July 2021, Vol. 246, No. 7

Executive Profile

Burns & McDonnell’s Glaeser Looks to Pipeline Integrity Future

Scott Glaeser has joined Burns & McDonnell, where he will lead the new pipeline integrity practice within the Transmission & Distribution (T&D) Group. Over a career spanning nearly 35 years, he has served in a number of officer roles at a large Midwestern utility, focusing on natural gas operations.  

Glaeser
Glaeser

In this conversation with P&GJ, Glaeser discusses ramifications of the Mega Rule, upgrading existing pipelines and cybersecurity.   

P&GJ: Tell us a little about your background. What got you interested in pipelines?   

Glaeser: I received my mechanical engineering degree in 1986 from the Missouri University of Science & Technology. Soon afterward, I landed a position as combustion engineer for U.S. Steel (formally National Steel) at an integrated mill in Granite City, Ill., just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.   

My position was focused on the energy infrastructure and energy supply for the mill, and they threw me in right away. My first day, I was sent into the field to work on a newly constructed natural gas transmission pipeline for the blast furnace complex.   

From that day, my career began arcing toward the natural gas industry. I found the whole industry fascinating, especially pipelines, and I quickly came to love every aspect of it.  

But this was a period in which the steel industry was in a down cycle and with the uncertainty, I transitioned to Ameren (then Union Electric) when the opportunity came up in 1991. I also realized that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) was in the process of deregulating the gas pipeline industry, and this was creating tremendous opportunities with gas utilities like Ameren.   

This was a good move for me because Ameren is one of America’s great utility companies. I moved up through the gas side of the business, ultimately to the vice president level, as Ameren grew with several acquisitions.    

P&GJ: What do you most look forward to in your new role?   

Glaeser: First, I look forward to working with the people at Burns & McDonnell. Working at Ameren for 25 years, I became very familiar with Burns & McDonnell, because, as a utility, we contracted with them a lot. The relationship goes back many years on the power side because they are a premier engineering firm that many utilities count on. During my career at Ameren, I came to be really impressed by the knowledge and experience among the Burns & McDonnell employee-owners on the natural gas side — all are well respected throughout the gas industry.    

The second reason is that this gives me an opportunity to take a little different direction in my career. I have an opportunity to stay within the natural gas industry, but I will now play a role as the industry works through a very significant transition brought on by major regulatory pressures while at the same time facing a serious need to deal with aging infrastructure.   

Of course, we know those factors are interrelated. There are much more intense safety regulations and compliance burdens being placed on utilities and pipeline operators across the country.  

P&GJ: What do you see as the biggest hurdle for companies looking to improve their integrity and safety programs?   

Glaeser: To me, the biggest hurdle will be changing the mindset from basic compliance to viewing this as an opportunity. The new Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) Mega Rule regulations actually give the industry a great opportunity to go beyond basic compliance and really modernize its aging transmission infrastructure.  

The Mega Rule has some tough compliance requirements, but the industry should view this as justification to increase capital and operations and maintenance (O&M) budgets to the levels required. Utilities can make systems safer and more reliable while also growing the rate base and increasing earnings, all by simply lining up behind the regulatory agenda.  

P&GJ: Do you see any new regulations that will complicate pipeline asset management in the United States?   

Glaeser: The Mega Rule is what the industry will be focused on for the next 15 years or so; it is hard to predict what new regulations will be coming beyond that.  

It is interesting to ponder that question, though. This will take significant expenditures in capital and resources to meet these requirements. A lot of engineers and technicians, utility personnel and construction crafts and trades will be focused on pipelines for the next two decades, so we may very well see new rules that come about as work progresses on the Mega Rule.  

Clean energy technology is another wild card that could influence regulations. If we are eventually to get to a hydrogen economy, natural gas has to be part of the formula. I served in committee roles with the American Gas Association, and we promoted natural gas as a bridge fuel to the future.  

Gas generating plants are providing more and more grid support as renewable energy comes online, and gas continues to be the fuel of choice for home heating and industrial process applications. Natural gas is the right fuel to get us to the ultra-clean energy technologies that I think we will see in the future.  

P&GJ: What do you consider to be the biggest obstacles to the safe operation of new and existing pipelines?  

Glaeser: Two forces are creating pressure against building new pipelines – political and activist pressure – even if they are needed to meet demand. Some of this pressure actually becomes an obstacle to safety-related replacements.  

Stopping these projects is not an option. These projects are critical infrastructure for our nation that must be replaced for safe operations and to meet customer demand well into the future.  

Another emerging obstacle currently in the news is the need to protect our pipeline systems from cyberattacks. The Colonial Pipeline ransomware situation has focused worldwide attention on the fact that these pipeline networks depend on SCADA systems and digital electronics for monitoring and control, and these can be vulnerable.  

Cybersecurity is probably going to be part of the next big regulatory push. We really can’t have true security and safety until the whole system is addressed.  

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