Not yet 27, Tanner Ottaway has the kind of résumé that parents and employers favor — and many contemporaries wish they had.
In just a few short years, Ottaway has graduated from Colorado School of Mines with a degree in petroleum engineering; joined Aera Energy, one of California’s largest and most progressive oil and gas producers, as a drilling engineer in 2014; and is part of a convention-challenging team at Aera that’s finding new ways to increase the longevity and performance of existing oil wells while decreasing production costs and environmental impact.
And yet when Ottaway, on a recent flight home from Paris, France, explained to a passenger seated next to him what he did for a living, the response was an aggrieved, “What’s wrong with you?”
That anti-oil attitude is a reality this millennial is learning to handle. He’s determined to show such naysayers what’s right about him and the industry he serves.
“None of us is bad, and we all want a clean environment,” Ottaway remembers telling the passenger. “Oil and gas have enabled the world to do incredible things.”
Entering his sixth year with Aera – two as an intern, four as a full-time employee – Ottaway supports Aera’s heavy oil assets at Belridge, Midway Sunset, Coalinga and San Ardo. In his engineer role, he’s found one Aera value that especially fits him.
“I think I represent our ‘challenging convention’ value by always searching for new techniques, tools and ideas, even if they have already been tried,” says Ottaway. “There may be new technology or benefits that weren’t seen before.”
That surfaced on a recent team project that created a new liner design for well production. The project involved several months of developing potential solutions, vendor analysis and inspection. The team then launched a pilot of the new liner on 40 wells.
“This project has been very challenging, but we have all worked together and supported each other,” he says. “We won’t have a result immediately, but within five to 10 years, it will make a huge difference when it comes to solutions.”
Ottaway has served as an important liaison between groups on several projects, according to Dan Swainston, senior buyer who supports Aera’s drilling operation. “Tanner bridges the gap between operations, development and procurement to aid in the development of a product that’s desirable for all,” Swainston says.
Boosting Bakersfield’s image
Ottaway also has embraced Aera’s “building community” value. A Colorado native, he’s purchased a home in Bakersfield and loves its burgeoning downtown scene. Now he’s intent on changing the negative perceptions of the city. “I really like Bakersfield,” he says. “It’s a great place for work/life balance. You can make a difference here.”
He does that, in part, by serving on the executive council of Bakersfield Young Professionals (BYP). Affiliated with the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, the organization promotes networking, professional development and boosting Bakersfield’s image. BYP members recently launched a new campaign, “Be in Bakersfield.”
“It’s a social media, change-the-narrative outreach program to attract more people and businesses to Bakersfield,” Ottaway says.
BYP also hosts an annual street party in downtown’s Wall Street Alley with food trucks, bands and other entertainment. “The event has actually helped clean up and beautify parts of downtown and even added street lighting in that alley, making it a safer and nicer place,” he says.
Ottaway hasn’t stopped there. He’s served as a Team Aera captain for the company’s Relay for Life event for the past three years. He’s helped elementary school students with reading. He’s judged school science fairs And he’s mentored students at Bakersfield’s South High School.
“I really enjoy being involved locally and trying to make Bakersfield a better place for everyone,” says Ottaway – adding a new dimension of experience to his already impressive résumé.