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Powering the Future

Laura Pysyk

Powering the Future: Laura Pysyk

ATCO is at the forefront of the energy industry’s transition. The company is actively adapting their energy portfolio to meet the demands of a new and sustainable future while maintaining safety, reliability, and affordability for their customers. With a strong focus on cleaner fuels, renewable energy, energy infrastructure and storage, and energy efficiency, ATCO is paving the way for a greener tomorrow.

In line with their commitment to energy transition, we recently chatted with Laura Pysyk, Senior Engineer, Hydrogen Projects, ATCO Gas & Pipelines, about the work Laura and her team have been doing in the hydrogen space. Keep reading to see how their efforts are shaping the way for a sustainable future.

What are some of the most exciting projects or initiatives you’ve been involved in within the hydrogen space at ATCO?

My team is working to decarbonize the natural gas grid in Alberta to align with Canada’s net-zero by 2050 goals.  Making impactful changes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for our customers is something that excites me every day!  

Our team has successfully transitioned 2,100 customers in Fort Saskatchewan to a 5 per cent hydrogen blended natural gas that will soon be increased to a 20 per cent hydrogen blend.  –Prior to this project we commissioned my Director and Vice President’s houses to run off of a temporary supply of hydrogen blended natural gas – effectively making their homes the first to receive these blend rates in North America! This allowed us to demonstrate to the public how safe and reliable a hydrogen blended natural gas fuel source can be, by using it on our own homes first. My team also commissioned the Edmonton Convention Centre to run off a 20 per cent hydrogen blended natural gas for the Canadian Hydrogen Convention this past spring – the first time the building had ever used hydrogen and the first conference in North America to be fueled by hydrogen.

Currently, we are working on commissioning North America’s first 100 per cent hydrogen building later this year, and a 100 per cent hydrogen home in 2024, along with a front-end engineering design for a 100% hydrogen community, a project to bring hydrogen blending to Edmonton, and the conversion of one of ATCO’s transmission assets to pure hydrogen. Our team is hard at work!

Laura Pysyk

What is your vision for the future of hydrogen and its potential impact on the power industry?

Hydrogen is the future.  For Canada to meet its net zero goals, especially in Alberta’s harsh climate, all energy sectors need to work collaboratively.  Coordinated efforts of gas and electric utilities will be required to maintain energy system resiliency and reliability, to reduce negative customer impacts, and to accelerate emission reductions.   The path to reach our climate targets, while maintaining a reliable, safe, and cost-effective energy system will include utilizing hydrogen, renewable natural gas, and green electricity to meet the energy needs of consumers.

What key milestones or experiences have shaped your professional development and career progression at ATCO?

Early on in my career, my supervisor told me it’s important to branch out of your comfort zone and try new things within the organization – this is something that I took to heart.  Although I have an engineering background and currently work in an engineering role, I spent a few years in the operational side of the business supervising a team of field employees. This was one of the greatest experiences of my career to date.  Not only was this group a ton of fun, but they also taught me so many important skills such as de-escalating situations with customers, how to hold each other accountable and, perhaps most importantly, how to build successful teams. I strive to apply these learnings every day.

I am a creative thinker and am known to apply out of the box solutions to everyday problems.  I will never forget talking to my manager and proposing to make his home the first in North America to run off a 20 per cent hydrogen blended natural gas. Giving me the flexibility and freedom to express and execute my ideas is not only important and impactful to me, but it also helped put ATCO on the map as a hydrogen leader.  

What message would you like to share with other women considering a career in engineering or in the hydrogen industry?

Go for it!  I would never be where I am today without my parents and support system constantly cheering me on.  Growing up, my parents told me if I worked hard nothing could stop me and those are words I live by every day.  Without that mantra instilled in me, there may have been times I would have chosen a different route along the way, but I am so happy with where I have ended up. 

Although as women, our paths may be more challenging than our counterparts, it makes our successes even sweeter.  I work alongside a powerhouse group of women who work to encourage and empower one another each day and I believe the diverse perspective we give our groups is a benefit to the organization.