Tyler Ivie – Cenovus Energy
When Tyler Ivie moved from the pharmaceutical and agrichemical sectors to the energy industry about a decade ago, he moved between two starkly different worlds from a legal perspective.
Now senior manager and associate general counsel at Cenovus Energy, an Alberta-based oil and gas company, Ivie specializes in intellectual property, and on that front, pharmaceuticals and energy couldn’t be more disparate.
The former is very proprietary, emphasizing the patent rights determining a brand’s ability to profit from its innovations. In the oil and gas realm, companies seldom sue each other for patent infringement. There’s more cooperation around innovation—take, for example, the recent formation of Pathways Alliance, an industry group dedicated to helping oil sands companies achieve net zero emissions from operations by 2050, partly through its capture carbon and storage foundational project.
“In the pharmaceutical world, companies do not collaborate on technology because they sell technology, whereas in the oil and gas world, they can collaborate because that’s generally not where they’re competitive,” Ivie explains. “[Energy companies] compete on the resources that they can produce. They’re competing primarily in how much they can produce against the market. So, it’s mostly the commodity that they’re competing on.”
Ivie had to adjust how he advised Cenovus as he moved into energy, but today, he enjoys working with his team to manage the company’s patent and trademark portfolios and to support internal clients like Cenovus’ IT department and data groups.
“Most of my day is spent doing licensing work in the IT area,” he says. “So, I spend a lot of time licensing software and helping with cybersecurity issues, which are, I don’t want to say through the roof, but every year that goes by, there are more and more cybersecurity issues that are important to the company’s business.”
Ensuring compliance with new laws
Case in point: Canada is currently considering a new cybersecurity bill, amending the Telecommunications Act and making consequential amendments to other acts, which many observers expect will become law at some point. Companies like Cenovus are girding themselves for a raft of new regulations, and part of Ivie’s job is to advise his company on how to become compliant with the legislation.
For instance, if the bill becomes law, the company may have to report cybersecurity breach events going forward. In addition, the Canadian government tabled the Artificial Intelligence and Data Act (AIDA) as part of Bill C-27. In Bill C-27, there will likely be requirements for the reporting of artificial intelligence use.
“We’re going to have internal governance and reporting mechanisms prepared for these areas that we’ve never had to do before,” Ivie says. “So, from a lawyer’s perspective, there’s a lot of advocacies to be provided to the business as they try to understand how this business is going to be affected by these new laws that are coming out.”
Ivie looks forward to seeing the regulations that arise from this legislation, which will allow him to advise Cenovus’ governance environment accordingly.
Drawing up policies on AI
In recent years, Cenovus has used AI for things like steam optimization in certain types of wells, such as ones that produce bitumen.
Bitumen is a deposit of heavy oil that’s stuck in the sand, requiring energy companies to drill wells into the ground to retrieve it. They drill an injector well and a producer well. The injector well pushes super-heated steam into the earth, causing the oil sand to melt and fall through holes in the rocks. Then, the producer well acts like a straw, sucking up the melted liquid oil. Cenovus has used AI to optimize the steam going down into the earth to drive the melting process. The goal is not to waste any energy but always to have the right amount of steam.
With the advent of ChatGPT, however, Ivie is also seeing internal use of AI on another front: by individual employees to do their work. He says that liability issues could arise if employees were to input sensitive information into ChatGPT.
“I can tell you with AI’s use, where we’re using it in a bigger project form, we have seen some good outcomes from that; we’ve also seen some outcomes that don’t work,” he says. “I’m advising on the guidelines as we speak.”
Becoming a lucky leader
A graduate of the University of Lethbridge, where he received his B.Sc., and the University of Calgary, where he earned his J.D., Ivie started his career in private practice in 2005.
From there, he moved in-house at Bayer Inc. in 2008. In 2013, he moved to Husky Energy as senior legal counsel and team lead.
In 2021, Husky merged with Cenovus, bringing both challenges and opportunities for Ivie. There were many moving parts to the merger, especially on software licensing, and Ivie and his colleagues had to do the complex work of IT integration.
“I think it brought the best of two companies together,” Ivie says. “That’s why the merger was so desired by the business community: because the two companies’ assets were very similar. So, we were able to amalgamate that together and have a better, stronger company going forward.”
As an in-house counsel, Ivie tries to establish relationships that allow him to be in the room at the start of projects rather than coming in once legal issues have gotten out of hand—as he puts it, “Solicitors are cheaper than litigators.” And in his decade-plus as an in-house counsel, he’s seen some of the same problems repeat themselves, so he can identify those patterns early on and nip them in the bud.
He also credits his colleagues for making his work life more enjoyable. He says he’s been fortunate in both his mentors and in the people he’s supervised over the years.
“I’ve always had really good leaders, and I’ve always had really good direct reports,” Ivie says. “I’ve been a lucky leader because I’ve always had good people. Good subject matter and good people.”
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