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"The work with the board was, and remains, extremely important to Alberta. It is a custodian on behalf of the owners of our oil and gas resources, which is the people of the province.
"Without someone really looking after it, the resources could otherwise have been developed with sole regard for the short-term benefits rather than long-term importance."
George Govier is a well-recognized member of the engineering and energy sectors who helped build those key Alberta industries through his longstanding service as a university professor, researcher and respected leader in regulatory development.
George Wheeler Govier was born June 15, 1917 in Nanton, Alberta to George Arthur and Gertrude Govier. When George Jr. was a child, his father suffered the same setbacks that befell many in the tough economic period. The family-owned general store was lost and the Goviers relocated to Penticton and then Vancouver, British Columbia in search of greater opportunities. George’s love of academics and his facility in chemistry, physics and mathematics eventually led to an Applied Bachelor of Science degree from the University of British Columbia.
Upon graduation in 1939, George took a job with Standard Oil in B.C. but was unchallenged by his duties. An ad in a technical magazine, offering the chance to serve as a junior instructor at the University of Alberta while pursing graduate studies, seemed a far better fit to the young chemical engineer. In 1940, George and his new bride, Doris Kemp, moved to Edmonton and George began his position at the U of A.
George continued to pursue his own studies while teaching his students, many of whom became the engineers and leaders needed for Alberta’s nascent energy sector. He completed a Master of Science degree in Physical Chemistry at the U of A and then earned a Doctor of Science degree in Chemical Engineering at the University of Michigan where he studied under the leading authority in the emerging field of oil and gas recovery and reservoir engineering.
During his long career with the U of A, Dr. Govier helped to build the Faculty of Engineering into one of the country’s premier schools and a centre of excellence in chemical and petroleum engineering. In addition to service as a Professor of Chemical Engineering, for 11 years he served as Head of the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering followed by a 4-year term as Dean of the Faculty of Engineering. While developing and teaching courses in Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Dr. Govier, with his graduate students, was active in research especially as related to the pipeline flow of gas and liquid mixtures. He and the students published a number of technical papers in this field and he and Dr. Khalid Aziz, a former student, published an engineering textbook entitled The Flow of Complex Mixtures in Pipes.
From 1948 to 1963, while continuing his duties at the U of A, Dr. Govier commuted weekly from Edmonton to Calgary to serve as a part-time member of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Conservation Board. In 1963, George and Doris moved to Calgary where he became Chair of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Conservation Board. While he continued temporarily to teach as a part-time Professor of Engineering at the University of Calgary, George’s main focus became the formulation and administration of regulations governing the oil and gas industry in Alberta.
Although the body has undergone various name changes over the years, including the Energy Resources Conservation Board (ERCB) and the more recent Alberta Energy Regulator, its goal has remained to serve as custodian of the province’s energy resources. George Govier has been a central figure in that work and his efforts have greatly benefitted the province while establishing the Board as a model of excellence on the national and international stage. He was a key figure in the development and administration of regulations touching on every aspect of the industry, including conservation, field development, production, environmental impact, processing, transportation, proration of oil production to market demand and natural gas removal. George also took a leave of absence from his Board duties from 1975 to 1977 to serve the province as Chief Deputy Minister of Energy and Natural Resources for the Government of Alberta.
In 1978, George retired from the Board to begin his energy resource management consulting firm. He has served as a consultant to provincial governments across the country and to the Auditor General of Canada. George also continued to foster the responsible development of Canada’s energy resource as an advisor on the creation and role of the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board and through service to the Federal-Provincial Pipeline Review Panel and various energy resource corporations. Working abroad, he offered his expertise to projects in Alaska, Greece, Thailand and Pakistan. George moved to semi-retirement in the early 1990s but continued to serve in an advisory capacity.
Over the course of his career, Dr. Govier served with many key professional organizations in the Canadian engineering and energy sector. He is an Honourary Life Member and former President of the Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists and Geophysicists of Alberta, a Fellow and former National President of the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, a Fellow of the Engineering Institute of Canada, a Fellow of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and a Foreign Associate of the National Academy of Engineering (of the U.S.A.). He is an Officer of the Order of Canada, holds honourary degrees from McGill University and the Universities of Calgary and Waterloo and received the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee Medals and the Alberta Centennial Medal. He is a member of the Canadian Petroleum Hall of Fame and has received distinguished awards and medals from an extraordinarily long list of professional and industry organizations in Canada and the United States. In 2000, the Alberta Research Council named its new pipeline flow research facility The George W. Govier Centre for Flow and Sensor Technology in honour of his seminal contributions.
George Govier remains humble despite his remarkable service as an industry pioneer and readily lists his greatest accomplishment as the family he raised with Doris, which includes daughters Trudy, Katherine and Susan. However, those in the industry he helped to pioneer will tell you that the name “Govier” stands for excellence, for dedication and for exemplary service to the people of Alberta and all Canadians.