Following in her parents’ footsteps: LNG Canada engineer Rena Feng shares her story

'I want women to be really proud like I am to be working in the energy industry'

By James Snell
Rena Feng is a process engineer with LNG Canada. Photo by James Snell for the Canadian Energy Centre

Rena Feng’s work is an important part of Canada’s quest to produce and ship liquefied natural gas from the west coast.

Based in Kitimat B.C., the traditional territory of the Haisla Nation, the 28-year-old process engineer with LNG Canada is encouraging more women to join the energy sector to achieve excellence and address “a lot of misconceptions.”

“In my mind, I think sometimes you doubt yourself, and you don’t give yourself enough credit,” she said of rising through the engineering ranks. “And sometimes you think, do I deserve this? Am I qualified for this? That was something I had to overcome.”

Feng emigrated from China with her parents when she was nine and spent most of her childhood in Calgary. After watching her parents succeed as engineers, she began studying chemical engineering at the University of Alberta. It wasn’t long before she headed north to Fort McMurray for the co-op portion of her program in Shell’s mineral processing group – a test to determine if oil and gas was a good fit.

“There’s a perception of the type of people who work in Fort McMurray,” she said. “I didn’t fit into that – in my mind – especially as a young woman just coming out of second year of university. What if it’s not safe? Especially working around hydrocarbons. Once I got there, I realized none of those things were true. Shell has an incredible safety culture. Fort McMurray is the most welcoming community.”

According to research by the Canadian Energy Centre, nearly 31 per cent of the jobs in Canada’s oil and gas sector are held by women, while annual wages and salaries for women have increased over 30 per cent since 2009.

That’s higher than the global average. Data from Catalyst and S&P Global indicate women comprise less than one-quarter of oil and gas workers worldwide. Only 17 per cent of executives are women, while 27 per cent of entry-level jobs are held by women.

After completing her degree in 2017, Feng started as an engineer-in-training for Shell. Shortly after, she moved into utilities engineering for LNG Canada before being promoted to utilities lead to deliver detailed engineering plans that will translate into LNG production at the Kitimat site.

“I want to see our first cargo sail,” she said. “That’s what I see for myself in the immediate term.”

With a capital cost of $17 billion, LNG Canada will export natural gas to Asian markets, and in the process, put Canada on the map of LNG exporting countries. Once up and running by the middle of this decade, the facility is expected to lower C02 emissions in Asia by 60 to 90 million tonnes per year by offsetting coal-fired power generation.

LNG Canada, together with the Woodfibre LNG project about to start construction near Squamish, could eliminate annual emissions in Asia by the equivalent of more than B.C.’s total —about 65 million tonnes in 2020.

LNG Canada represents one of the largest energy investments in Canadian history, and Feng is excited about more young people entering the business.

“It’s not what people think it is from the outside,” she said. “I want women to be really proud like I am to be working in the energy industry.”

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