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In this week’s Pipeliners Podcast episode, host Russel Treat reverses roles as the interview subject. Listen to renown broadcaster Jason Spiess of The Crude Life Network interview Russel about the Pipeliners Podcast, the growth of our podcast in its second year, and more interesting tidbits you may not know about!

The Crude Life: Show Notes and Links

The Crude Life: Full Episode Transcript

Russel Treat:  Welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast, episode 59, sponsored by EnerSys Corporation, providers of the Pipeline Operations Excellence Management System, compliance, and operations software for the pipeline control center.

Find out more about POEMS at EnerSysCorp.com/podcast.


Announcer:  The Pipeliners Podcast, where professionals, Bubba geeks, and industry insiders share their knowledge and experience about technology, projects, and pipeline operations. Now your host, Russel Treat.

Russel:  Thanks for listening to the Pipeliners Podcast. We appreciate you taking the time and to show that appreciation, we’re giving away a customized YETI tumbler to one listener each episode.

This week, our winner is Jeremy Coleman with NW Natural. Congrats, Jeremy, your YETI is on its way. To learn how you can win this signature prize pack, stick around to the end of the episode.

This week on the Pipeliners Podcast, we’re doing something a little different. Rather than me interviewing, I’m being interviewed. This episode of the Pipeliners Podcast is a share of my appearance on The Crude Life Network and my being interviewed by Jason Spiess, who is the host of that network. This should be interesting, and as always, I’d appreciate your feedback.


Jason Spiess:  A good day to you, sir. How are you? What part of the country are you in today?

Russel:  I’m actually in downtown Denver this morning.

Jason:  Downtown Denver, but you’re based out of — is it Houston?

Russel:  Yes, I’m based out of Houston.

Jason:  What’s going on in Denver? Business? Pleasure?

Russel:  Business and pleasure. If you do it right, it’s all the same thing.

Jason:  Exactly right. I’m glad you brought that up because I think it’s important for people to be reminded. I know a lot of us know this, but it’s important to be reminded that if you really truly do what you love, you never work a day in your life.

Russel:  Yeah, if you do what you love and you do it with people who you care about then every day’s a gift.

Jason:  I never thought about that. I did, but nicely put, articulately put. You got to have the people around you enjoy being with, otherwise it’s a little bit of work managing relationships, huh?

Russel:  That’s right. It’s easy to say and it’s hard to do.

Jason:  Let’s talk a little bit about your podcast. That’s kind of the meat of why we brought you on the program today. You’ve got an energy podcast. Talk to me about the genesis of this a little bit. How did you get into the podcast business or the podcast world?

Russel:  Yeah, so that’s actually an interesting story. I’m kind of a geek from way back. I was playing with computers and software before playing with computers and software was cool, and so I’ve always been interested in technology.

I started listening to podcasts in earnest maybe five years ago. I just had this idea. I liked the medium and I had this idea, if I were going to do a podcast, what would I do? I arrived at the name first because it’s catchy. It’s the Pipeliners Podcast.

Then I arrived at, yeah, I’m committed, I’m going to do this. It took about another year, maybe year-and-a-half to really pull it together and get clear about why I was going to do it, what I was going to do, and how I was going to do it.

The why is simply this. I learned what I know about the oil and gas business, about the pipelining business mostly by going to conferences and tradeshows and by talking to people older and wiser than myself, or hanging out and listening to those kind of conversations.

The nature of the pipeline business is it’s very geographically dispersed. It’s all over the place. A lot of people who work in the business may never get to go to a conference and really get any education about all the various aspects of what pipelining is.

I just decided I’m going to talk to these people who I enjoy talking to and have some fairly technical, geeky conversations. We’ll see if anybody likes to listen to that kind of conversation as a vehicle to help people learn the business, or learn about the business.

I’ve been really blessed. The response that I have gotten has been very positive. It’s kind of humbling just how many people have been providing feedback and expressing their appreciation for what it is I’m trying to do.

Jason:  You have any background in the media? You certainly seem that you can carry on a conversation. You’ve got a good voice. Is that just something you have and decided to do a podcast? Did you take some journalism classes in college that kind of sparked the bug?

Russel:  No. Jason, that’s a great question. I’m an engineer. I’m a pretty stereotypical engineer.

Jason:  You seem like you’re a little too creative for that engineering field.

Russel:  I’m a little bit of both. I work in automation and measurement. You’d be surprised how many people that work in that domain are musicians, or have some kind of artistic talent.

Working in technology, in fact, working in engineering can be a creative expression because you’re always trying to figure out a new way of doing something.

Jason:  Oh, I agree.

Russel:  I will say this. I am a guy who has always been comfortable going to conferences, writing papers, and being in front of groups and giving speeches and that kind of stuff. I certainly have a background doing that. I sing in my church from time to time. I have kind of always had an interest in — I’ll call it public expression.

