Pipeline straight talk – 6 questions with CEPA’s former president and CEO

Listen in as one of CEPA’s bloggers interviews Brenda Kenny, CEPA’s former president and CEO, about leading the industry to continuous improvement, the importance of pipeline safety and the future of pipeline operations in Canada.

More about Brenda Kenny:

Brenda Kenny is an adjunct professor in the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary and holds a Doctorate in Resources and the Environment, a Masters of Mechanical Engineering and a Bachelor of Applied Science.

Interview transcript

CEPA BLOG:                      Today we’re speaking with Brenda Kenny, President and CEO of the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association or CEPA.  Brenda’s going to speak to us about her leadership at CEPA and the work she’s done to continuously improve pipeline operations in Canada.  Thanks for speaking with us Brenda.

MS. B. KENNY:                   Oh you’re welcome.

CEPA BLOG:                      So Brenda, Alberta Venture recently named you one of Alberta’s 50 Most Influential People.  What does being an influencer mean to you or what are you trying to influence?

MS. B. KENNY:                   Well, I think that when you’re in a state of rapid change as we are in Canada today there are many many many bright points of leadership.  And when you’re able to provide influence to help those change-makers be more aligned and give voice to some of the changes and the leadership underway, it’s a great opportunity.  At the end of the day there are many many shared interests and many many leaders.  To me being an influencer in this space around energy and environment is all about giving voice to responsibility and honesty and transparency and encouraging others to speak their minds openly and create a really positive discourse for the change that we need.

CEPA BLOG:                      And I know pipeline safety and continuous industry improvement are very important to you and of course to CEPA as well.  Why are these areas critical for Canadians and for CEPA?  Why is it critical for Canadians to — or for CEPA to lead the industry in these areas?

MS. B. KENNY:                   Well, first of all pipeline safety is critical for Canadians.  Virtually all of the energy we use except for electricity moves by pipeline.  And also we are a trading nation and about twenty percent of our trade value in Canada comes from energy and that’s thanks to pipelines as well.  So whether it’s getting around to drive your kids to soccer practice or, you know, barbeque a steak or just benefit from a thriving economy, pipelines are absolutely critical.  And we have a fundamental duty to Canadians that Canadian pipelines be the safest in the world and continuously work to press that forward.  So CEPA, with our members being all of the major transmission pipeline companies for Canada, is in a very unique position to help foster collaboration and strong and poignant goals around safety and drive that performance out by enabling folks and great leaders to work together on these challenges and opportunities.

CEPA BLOG:                      So you’ve been at CEPA’s helm since 2008 Brenda.   What was your vision for the industry when you started?  And would you say you’ve accomplished that vision?

MS. B. KENNY:                   For me the vision for the industry when I started was to provide opportunities for this pipeline industry in Canada to come together around our best programs for shared practice and best practice and continuous improvement and that’s what our CEPA Integrity First Program is all about.  And I am very very proud of this industry in the degree to which many leaders have been at that place for a long time within their own companies and now we’re cracking the code on how to leverage the talent and the collaboration and innovation to take that a lot further.  You know, there’s an old African proverb that says, ‘I can go faster alone but I could go further together.’  And that is very much what we’re about at CEPA.

CEPA BLOG:                      So, you know, you just mentioned Integrity First and, you know, I know that while you’ve been at CEPA you’ve implemented many measures to ensure Canadian pipelines are some of the safest in the world.  Which of those initiatives would you say has been the most important?

MS. B. KENNY:                   That’s a great question.  It’s hard to pick one.  But, so I’ll pick two.  But first of all it’s — some of the key practices that drive out into areas where we’ve been strong but choose to be stronger and more visible and the key ones there for me right now is around Emergency Response.  We are strongly regulated in that area and each company has their own Emergency Response systems that are regulated and they’re certainly a point of active study in any major pipeline hearing.  But we have adopted for the first time ever in this industry and I believe ever in North America, a Mutual Emergency Assistance Agreement which basically says it’s all hands on deck from every company should there be an incident in any company.  And that’s also then driving very active joint Emergency Response exercises, joint critique of practices and control center approaches, etcetera.  So we’re able in that lens to really drive toward excellence and innovation by staking the ground that we will use these Mutual Emergency Assistance Agreements to make sure that we have the best possible response way beyond our regulatory compliance.

Second to that though is what happens inside the box and for that I would point to a lot more active constructive critique of each other’s systems.  And it’s important to gain trust of your peers enough to say, ‘I want you to look inside my operations and tell me if there’s anything I can learn from you.’  And CEPA’s being asked to do some cross-industry assessments and allow our board and our technical leaders to sit down eyeball to eyeball and say, ‘As a community we can do better.  There are some leaders that can help others.  There are some who are doing very very well, by any global measure are extremely good, but want to get even better.  How do we do that together?’  So by actually creating a way for us to have frank conversations with real facts, real metrics, real assessments on the table that is leading to greater improvement.

CEPA BLOG:                      You know, I’ve listened to you give presentations around this country and you’ve given presentations around the world on why Canada needs to be a leader in pipeline safety as you just talked about.  Brenda, could you tell us a bit about your vision for the future of Canada’s pipeline industry?

MS. B. KENNY:                   I’ve heard global technology leaders openly say Canada is the pipeline capital of the world.  And the reason they say that is because we have a vast territory and we have some of the very best pipeline companies on the planet.  We’re better than from Canada to not only hold ourselves to account for excellence, but also develop, innovate and press forward on technology and practices that can help the rest of the world be even better as well.  So that’s our role I think is energy highways have a duty to serve and energy highways must be as safe and environmentally sound as possible and always pressing forward on that quest.

CEPA BLOG:                      So we’re going to shift here a little bit here Brenda to a different role that you play as a professor at the University of Calgary.  We’ve been talking about leadership here in this interview.  What do you teach your students about the important of leadership?

MS. B. KENNY:                   Well, as an adjunct professor it’s a pleasure to be a guest lecturer from time to time.  I’m not currently teaching a specific course but with graduate students that I work with and students, one of the key things that I emphasise for them is, ‘Whether you’re an engineer with great technical skills or an MBA student with great business acumen, you need to understand that your measure of success is not borne from your technical bent, your measure of success is borne from the society you serve.  And you need to understand that stakeholders who have an interest and concern in what you’re doing are extremely valid in the questions that they raise.  They may not be as technically savvy or as business literate or financial literate as you are but listen well and allow yourself — insist on challenging your own assumptions through their eyes.  Integrate into your solutions things that are really really important to those stakeholders.  And those stakeholders are the society in which you serve so you must to learn and understand their interests and incorporate them into what you’re doing.’

CEPA BLOG:                      Thank you Brenda.  I think that that’s all the time we have today but thank you for speaking with us today.

MS. B. KENNY:                   Thank you for your questions.


The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 115,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2012, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Our members transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily natural gas and onshore crude oil from producing regions to markets throughout North America.