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Allan Nelson


While high standards, professionalism and reliability mark the career of engineer Allan Nelson, so does a resolve to strike a balance between the demands of work and family life. At 92, Nelson
is still in the office daily, when most engineers are enjoying retirement.

A younger colleague recalls working late a few years ago, when Nelson, who also stayed late, was on his way out the door. Before leaving, the now-greying senior engineer stopped to chat with the
younger man, who also had a family.

"I'm an old man who's very proud of a lot of things in my life," he said casually. "But I've never once wished that I had worked harder when I was 30."

Without another word, Nelson turned and made for the exit. For the young engineer left to ponder, it was his boss's subtle way of making a point: "You've got children at home. It's time to go."

Born in 1922 near Cluny, Alta., Nelson turned seven when the Great Depression opened a decade of lean years. After schooling in Alberta, he studied engineering at Montreal's McGill University,
graduating in 1948.

Joining Dominion Engineering Works in Lachine, Que., as a junior engineer, he returned to Alberta to work for Barber Machinery Company before starting Oilfield Machinery Co. Ltd., in 1950. By 1951, he owned and operated the company. While it did not last, the venture laid the foundation for a long career in Alberta's oil and gas sector.

Over the next 15 years, Nelson managed an Alberta drilling equipment–maker before opening his own firm, Allan R. Nelson Engineering Inc., in 1966. Gradually, he built a reputation as a skilled,
conscientious engineer and a reliable expert witness in court cases. His competency is well-known, and colleagues attest to his skill in forensic investigations and in designing drilling equipment and downhole tools. He has investigated several major oilsands and refinery fires.

After a major pipeline failure, his recommendations helped rewrite safety and operating policies in Canada's pipeline industry. Yet, colleagues say his greatest contribution has been his support and guidance of industry colleagues over several decades.

A mentor to many, he has passed on his technical and "soft" skills, and always been up for a question, despite a busy career. "Allan's support has encouraged and enabled many to contribute
in their turn to Canada's petroleum industry," a colleague said.


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