Jason:  I was going to say you seem to be missing that fear of public speaking, much like for me. I’m the same way. I don’t have any problem getting up in front of people and making a fool of myself or wowing them with talent. I enjoy the rush, the timing, and everything.

There’s a lot of people, the majority of the people do not go beyond any thought process beyond the public speaking. They’re like, “I’m not going to get up in front people,” so their dream or their goal just stops right there.

It’s interesting how you phrased it like that. I never thought of it in that way about how my lack of fear allows me to do just like you do. I’m the same way.

We have bands on our programs a lot of times. I’m spoiled. I look at it like I don’t want to go to any more concerts because I have these private concerts in my study. I get backstage passes.

Russel:  You get to hang out with musicians and jam. One of the things about any of that kind of work — and it’s also true I think in public speaking, or what we’re talking, podcasting — there’s a little bit of “you got to be willing to be bad to be good.” The comfort of doing it, the fear decreases as you have more experience doing it.

I still get anxiety from time to time, but I view that like an athlete would getting ready for a game.

Jason:  Absolutely.

Russel:  I just train and do something I have some passion for.

Jason:  I approach my programs a lot like how you do. It’s more of a learning experience more than anything. I’m doing it because I genuinely want to know things.

Russel:  I have pretty much an insatiable curiosity. I have a good friend of mine and mentor who used to say, “Russel, you’re going to have a five-year plan. Plan it.” That’s just true. I’m always interested in what’s next and what’s new and who’s using it and how is it working. I just have an unlimited curiosity for type of thing.

Jason:  One of the reasons why I wanted to go down this path and bring this up — which would be an appropriate time now — is anybody looking to do a podcast, some of the advice that I would like to point out that you just heard from two people who have been doing this for a while.

I’ve got 25 years’ experience doing radio and print and about 10 years’ experience doing podcasts. You’ve been doing it — what now, a year-and-a-half, two years?

Russel:  I’ve been doing the podcast a little over a year.

Jason:  For me, I would call that a success, and here’s why. There was a sensation that happened with the blogging industry where people would get out and blog and all this stuff.

After about a month or two months of blogging, they would ghost it away, or they would just wither away and die on the vine because people realized this is work. That phenomenon is starting to happen in the podcasting world.

The advice that I’d like to bring up is that if you’re doing something that is satisfying your curiosity, or you genuinely want to learn about topics, and you don’t look at the podcast as work but you look at it as beneficial either your business or your life or your soul, go nuts and do it. Otherwise, be prepared, there is some work involved. What would you say to that comment?

Russel:  It’s absolutely true. I run three businesses, and I think the big thing for me about starting a podcast was figuring out how to resource it. I have the technical expertise to mix the sound and build the web pages, but I don’t have the time or really the interest in all that part of podcasting.

Part of what I had to do is I had to figure out how to build a team that would support what I wanted to do, so I could pursue what I’m passionate about — the conversation — and let others pursue their passions around the technology and the sound.

The other thing is I wanted to do it with a level of quality. There’s a lot of stuff out there that’s just frankly not very good. The sound is bad. The conversation’s not organized.

It’s definitely work. I think anybody who starts a podcast, you have to realize that somewhere between episode 5 and 25, you’re going to hit a wall where you ask the question do you want to keep doing this.

Jason:  Not only that, what am I going go talk about next and who’s going to come on my program.

Russel:  Oh my gosh. It’s like payroll, man, it comes every week. I got to have an episode.

Jason:  For a guy like me, I do them daily. I do daily radio programs, which we then turn into podcasts. If I didn’t have that radio outlet where I have the traditional monetizaton revenue source model, there’s no way I would do a daily podcast. It’d be way too hard to keep up with, unless you were getting compensated for that being your full-time job. You know what I mean?

Russel:  Yeah, right. I think the point you make is a good one. It is work, and it does require some planning, and it does require some competencies to do it well.

Jason:  Let me ask you this. Are you getting some results? I know you enjoy it and your team probably enjoys it. At the end of the day, you do have a part of your strategy to increase awareness of your businesses. Maybe you have advertisers or sponsors or clients or something like that.

You must be satisfied. What makes you continue to do it? There, that’s the question. What makes you continue to do it?

Russel:  There’s a couple of things. One is every time I get an interesting guest on and I have a conversation, I feel like I make a new friend. That to me, I just find a lot of joy in that. I love the geeky, kind of getting into the weeds of the technology kind of conversations.

One of my go-to guys, a guy name Clint Bodungen, he’s a cybersecurity guy. I work in SCADA and pipeline control systems and that sort of thing, so cybersecurity’s a big piece of that. We’ll get on, and oh my gosh, the geek-o-meter is in the red zone. We just go nuts.

Those are some of the episodes that I get the most positive feedback about. One thing is I just love the people, I love the conversation, and that helps to keep me going.

