“My education is the school of learning by experience…I still go to classes every day.”
David Werklund (CM AOE) has received many awards. He was named Ernst & Young’s Canadian Entrepreneur of the Year (in 2005). He was inducted into the Order of Canada, Order of Excellence of Alberta; Calgary Business Hall of Fame and Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame, as well as the 2022 Queen’s Jubilee Recipient. He has been named one of the 50 most influential people in Alberta by the Globe and Mail, Financial Post and Calgary Herald and has now added another title of his name – author.
Throughout an amazing career in Alberta’s oil and gas industry, Werklund pioneered environmental protection techniques while building several successful oilfield service companies and staying true to his guiding principles: “ Protecting the air we breathe, the water we drink and the ground we walk on. .”
Under his guidance, his teams developed environmental practices that not only exceeded existing standards, but in many cases set the regulatory standard for the industry.
Werklund has now recounted his career and life experience in his book, Unconventional- The Story of An Entrepreneurial Environmentalist Inside Alberta’s Oil and Gas Industry, to be released March 14, 2023, through Barlow Books, co-authored with Robert Brehl .
It’s a journey that explores the reality that an environmentalist can also be successful in the energy industry and improve business practices while respecting the environment along the way.
Werklund’s career journey began with his early days at Shell Canada as a production operator in 1965. The establishment of his first company – Dave’s Oilfield Service – in 1970 began his entrepreneurial journey, progressing to the creation of Concord Well Servicing in 1979 – who grew up. to Canada’s third largest well service company. He later founded Canadian Crude Separators, a crude oil processing and waste management company, which was merged with Concord’s service business in 1994. By 2012, Canadian Crude Separators had expanded to include twelve related divisions which came together under the name Tervita Corporation.
In 2014, Dave created Werklund Ventures Ltd. to personally invest in innovative private companies. Among his many interests, he is founder and chairman of Pure Environmental and chairman emeritus of RS Technologies. He also remains chairman of the Werklund Foundation as an effort to further his legacy of empowering youth through leadership education.
It’s no surprise that people have been following Dave Werklund’s career for years, and he chose to write his autobiography in response to many requests. Certainly one of the many exciting milestones in the growth of Werklund’s companies occurred in the 2000s. His company, Canadian Crude Separators grew as Canadian income trusts boomed in the early 2000s.
Income trusts have provided significant tax benefits to investors, particularly those exempt from Canadian income tax and non-resident investors. As reported in an article in mondaq.com, by 2006 the income trust market had expanded to all types of businesses and the Canadian government had become increasingly concerned about tax leakage.
“In September 2005, the Secretary of the Treasury estimated the federal tax leak for 2004 at $300 million. In September 2006, a University of Toronto professor estimated that the combined federal and provincial tax drain on businesses using the income trust structure was $700 million annually, and after the completion of the publicly proposed trust conversions at that time, combined federal. and the provincial tax drain would be $1.1 billion annually.”
As more corporations have converted or expressed their intention to convert to income trusts, and market advisors have speculated that other large Canadian corporations (including EnCana Corporation) will soon announce their intention to convert, the Department of Finance announced the “SIFT Legislation” – specified pass-through entity. legislation “that imposed an entity-level tax on publicly traded income trusts at a rate comparable to corporate income tax rates and taxes investors on income trust distributions in a manner similar to shareholders of a Canadian corporation,” according to mondaq- com. By 2009, it was enacted into law.
Werklund describes his company Canadian Crude Separators as:
“The first environmental energy services firm to convert from a public corporation to an income trust – the conversion was to the growth of Canadian Crude Separators what jet fuel was to Boeing. The result was that I was asked to present our story to Wall Street fund managers for “TSX Canada Day” in Manhattan. Can you imagine that? A farm boy from Valleyview Alberta telling his dream to the world’s biggest financiers! It was incredible. We were the first energy services company to enter an energy trust and the first company to exit 5 years later.”
Werklund has optimized the way producers get their oil to market. Canada’s first crude oil separation facility was designed and built across the highway from the Peace Pipeline at La Glace, Alberta. He continued to capitalize on the idea of locating processing close to pipeline access throughout the company.
He designed and built 29 processing and disposal facilities, which included caving disposal – all including waste management that was environmentally superior to what was offered at the time.
One of the many big business and environmental decisions Werklund made was the purchase of a salt cavern in Unity Saskatchewan from Sifto Salt. He developed it to become a world leader in caving, turning it into waste disposal facilities so that oil companies would have a way to dispose of the solid waste produced.
“Oil producers were transporting their waste oil — which was solid product — to meet environmental disposal standards,” according to Werklund.
“We knew it was cheaper for producers to come to one of our facilities located near the pipeline transport points. Our expertise in all aspects of the business and our costs for them were still better and more cost-effective than trucking oil waste for disposal and cleanup.”
It was a move that eliminated a lot of emissions and costs by reducing the trips involved in processing oil by truck to meet pipeline specifications and transporting that product to shipping points. He summarizes the biggest lessons he learned from that experience as “move fast and aim high.”
“It’s better to err on the side of moving too fast rather than moving too slowly, because good ideas and business opportunities move fast… That’s why Canadian Crude Separators moved into the warehouse waste from the salt cavern and into the best-designed landfills, which the government used to shape strict new regulations for others in the industry to follow. We aimed high, we took lumps at times, but we learned and continued to grow and innovate.”
Through all of his successes, when asked what was the best business move he’s made in his career, Werklund says:
“I would say they are becoming more aware… more self-aware and aware of how I interact with our staff and the people we deal with. I also choose people who were much more competent and much more capable than me. And then I really got to be the person who steered the ship.”
“Unconventional” details examples of great entrepreneurship, whether it’s recognizing an opportunity to provide a new service, developing a new product, or improving an existing product. In fact, Werklund says one of his most successful entrepreneurial endeavors, RS Technologies, has grown from insolvency to become a world-class, sustainably strong composite pole manufacturing company — replacing the wooden pole.
This is why people called Werklund a visionary. He advises that thinking like an entrepreneur means looking at ideas and understanding their competitive advantages and future potential.
“I’ve always believed that mistakes and failures are not the opposite of success, but rather a part of success,” according to Werklund. “An entrepreneurial life is not for everyone. There are many risks and rewards and many ups and downs – like a roller coaster.”
He admits that there have been many challenges over the years and that his naivety may have helped him from the start. He says that while it may sound strange, his lack of formal education led him to try things that others might not have tried if their business school training had shown them numbers that didn’t add up or were risky .
“Challenges have ranged from the explosive nature of the oil and gas industry and government policies and regulations that have affected investment coming to Alberta, to dealing with the narcissistic behavior of once-trusted lieutenants who emphasize not only business, but health and my personal well-being,” says Werklund.
Ultimately, his success led him to recognize the value of introspection and what is popularly called a moral compass.
“Entrepreneurs need to make a serious commitment to learning about themselves, learning about what they know and, more importantly, what they don’t know,” he advises.
” They must align themselves with good, fair values. Integrity is the basis of these values.”
Maureen McCall is an energy professional who writes about issues affecting the energy industry.