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James E. - Area Process Engineer, Suncor

James E., 26, is an area process engineer for heavy oil at a 100,000 barrel a day refinery with Suncor in Commerce City, CO.  He monitors the performance of relevant units and makes suggestions about their operations to optimize efficiency and production.

He’s a salaried employee, but started out in operations.  He graduated from the Colorado School of Mines, and first became an operator.  “It’s a very good first job,” he explains, “because it gives you a great opportunity to learn a lot about the equipment, and how to run a small piece of the plant.  That was a 24/7 type job and it was a little too intense for me, but I also wanted to more into engineering.”  James simply waited for the appropriate job postings at Suncor and applied. 

As for his day-to-day environment, “It’s exciting -- it’s always something new, and there’s always a lot of competition.  I enjoy competition -- it’s a real competitive business because there are a lot of people in the market and there’s a lot of demand for fuels.”

James says he especially enjoys the fact that “there’s always something new to troubleshoot; some new problem you need to figure out.  I’m up for the challenge and I like to learn new things, and that’s really what I enjoy about what I do.”

Ask what advice he’d offer someone considering a career in the oil and natural gas industry, James stresses the importance of learning the basics:  “You should start from the ground -- from the person who works on the equipment every day, who runs the equipment every day.  That’s the best place to start is to learn how things are done.”

“If you’re up for a challenge, a very good career with a lot of challenges, and you’re looking to be in a place or in an industry where you could stay permanently and retire from that industry and be provided for well, then this is definitely the business you want to be in, because there’s always gonna be a high demand for fuels and there’s always gonna be a high demand for cleaner fuels, so we’ll always be moving in this direction where we’re continuously challenged to do better for ourselves and for  future generations.”