The other thing is there is business part to this. One of the challenges in our niche, the pipelining niche is to get known. We’ve been around a long time. I actually started the company in ’94. We’re relatively small and not a lot of people know about us.

Part of the podcast is to provide a service to the industry, but also help more of the industry know who we are and that we’re here and what we do.

Jason:  When it comes to podcasts, I think if I were to give advice to somebody, I’d say the best way to start, or one of the ways to start would be to find out obviously what you’re going to talk about.

Is it going to be a general type of a podcast where you’re going to be competing with a lot of different things? Is it going to be a micro, or a niche type podcast where you got to go find your audience because not everybody wants to know about granite countertops or whatever? I don’t know.

You’ve got a niche one. Did you want to go down that niche route? Did you start out with an oil and gas podcast and then it went down to the Pipeliners Podcast? Do you understand my question?

Russel:  Yeah, I do absolutely, and I think it’s a great question. I actually gave that a lot of thought, and there were two aspects of this.

I didn’t want to focus solely on what our companies do to make a living, but I also didn’t want to focus super broad. I spent a lot of time trying to get comfortable about what is the domain of conversation.

What I came to is the domain is anything that somebody working in a pipeline company would be interested in knowing and would be valuable to them to know more about their business and how to do their job. That’s much broader than what we do, but it’s also super nichey because that’s a hard market to even figure out how to define.

Jason:  It really is. Quite honestly, their time is so fragmented and demanded that the podcast works out perfectly for somebody in the oil and gas industry, but it’s very difficult to get their free time. Does that makes sense?

Russel:  Yeah. One of the things that sold me on the idea of do the podcast thing is in our business, there’s a lot of windshield time. There’s a lot of opportunity for listening to radio. Depending on where you are even radio may not be very viable, but certainly you can listen to podcasts.

I think there’s a growing demand for good content that is helpful to me and what it is I’m trying to do, or what I’m interested in.

Jason:  I know one of the consulting parts I get into is the audio portion, whether it be radio, whether it be podcasts. It’s an audio format, which at the end of the day means hands-free.

Up in North Dakota, there’s flooding issues. Of course, when the floods happens, radio becomes king because everybody needs their hands to sand bag.

That’s true when you start thinking of it like that in the oil and gas industry. All those jobs, a lot of those guys need their hands in order to do things, but they can have radio station or a podcast going. There’s the windshield time.

You got engineers and CEOs driving an hour to two hours to a rig. They need their hands free and they need to drive on the wheel and listen. There’s a lot of that even in agriculture — fixing fence posts, milking cows.

There’s a lot of different industries and a lot of different shop time and garage time where the podcast and the radio really can shine, that’s what I’ve noticed.

Russel:  Oh yeah, I think that’s absolutely true. I think I’ve been surprised. I might be interested in your opinion on this because you hear about the hockey stick and you banging into a market for a while and suddenly it goes viral. That has not been my experience at all. We’ve had fairly quick growth but it’s been steady.

Jason:  That’s what I’ve had. I’ve had a couple of things that have “gone viral.” You’re lucky if you can probably keep, I don’t know, 10 percent of what went viral I guess or pick up. It’s difficult. Like I said, people are busy.

In order to get them to subscribe, and genuinely subscribe, and get them engaged, it’s work. Even your own network doesn’t necessarily become as engaged as you’d think.

Russel:  There’s a competition for ear time.

Jason:  Without a doubt. Rupert Murdoch, he used to always say he was in the eyeball competition. That’s all. He just wanted people’s eyeballs, he didn’t care after that. Rupert Murdoch, Fox News, or Fox empire.

By the way, Russel, if you were do to do an elevator pitch, a two-to-three-minute overview if you would, how would you describe your podcast?

Russel:  It’s where Bubba geeks come to learn about the pipeline business. A Bubba geek is an interesting combination of a nerd/redneck, if you will. Drives a pickup truck. Likes to be outdoors. Probably interested in hunting and fishing and a satellite uplink from the game cam to the truck.

Jason:  Sure.

Russel:  Those would be my peeps. I’m being a little flippant, but really the bottom line is this. The Pipeliners Podcast is put together for pipeliners so that that they have a resource to learn about the business in all of its aspects.

Jason:  As we’re going to wrap up here, Russel Treat, Pipeliners Podcast, I’ll give you an opportunity to mention if you have any sponsors, or if you have any guests of notoriety. Go ahead and take a few minutes to talk about some of the past guests and/or sponsors.

Russel:  I’ll talk about some guests first. I already mentioned Clint Bodungen. We have recently had Ryan Sitton. Ryan’s one of the commissioners of the Texas Railroad Commission.

For those that don’t know, it’s kind of strange, but the Texas Railroad Commission does not regulate railroads. They regulate oil and gas pipelines. That’s an elected position. He’s one of three commissioners in the state of Texas.

