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Aera welcomes our next CEO

Former Shell executive Erik Bartsch arrives as Christina Sistrunk prepares to retire

Erik Bartsch
Erik Bartsch will succeed Christina Sistrunk Oct. 1 as Aera’s fourth CEO.

He’s worked as a geologist and explorer to help unlock new sources of energy around the world.

More recently, he oversaw the industrial safety of more than 50,000 workers as vice president of safety and environment for a division of Shell.

And he’s just arrived in Bakersfield as Aera’s next CEO.

This month, Erik Bartsch takes on the role of chief operating officer and CEO-designee in the wake of Christina Sistrunk’s June 22 announcement that she plans to retire as Aera’s CEO later this year.

Bartsch will become Aera’s fourth president and CEO on Oct. 1.

“I’m honored to be joining the Aera family,” Bartsch said. “I share the company’s commitment to safety and responsible production and look forward to taking us to the next level.”

A closer look at Bartsch

A third-generation Californian, Bartsch comes to Aera from his role as vice president of Shell’s Safety and Environment, Integrated Gas and New Energies division. He also oversaw the environment agenda and improving the business’s greenhouse gas intensity. He had held the vice president’s role since 2017 and was based in The Netherlands.

Bartsch has spent most of his 20-year career with Shell. He has held numerous management positions, including leader of the New Business Development Technical team for Canada’s original steam play. He served as exploration manager for Shell’s successful Gulf of Mexico Deepwater business.

“Erik has a passion for people and performance with a focus on building teams.”

Bartsch earned his bachelor’s degree in geology from the University of California-Santa Barbara and his master’s degree from the University of Colorado. Outside of work, Bartsch enjoys an active family life and early-morning exercise.

“Erik has a passion for people and performance with a focus on building teams that deliver through clarity, authenticity and willingness to experiment with new ideas,” Sistrunk said.

“He believes in building a culture where people speak their minds openly,” she added. “Because of that, he plans to start his tenure at Aera by taking time to experience how work gets done and learning from the people who help Aera run safely and effectively every day.”

Sistrunk’s ‘bittersweet’ decision

Sistrunk called her retirement announcement “bittersweet,” saying her decision wasn’t easy.

“It’s been one of the great honors of my career to serve as your CEO, to get to know the great people at Aera and in our communities, and to be a part of delivering energy to the highest environmental and safety standards in the world,” she told employees in an in-house letter.

Aera CEO Christina Sistrunk
Aera CEO Christina Sistrunk flips on the solar power at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Kern County in August 2019. Aera funded the project with a $280,000 donation.

Sistrunk said her five years with Aera have been “the hallmark and highlight of my career.”

Sistrunk joined Aera in June 2015. Like Bartsch, she came from Shell, where she served as vice president of Arctic Capability-Upstream Americas. There, she led responsible Arctic development through improvements in technology, people and systems.

Sistrunk began her career with Amoco Production Company in Louisiana, working in a variety of production, facilities, technical and management assignments. She joined Shell in 1998 and remained in the Gulf of Mexico.

Later, she transferred to The Netherlands where she was involved in Shell’s worldwide exploration and production. In that role, she created and implemented process safety improvement programs.

From there, she moved to Aera, where she became the company’s third CEO since its 1997 formation.

“I joined Aera and instantly knew I had found my work home,” recalled Sistrunk. “I have never worked for a company whose employees are just as passionate about their work as they are about the communities where we operate.

“It has been a great privilege to lead a company that truly cares about providing energy for California and prosperity for Californians,” she added. “We continue to lead the way in delivering energy that meets the highest environmental and safety standards in the world. I couldn’t be prouder of our team.”

Under Sistrunk’s leadership, Aera was named to the 2019 Forbes America’s Best Midsize Employer’s list. The company also earned three Experience Energy Awards in the annual GRIT Awards last year and was recently named one of the Best Places to Work on the central Coast.

Sistrunk has been honored as a Safety in Action Icon by DEKRA Insight for her contributions to safety in the workplace. She also was recognized by the National Diversity Council as one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Oil and Gas.

In her early years with Aera, she led an organizational redesign that’s helped Aera remain competitive through low oil price environments and the current pandemic.

Today, Sistrunk serves on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery, helping to chart a path forward for the state in the wake of COVID-19.

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