“I was a naïve rigworker who worked hard and made wicked money for a high school dropout. What else matters, right?” This was the carefree lifestyle Tyler Kobayashi enjoyed while working in the field doing electric wireline, cement and acid pumping, and eventually landing on a drilling rig for four years.
Kobayashi admits he was an intelligent kid in grade school, earning top marks with minimum effort. But he also admits that he didn’t have the drive or inclination to really apply himself to life’s challenges. He was lazy, complacent, and a procrastinator. These were character traits that would haunt him for years: all through the second half of grade school, into high school, and even the early parts of his career. He says that even though he was in the field working, he could have been doing more to really push himself.
After narrowly escaping death [outside of work] on a few occasions and realizing his life had hit rock bottom, he decided to make a change. Not a mid-life crisis, per se, but more of a realization. He reflects, “You never know when your last day is going to come. How can I count on doing something tomorrow when all of a sudden your tomorrow doesn’t arrive, or that friend you were going to meet next week isn’t around anymore?” Kobayashi made a promise to himself he’d make the most of each day and live life to the fullest, whatever that looked like.
He also realized he had a deep-rooted passion for the oil and gas industry and decided to take his career to the next level by enrolling in the Petroleum Engineering Technologist (PT) program at SAIT. Kobayashi felt that by going back to school and getting a little sheet of paper that says “hey, this guy can learn” and do a little bit of work, it would allow him more opportunities to challenge himself and ultimately be a more valued resource to those around him.
Getting into the program, however, wasn’t a sure thing. Bad decisions earlier in life denied him that high school diploma, so he had a lot of upgrading to do before SAIT would even consider him for the PT program. Fortunately for him, everything came together and he found himself a first-year PT student in 2015.
Kobayashi dove into the program with all the gusto and zeal that was missing during his grade school years. He relished the classroom and lab work and felt that actively participating on the Student Petroleum Society would complement his formal education and he immediately signed up early in his first year.
It was during his first year that Kobayashi attended an Oil Respect presentation by Mark Scholz in the Johnson-Cobbe Energy Centre in April 2016. He recalls that, “of all the presentations we had that year – we had a lot of the bigger companies and services come in and do presentations and they were all great, educational, and everything – but for me personally, I felt that Mark’s Oil Respect campaign was hands-down, the most important presentation I went to all year. It gave me something to think about and have an opinion on. He brought me to a realization of what our government and the world is doing to our industry. ”
That naïve rigworker from ten years earlier was now a determined student willing to champion the industry and the PT program at every opportunity. So in his second year he became president of the Student Petroleum Society and felt that he’d be able to impact the lives of a few hundred student members; to give them guidance, to prevent them from making the same mistakes he did in his youth. “When you’ve gone down the wrong road so many times, you can learn a lot that way,” he says. Ultimately, he is trying to get them to a better spot a little quicker than he did.
A substantial number of PT students have never set foot on a rig, so Kobayashi feels an obligation to attend rig tours along with the newer Club members. This provides the “greener” students in the crowd with an interpreter who can help them understand the technology as they’re experiencing it. They can get a much better grasp of what stuff is and how it works. If they’ve never seen an actual rig, a wireline, or even a BOP, but have seen pictures of it, seeing it for real makes understanding a lot easier. Plus, with having the Club’s executive members join in rig tours and field trips, he hopes that will leave First Years with the impession that someone of perceived influence — President, VP External, or any of the Executive Board — is there to support their learning (which they are).
Kobayashi admits that it’s not always easy to get rig tours and other field trips coordinated. The alignment of student schedules with a facility’s business hours is a challenge. But the SPS works hard in setting up at least one rig tour a year. For 2016, Quinn Drilling had generously set up one of their rigs in a yard north of Blackfalds, Alberta which they were more than happy to use as an educational tool for Club members.
In addition to visiting the Quinn rig, they managed to tour a service rig, a wireline unit, and get a look inside Lee Specialties, a manufacturer of pressure control equipment…all in the same yard! So instead of the group traveling from one location to another, Quinn set everything up in one general area to maximize students’ time and experiences. Another key advantage of having students tour a non-working rig is so students can work around the standard certification requirements for a working rig.
And in addition to rig tours, they have educational field trips throughout the school year. In late November or early December they’ll be going to J and L Supply to see first-hand how drill bits are manufactured. They’re also going on a gas plant tour sometime in the winter (Jan-Apr) semester. And a fourth tour is being discussed but the Club is still throwing around ideas as to what might interest students. They also need to gauge what’s feasible for them to do given time and resources.
When the students aren’t in the field getting their hands dirty during rig tours, the PT program has state-of-the-art technology at their fingertips. They have simulators for a well site and a gas processing facility, a coil tubing simulator, a drilling simulator, and a sub-surface lab with all kinds of downhole tools and equipment so students can actually see how all the parts operate. There’s a geology lab which showcases minerals, rocks, composition, and related stratification, as well as a fluid mechanics lab where they get their hands really dirty. Kobayashi says that the students get a lot out of this leading-edge technology because it lets them tangibly explore classroom lessons by seeing, touching, and interacting with materials and processes for real.
Although SAIT can boast having a stellar Petroleum Engineering Technology program, knowledgable instructors, and state-of-the-art-equipment, many PT students are being asked by friends and family why they’re pursuing an industry that is arguably on life-support. Kobayashi doesn’t want Canada to lose its place at the table when it comes to global oil production, which is why he made the Oil Respect message the first SPS presentation of this school year. Mark’s message of getting behind Canadian oil and gas for the sake of the entire country is one that Kobayashi wants all current and new PT students to be aware of.
He adds, “Now I’m more aware of the severity of the situation and how if we don’t stand up for the industry when other people are trying to put it down, you may not have an industry in 20 years. And that would be a huge shame. We’ve got one of the highest regulated oil and gas industries in the world and yet we are being put down as ‘dirty oil.’ For what reason?”
His big fear is that we’re going to get pigeonholed to the point that by the time Canada realizes this and takes action, it’ll be too late. He wonders if what will happen to Canada if we lose our resource sector. “This is our number one resource that funds the country, no matter how you look at it, the amount of taxes and revenue that are generated by oil and gas…it runs this country…it runs the world! So if we can’t have our share of the market, which we deserve a much greater share, what’s going to happen? Are we going to survive on the logging industry? Then what? All the trees are gone and then what do we have?”
2016 / 2017 Executive Board
President – Tyler Kobayashi
Vice President – Austin King
VP of External Relations – Sam Trottier
VP of External Relations – Miles O’Keefe
Public Relations – Brooke Sinclair
Treasurer – Nicole Bonnar
Secretary – Jillian Martinson