We had Cliff Johnson on. Cliff is president of The Pipeline Research Council (PRCI). He was talking about a data sharing initiative, where they’re working with industry to build a data store of inline inspection data that can be used to develop tools, and to develop analytics looking for faults, defects, features, etc., in piping when they run an inline inspection.

Those were a couple of recent and notable episodes. We have a lot of people that are working the pipeline business. Jeremy Coleman who is a control center manager for NW Natural Gas in Portland, Oregon, which is the local utility there, has been on a couple of times.

That’s a few of the guests, and those are the kinds of guests we look to get, basically, people who have information. We cover a broad gamut.

We had a guy, Giancarlo Milano, with Atmos International, which is a leak detection software company. We did a whole series on pipeline leak detection, there was a lot of interest in that.

A gentleman by the name of Mark Lamontagne, he’s a Ph.D engineer in in line inspection. We did a whole series of podcasts on the fundamentals of inline inspection. That one was kind of hyper geeky.

That’s who we’ve had as guests and the kind of people we would expect to continue to have as guests.

My most recent episode to drop with, a gentleman by the name of K.C. Yost. He’s a third-generation pipeliner and kind of a historian. We talked about the history of pipelining and what we were doing a hundred years ago versus what we were doing today. I found that one really fascinating myself.

You asked about sponsors. The first full year of the podcast, we did it without sponsors. We currently have a sponsor, EnerSys Corporation. EnerSys is a company that provides software and consulting services to the pipeline control center for regulatory compliance and pipeline operations.

They’ve been a real gift. They’ve been underwriting this thing. It does cost money to do it and do it well, so that’s been very helpful.

Jason:  How can people find it? Do you have social media? Just talk about how people can find it and how they can subscribe, follow, and do all that modern day thing.

Russel:  We’re on all the smartphone podcast applications. Just search for Pipeliners Podcast, you will find us. We have a website. It’s PipelinersPodcast.com. Of course, we have a company page on LinkedIn and a group on LinkedIn also called Pipeliners Podcast.

Jason:  Anything we missed? Anything you want to reiterate? I like to give guests the final word, so that way they can make sure that anything they wanted to get out was out or maybe we talked about it already. The floor is yours, sir.

Russel:  Jason, I thank you for that. I think the thing that I want to talk about that we haven’t talked about, there’s another underlying purpose of the Pipeliners Podcast. I think this purpose maybe exists in a number of other people that are doing podcasts in this niche.

One of the things we’re trying to do is get good, factual information out, so that the public can get educated about what are the various aspects of pipelining, and what are pipeliners doing to operate safely and effectively.

We’re also trying to equip the folks that are the frontline. The frontline of our business would be the field operators, the ones that are dealing with the landowners. That’s the frontlines. We’re also trying to equip them with information that will be helpful to them when they’re interacting with the public.

Jason:  I was going to say that’s a tough one. When you have such a micro audience, it’s tough to educate the public. The public isn’t paying attention to anything outside of Kim Kardashian and what’s at McDonald’s tonight. You know what I mean by that? They’re so busy.

Russel:  I do, Jason, but there’s a couple of realities here. One is there’s a lot of landowners that are impacted by pipelines, probably more so than other aspects of the business.

Anybody that’s got natural gas coming to their house is interested in pipelines. They’re connected to pipelines. The public that has an interest is probably more broad than what we realize.

There’s one entity, it’s called the Pipeline Safety Trust. The Pipeline Safety Trust was formed by the Bellingham, Washington, community after the Bellingham Incident in ’98, which was a really bad pipeline incident. They actively advocate on behalf of the public and participate in regulatory rulemaking in D.C. Their primary issue is to educate, inform.

In fact, one of the regulatory requirements in pipelining is what’s called the Damage Prevention Rule. That’s everything around marking pipelines and having people call before they dig, so they don’t do damage, and educating the community that there’s pipelines in their neighborhood and they need to be aware of it.

I think maybe I’ll get off my soapbox now. I do think that part of what we’re trying to do is for those who are interested provide the information more broadly than just people working in the business.


Russel: I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of the Pipeliners Podcast and our little different conversation with Jason Spiess with The Crude Life Network.

Just a reminder before you go. You should register to win our customized Pipeliners Podcast YETI tumbler. Simply visit PipelinersPodcast.com/win to enter yourself in the drawing.

If you’d like to support this podcast, please leave us a review on Apple Podcast, Google Play, or whatever smart device application you happen to use. If you’d like instructions on how to do that you can find them at PipelinersPodcast.com.


Russel:  If you have ideas, questions, or topics you’d be interested in, please let me know on the Contact Us page at PipelinersPodcast.com, or reach out to me directly on LinkedIn. Thanks for listening. I’ll talk to you next week.


Transcription by CastingWords

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