A Mindset To Minimize Methane – Lee Krywitsky, President Of Safe Effective Technologies Inc
This Earth Day, we are exploring the start-ups leading the charge in tackling some of the world’s most pressing climate challenges, and the founders behind them…
Here, we speak with Lee Krywitsky, President of Safe Effective Technologies Inc. His “ZeroMax” mindset, enhanced by his time participating in the International Masters Programme for Managers, has guided his pursuit in aiding organisations cause zero harm to the world around them. For over a decade, Lee has been helping companies around the world clean up their operations through better, more sustainable product development, best practice, and safety.
What specific environmental problems is your company addressing, and how do you plan to make a difference in these areas?
The most current scientific studies are telling us that the overall amount of methane that is being emitted by us humans is greatly underestimated. The International Energy Agency’s Global Methane Tracker and numerous other reports from very credible sources are confirming that. Then consider that NOAA is telling us that the amount of methane in the atmosphere is increasing, if it were your favour stock ticking along on the S&P, you would be delighted. But methane is a greenhouse gas that the EPA says is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
Our Sentinel Project is a full spectrum of offerings that help end users survey, detect, quantify and mitigate leaks with hydrocarbon infrastructure especially flow control equipment. It’s from an engineering perspective that looks at the legacy assets and offers a new perspective to end users to keep their assets in service longer, perform better and emit less. It involves recommending the next generation of technical approaches and sealing technologies delivered by agile field services partners that strive to keep hydrocarbons safely and securely in the pipeline. Our difference is we have a responsive synergy of partners that know the market on 4 continents. Every region we are in, has its considerations, economic, social, environmental and others that have different priorities that always seem to be changing. We get that and focus on enhancing efficiency and safety, the environmental benefits typically track right behind.
What inspired you to start a company focused on environmental sustainability, and how did you get started?
The first company I started was a high-specification valve and fitting manufacturing company that serviced the aerospace, nuclear, petrochemical and oil & gas industries. The more I was deeply involved in safety the more I found that the industry leaders in each respective market were also truly committed to polluting less. I sold my manufacturing business to a Fortune 500 company and found myself getting more focused on quarterly profits as seemingly the sustainability metric that mattered most. I left that corporate life and started a consulting company that was focused on more the why rather than the how.
How did your experience at business school help you launch and run this company?
One of my clients had senior executives involved in the International Masters Program for Managers, the IMPM, I was asked to participate in the company’s reflection towards positive and sustaining change. The impact on me, the consultant, was rapid and profound. My first learning was the idea of ‘choose to choose’. We collectively revisited the customer database and found we did more profitable business with customers whose values we were aligned with. We made the hard choice to begin to decouple with those customers that were not. The next lesson that I was exposed to was taught at McGill in the analytics module, …‘creative destruction’ and the business eco-cycle analogous to a healthy forest. Some of the legacy products and services of my client were analysed and culled to renew the business. Not having a Kodak or Blockbuster moment soon enough matters.
These new ways of approaching business made me stop and think.
I was encouraged by those taking the program to apply for admission myself.
I soon learned after joining the program that IMPM makes you think and reflect, it makes you fundamentally listen better. And let me tell you that can have a profound impact on how you interact with not only business associates but also in your personal life.
The program also makes you consider what your effect may be beyond just improving shareholder value. I reflected on how my legacy trajectory of enhancing safety and efficiency could change to better the local community, and society and try to make the planet better for our children and grandchildren. My late father was a nuclear engineer that instilled in me a ‘ZeroMax’ mindset, zero harm to people and maximum safety. That was my goal throughout my career. But after taking the program, ZeroMax now deepened to focus on zero leaks or emissions and maximum pipeline integrity, zero discrimination, and maximum inclusion.
Experiencing the five IMPM modules is a trusted process that fostered a deeper understanding of sustainability, firstly of yourself as the first module has you and then your business. The second module is the analytics one, for me it was a progression from data to information, to knowledge and if the analysis was thoughtful, it may yield some wisdom towards lasting sustainability.
