Court and U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Florida. Squires’ first petroleum job was as an Exxon drilling engineer. He later joined Conoco and, in 1994, became president of Conoco Mexico, Ltd. Today, Squires, 54, represents global and domestic clients and businesses in oil and gas and business-related matters. He serves as business and energy arbitrator through the International Centre for Dispute Resolution and a domestic mediator through the American Arbitration Association. The native of Panama said he gravitated toward the petroleum sector because he was good in science and math and wanted to travel. Off duty, Squires teaches Akido, practices Bikram Yoga and shares time with loved ones.
<Photo caption>Samuel Ighalo
Senior Drilling Engineer
Samuel Ighalo undertakes well design projects involving high-pressure, high-temperature, ultra-deep gas and deep-water wells, provides front-end design and engineering advice on shallow offshore wells, and works on well construction designs. Halliburton has honored Ighalo, as a “Digital Asset Imagine Challenge Winner” for his data-sharing approach to increasing reserves and maximizing customer return on investment in deep-water exploration. Ighalo, 33, grew up in Nigeria’s oil and gas economy, and his father, a Chevron worker, encouraged him to become an engineer. A Shell internship introduced Ighalo to exploration and drilling technologies, including 4-D seismic, smart wells and horizontal drilling, and he explored the mechanics of fluid flow in an oil pipeline network. He says the sector’s next breakthroughs will be in nanotechnology, to help capture bypassed oil left for decades because of lack of the right technology, as well as “digital oilfields.” These programs will help facilitate production increases as real-time measurements of water saturation and relative permeability changes will be attainable during secondary recovery operations. Models will be calibrated immediately and adjustments made, enabling a higher predictability of the oil reservoir behavior.
Commodities Category Manager – Manager – Salts and Brines
Since 2009, Charles Newman, whose undergrad degree’s concentration was in chemical engineering, has been responsible for the global commercial management of a $300 million chemical portfolio. It includes supplier relations management, contract negotiations, product development and tender support, with concerns regarding how economic conditions impact commodity pricing. In 2010, he managed the global consolidation of a chemical product by convincing multiple internal stakeholders in face-to-face negotiations. The results: The proposal achieved more than 80 percent buy-in, and achieved 16 percent in annual savings. Newman, 44, was attracted to the sector by its history, sustainability and the multiple career avenues the combination a basic science degree and an MBA gave him in the manufacturing or supply chain areas in almost any field. He counsels students interested in the oil sector to devour the industry information in Platts Energy Week, and Chemical Industry News & Chemical Market Intelligence publications. Newman also believes that the emerging energy markets in the Eastern Hemisphere present significant growth opportunities and new logistical challenges. The Louisiana native supports Halliburton’s Diversity Outreach initiatives, offers résumé review services at job fairs and teaches a second-grade Junior Achievement class.
New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)
Director of Energy Finance and Sustainability Management
Prior to his present post, Rory Christian, 32, worked in natural gas and electric generation and marketing, which gave him vital industry insight. He now manages the energy portfolio for the nation’s largest housing authority, with its $550 million energy and utility budget and a goal to improve sustainability and energy conservation initiatives as part of the New York City Housing Authority’s overall Green Agenda. In 2012, through a partnership with Con Edison, the NYCHA upgraded lighting systems in more than18,000 apartments, saving millions of dollars. He saw opportunities in energy after working for KeySpan Energy—now part of National Grid—on projects that taught him about gas and electrical distribution systems. That compelled him to learn more about the sector and earn an MBA. By 2023, the NYCHA plans to perform more than 2,500 energy audits, or one audit every business day. “The results will be the foundation through which we move forward with future energy conservation efforts,” he says.
PG&E (Pacific Gas & Electric)
Electrical Design Engineer
Five years ago, Anthony Alexander joined PG&E. Now he coordinates project information for the engineering and construction of electric substation facilities for the company that provides natural gas and electric service to about 15 million people in a 70,000-square-mile service area in northern and central California. Alexander’s work includes equipment relocations and replacements, capacity additions, reliability and protection improvements. His most memorable professional accomplishment was obtaining his engineering-in-training certificate: the first step under California law toward becoming a licensed professional engineer. Alexander, 27, will take the professional engineering exam next April. An interest in math and science drew him to electrical engineering, and the electric utility field became attractive after an Allegheny Energy internship.
Southern Nuclear,Southern Company
Fleet Reactor Services Manager
Southern Nuclear, where Demetrius Davis works, is the nuclear plant company of the Southern Company. The subsidiary operates three plants that provide 20 percent of Alabama and Georgia’s electricity. Davis manages fleet dry storage and refueling programs, and associated alliance agreements. Early in his career, as one of the few non-licensed personnel he was asked to be a part of a team that developed internal refueling to offload and reload nuclear fuel in Southern’s reactor cores. By contrast, most of his colleagues were senior reactor operators licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and trained and qualified by Westinghouse. In 2003, Davis joined Southern Nuclear as a system engineer at nuclear plant Farley and later became a Dry Storage Cask supervisor/refueling coordinator. Five years on, he joined the Southern Nuclear corporate office as a senior engineer in the Mechanical Components and Dry Storage groups. “Being a part of an industry so dedicated and focused on safety continues to be what makes my job rewarding,” says Davis.