Think­ing Big

Anamika Mukher­jee has gained a rep­u­ta­tion as some­one who con­tem­plates the big­gest chal­lenges fac­ing the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try

Alberta Oil - - OBSERVER -

IN AN IN­DUS­TRY TIGHTLY FO­CUSED ON NEAR-SIGHTED tasks such as cut­ting costs and im­prov­ing op­er­a­tions, Anamika Mukher­jee is think­ing far be­yond the next decade. As a spe­cial­ist in tech­nol­ogy col­lab­o­ra­tion at Cen­ovus En­ergy, Mukher­jee con­tem­plates some of the big­gest chal­lenges in the fos­sil fuel in­dus­try—ques­tions like how the in­dus­try can achieve zero-emis­sions oil sands pro­duc­tion, or whether it can find non-com­bustible uses for its prod­uct in a mar­ket where de­mand will even­tu­ally fade.

At Cen­ovus, she is re­spon­si­ble for li­ais­ing with var­i­ous in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal groups in or­der to clearly map out longterm strate­gies that will ad­dress these chal­lenges. “Every­one knows that the goal is ul­ti­mately to have low-cost, low-car­bon prod­ucts, but we need to bring con­sis­tent di­rec­tions to how we’re go­ing to meet our tar­gets,” she says.

Mukher­jee’s po­si­tion rep­re­sents the chang­ing view to­ward en­ergy de­vel­op­ment on the part of ma­jor oil pro­duc­ers. De­spite a wealth of in­tel­lec­tual cap­i­tal and mas­sive in­vest­ment in re­search and de­vel­op­ment, Canada’s en­ergy sec­tor can at times seem a bit myopic. But she says there is a grow­ing will­ing­ness to think about the broad, ex­is­ten­tial ques­tions fac­ing the oil and gas sec­tor. “Be­ing in this sec­tor, I’m sur­rounded by peo­ple who be­lieve that we need to get ahead of trends rather than con­stantly try­ing to catch up,” she says. “In your spe­cific role, if you’re just look­ing at the day-to-day, you’re usu­ally not look­ing be­yond that role. And I think some­one like me can push you to do that.”

Mukher­jee grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Cal­gary with a de­gree in chem­i­cal en­gi­neer­ing in 2002. She worked for Ja­cobs En­gi­neer­ing and Sun­cor En­ergy in var­i­ous roles while she worked on an MBA in global en­ergy man­age­ment and sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, which she com­pleted in 2010. Early on, she rec­og­nized where her strengths were and ad­justed her ca­reer am­bi­tions to suit them. “When I started my ca­reer in process en­gi­neer­ing, I quickly re­al­ized that I pre­fer to see the big pic­ture rather than a two-year project,” she says. “I also have al­ways be­lieved that I like to in­flu­ence [de­ci­sions] so that we don’t get caught off guard.”

To­day, Mukher­jee also leads the com­pany’s ef­forts in Evok In­no­va­tions, a tech­nol­ogy fund be­tween Sun­cor and Cen­ovus, where she aims to help de­velop tech­nolo­gies to lower car­bon emis­sions, re­duce wa­ter us­age, limit dam­age to land and ul­ti­mately cre­ate a no- to low-emis­sions prod­uct. As an ex­am­ple of the lat­ter, she cites the work of a com­pany cur­rently test­ing coal degra­da­tion, which uses mi­crobes to break down coal into us­able prod­ucts like plas­tics or poly­mers. While it is highly spec­u­la­tive, she says, it rep­re­sents the “di­rec­tion of think­ing” for peo­ple who take a long view. “We are in a tran­si­tional phase right now,” she says. “We need to ex­plore other op­tions that are ei­ther GHG emis­sions-free or have low GHG emis­sions. We’re just ex­plor­ing right now.”

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