The next focus is collaboration, practical stuff, and enhancing diverse talents that may even be from rivals at a particular time, which may help a business become more competitive. Another module was the worldly one, contrasting this with the concept of global. A product or service may work in one region but may falter for many reasons in other locations. It could be cultural; beef big macs didn’t do so well in India. And since my classmates were from all over the world, I learned that a worldly mindset was much better for an international business master’s degree and being aware of the global impacts of our business practices may have on overall sustainability.
The action module took us to Brazil. We had classmates that were senior managers in a major financial institution. They were asking the process, the program, the faculty and us, their cohorts to listen to their challenges. There was a bunch of them, let me tell you. A struggling economy, political turmoil, political interference, legacy policies disproportionality affecting the poor, … sound familiar?
We listened, reflected, analyzed, collaborated and actively debated on action plans, which ones to consider to act upon and at what time. Many of our collective IMPM contributions were implemented with lasting impact. Now that’s sustainability!
My newest venture is a collaboration with like-minded companies that add talent, knowledge, experience and passion to what we collectively do. We are ‘choosing to choose’ what matters to us all. It involves surveying, quantifying and then developing customized solutions to mitigate emissions and leaks from hydrocarbon infrastructures. Keeping older assets in service longer, performing better and safely. The venture re-enforces the IMPM mindsets and modules that add cumulative value. We offer state-of-the-art detection equipment, with leading-edge support training, novel engineering capabilities that offer renewable energy integration, novel equipment and great people that believe that the best place for a hydrocarbon to be is safely and securely in the pipeline. With that we encourage efficiency, so we all use less and make things last longer and have sustaining value, not judged on just price or initial cost.
What makes your company’s approach to environmental sustainability unique or different from other solutions out there?
From what I can see of what’s out there, many customers have siloed different departments for their performance metrics, this may not be complimentary or additive at first. We have all heard, ‘Get the project done under budget, let operations deal with the issues from commissioning. Let maintenance deal with faster turnarounds’ and other such things. The effects of Covid on the workplace have made us even more insulated from one another and remote work made what was once urgent seem even more distant, we disconnected. Yet emissions are not at all remote, they are everywhere and affect us all.
We try the more holistic approach and offer novel professional development methods that engage both newcomers to the industry and those that want to sharpen their saw so to speak. Then take an engineering and data-driven approach to make flow control assets, as but one example, last longer, and have the client consider its entire life cycle. That perspective makes you have better overall habits to make things last longer as if you were the shareholder of a community stakeholder. I’ll get into the weeds and pick on valves, ‘until’ your pigeonhole approach for your valve beyond what you are done in the past so that it’s protected during installation and commissioning, it’s preventatively maintained rather than correctively reacted to during a major leak. Corrective measures always cost more, always. The IMPM process focuses on better listening, thoughtful analysis and reflection on ways to act for better results over the long term.
What are some of the long-term goals you have for your company, and how do you plan to achieve them?
It would be wonderful if people in regions that are struggling with improving their legacy energy infrastructure could be engaged to learn new skills so that they are participants in being better stewards of how their natural resources are brought to market. Many have been excluded from the beginning with legacy mindsets of resource exploitation. I learned many things from the various people I have met in my many journeys, collaborating with even more people in rethinking the way we can keep infrastructure in service longer and safer can be transformed because human relationships need not be simply transactional.
We need to go to even more places to learn from each other to better understand what needs to be done, after all, we all breathe the same air, that’s the plan I hope.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs who are interested in starting a company focused on environmental sustainability?
Try focusing on the why. There’s so much that needs doing, it may seem daunting. But start with what do you know you could do, find your niche. And seek out like-minded people that can add to your talents and just keep learning. The IMPM program showed me a way to reflect and refocus on what I was doing to have more impact on what I now know and what I want to do. Onwards.