Dan Motyka — Gets Things Done On the Job and in the Community

In 1959, when the Canadian government scrapped plans to produce the legendary Avro Arrow jet interceptor, it forced many to rethink their future. Among them was a young University of Manitoba engineering student, Dan Motyka, then giving serious thought to a career in aeronautical engineering. With the Avro Arrow’s demise, a future in that field of engineering, at least in Canada, seemed less than promising. The young Manitoban went on to graduate in mechanical engineering in 1959 and soon headed to Alberta to embark upon a long and successful career in the oil and gas industry.

On April 17, this once would-be aeronautics engineer was inducted as APEGGA’s 79th President. In effect, aviation’s loss, proved to be Alberta’s gain.

If there was some early uncertainty about what line of engineering he would pursue, there never was any doubt in young Dan’s mind about becoming an engineer. "From the day I first started thinking about what I wanted to do when I grew up, I wanted to be an engineer," he recalls.

Joins Gulf

Once in Alberta, he joined British American Oil, later to become Gulf. He remained with that company, in increasingly responsible postings, until he retired in 1991 as vice-president, production.

The early part of his Gulf career was marked by frequent moves, prompting the APEGGA President to observe: "In my first 15 years with Gulf, we moved 13 times."

Stops along the way — as he worked in field production, in such places as Stettler, Regina and Estevan — he suggests in jest, left his wife’s (Ruth) family wondering about this itinerant character their daughter had married. But since completing a two-year stint in Gulf’s human resources division in Toronto, the Motykas have called Calgary home for more than 20 years.

With gas activity starting up in the Mackenzie Delta, he was assigned from 1973 to 1977 to Gulf’s frontier development group to place the Parson’s Lake gas plant on stream. When that project was put on hold, Mr. Motyka remained in Western Canada and, as he rose within Gulf’s ranks, he had the opportunity to attend the Advanced Management Program at Harvard University in 1978.

Arctic Action

As Gulf’s eyes in 1981 again turned north, this time toward the Beaufort Sea, Mr. Motyka was assigned to oversee the company’s drilling system in the Arctic. It was a pioneering effort, and as he explains: "It was a very satisfying experience because we were asked to create drilling production capability that didn’t exist in the world at the time. We brought in two drilling vessels and the ice breakers to support them — on time and under budget — and performed beyond all expectations. Unfortunately, although the exploration was successful in delineating oil and gas resources, they were insufficient to justify commercial development."

That prompted his return to conventional production in Western Canada. However, Mr. Motyka soon found himself in the midst of a joint venture by Gulf Canada, British Gas and Komineft, a regional oil producer, working to improve conventional production in (what’s now) Russia’s Komi Republic. The project is continuing, although Gulf Canada is no longer involved.

Subsequent to retiring from Gulf, from 1993 to 1995, Mr. Motyka served as president and CEO of the Canada Hibernia Holding Corp., set up to oversee the federal government’s stake in the massive Newfoundland offshore project.

A New Venture

In a shift away from "big oil", Mr. Motyka, in June 1995, joined forces with a group of other entrepreneurs to form Questor Technology Inc., a company set up to bring to market several environmentally friendly oilpatch related products — notably the Turbo Flare, aimed at vastly improving the effectiveness of flaring at well sites and similar facilities. Questor, which recently was listed on the Alberta Stock Exchange, also is testing the Coa-filter for use in cleaning up oilfield water prior to reinjection, and is working as a third product for dehydration of gaseous materials.

A busy business career has not prevented generous commitments to industry organizations, community causes and educational endeavors.

Efforts Rewarded

Mr. Motyka’s technical society contributions have been recognized. He has received the CIM J.C. Sproule Memorial Plaque for his contributions to Arctic petroleum exploration, and the Petroleum Society Distinguished Service Award. He remains a governor of the Petroleum Society of CIM, and has previously chaired board of directors of the Centre for Cold Ocean Resource Engineering (based in St. John’s, Newfoundland), as well as the Canadian Gas Association. He has served as a Canadian representative to the International Gas Union.

In 1994, Mr. Motyka ran successfully for a three-year term as an APEGGA Councillor, and in 1997 was elected 1st Vice President. While on APEGGA Council, he has chaired the Discipline Committee (1996-97) and also headed the Roles and Responsibilities Task Force which introduced the Association’s new governance model.

Educational Endeavors

The new APEGGA President has been a very firm supporter of efforts to strengthen links between The University of Calgary, and business and industry. Notably, in 1990, he was the founding chair (and still is on the steering committee ) of the U of C Associates Program which has its origins in what Mr. Motyka terms a concern: "about the fact that there is an inappropriate amount of communication between the ‘town and gown’. The ‘gown’ too often had its head in the clouds and the down-town don’t appreciate the difficulties associated with running a democratic educational facility. There appeared to be an undue amount of conflict in their objectives, when in reality there was one common objective — to provide a very qualified, trained individual who could become a professional."

His commitment to the university dates back to the late 1970s, when he got involved in fund-raising for a Chair of Petroleum Engineering, and then with the Project Management Advisory Group which raised funds for a Chair in Project Management. A more recent effort has seen Mr. Motyka serve as co-chair of a campaign to raise an additional
$2 million for the Petroleum Chair and $3 million for a Drilling Chair.

There is a direct family link to engineering in son Richard, a U of C electrical engineering graduate who currently is senior architect with Verity Canada Ltd. in Calgary. There’s also a family foot in the geoscience camp. Daughter Alison is a University of Alberta geology graduate and currently vice-president of exploration of Cypress Energy in Calgary. Dan and Ruth have two other married daughters; Tonya, a resident of Whistler, B.C., and Alexis who lives in Oregon. The Motykas have six grandchildren.?