Howard started his career at ANR Pipeline Company—then owned by Coastal Corporation—in 1991 as part of his high school co-op program in his hometown of Detroit. “I’ve been working for the company since the 11th grade,” he says.
He relocated to Houston after El Paso Corporation acquired Coastal in 2001 and became part of TransCanada—and eventually TC Energy—when the company bought ANR from El Paso in 2007.
“One of the motivations to move down here was the snow in Detroit,” he recalls. But Howard soon discovered the Gulf Coast comes with its own weather challenges: “Two months after moving to Houston, [Tropical Storm] Allison happened.”
But Howard has no regrets.
Guided by his own curiosity about Gas Control and solid mentorship, Howard over the past three decades has made the switch from the corporate records department to his current position of leading the day-to-day commercial operations of the ANR Pipeline.
Howard and his Gas Control team play a critical role in ensuring energy demand is met—safely and reliably—each day in the Midwest, South, and beyond. Here’s what it’s like to spend a (rather busy) day in the life of an essential energy worker:
“I'm pretty consistent with my routine, even throughout the pandemic,” Howard says. After waking up at 4 a.m. each day, he catches up on weather and news before mustering the energy to get up, run the treadmill for 15 or 20 minutes, grab a breakfast sandwich, and get ready for work.
“Every day is different in Gas Control,” Howard says. But there’s still a general schedule to follow, with heavy collaboration within the U.S. Natural Gas (USNG) group.
Howard begins his workday by touching base with the Gas Controllers and going over their morning report, which covers “where we've [or the system has] been, where we’re at, and where we're going.” After, he leads the daily morning meeting with Area Managers in the field to ensure the entire ANR system is operating as it should.
Howard then hops on a call covering marketing, nominations, and scheduling, and caps off the early morning by providing USNG leadership with an overall ANR system update.
Another meeting with the marketing department reviews market conditions for the day and determines if there are opportunities to allocate or reallocate space on the system for customers. Howard then checks back with the Controllers to update them on the information he’s gathered.
“After that, I pretty much start working on emails and returning calls with customers,” says Howard.
Right now, Howard is involved in two special projects. He’s “working quite a bit” to make sure ANR Gas Controllers are getting the most out of an innovation project that uses machine learning to optimize pipeline operations. He’s also taking part in an upgrade of ANR Gas Control’s supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system.
Howard loves cooking for his wife Brandy—who also works in USNG Commercial Operations—as well as family and friends, which usually leaves him leftovers for the days ahead. Those leftovers make for a delicious and convenient lunch. Otherwise, he and his lunch buddies take a break from the office and head to Chipotle or Flying Saucer in Downtown Houston.
A jampacked morning of activities usually means some meetings spill over into the afternoons. Howard also takes the opportunity to work on special projects during this time.
Toward the end of his workday, Howard dives into SAP software to review upcoming outages and make sure Gas Control is prepared. Come midafternoon, Howard begins to wrap things up, though he’s on call 24/7 in case any abnormalities arise on the system.
Howard, who “cooks daily,” usually pre-plans his meals so that he can hit the ground running come dinnertime. After their meal, he and Brandy settle in front of the TV and watch the latest Netflix series or “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”
Fittingly, Chef Howard, who has six siblings, also likes to host his family and friends every chance he gets. “They come down and visit quite often—from Detroit or Arkansas.” Howard also travels back home to Detroit a couple times per year, including for the annual family picnic in August.
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