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Dr. Frank G. Bercha, PhD, PEng

PhD, Civil Engineering, Continuum Mechanics, The University of Calgary, 1972        BA Sc, Physics, The University of British Columbia, 1963
     Dr. Bercha has been the principal engineer and president of the Bercha Group since 1975. Additionally, he has served as principal engineer or project manager for over 400 engineering and risk assessment projects over a 36-year period in Canada and internationally. He has had responsibility for up to 150 employees and subcontract personnel in five national and international locations, with recent successful down sizing to single office consulting practice providing national and international specialized engineering and risk and reliability services.
     Dr. Bercha currently provides principal engineering services on projects requiring technical specialization in oil and gas engineering, ice mechanics, risk and reliability assessment, integrated human factors and reliability, advanced statistical methods, offshore engineering, pipeline engineering, and constructability for unique conditions. He has successfully provided innovative solutions to complex engineering problems and developed new methods for better assessment and management of risks associated with large industrial projects and machine-man interactions. Dr. Bercha is currently at the leading edge of development of safety systems for offshore oil and gas installations. He is chairman of the ISO WG8 Technical Panel 2a developing international standards for Arctic offshore reliability, and actively participates in various national and international professional technical societies. He has authored over 150 refereed publications, and is currently working on two books: Arctic Offshore Structures and Risk Analysis Theory and Applications.
     His general background includes 40 years varied engineering experience involving project management, design, resident engineering, research, teaching, technology transfer, and expert consulting and testimony. Principal project applications include offshore structures in open water and marine ice and iceberg polluted waters, exploratory drilling, offshore oil and gas facilities, hydrocarbon pipelines, road, marine, and air transportation systems, and power generation facilities in North America and worldwide. Dr. Bercha is experienced in polar, temperate, and equatorial onshore and offshore environments, with extensive experience throughout Canada, US-Alaska, Gulf, and California locations onshore and offshore. He has served as principal investigator and engineer for various projects relating to oil and gas facilities were recently carried out or are underway in California, Alaska, various locations in Canada, and the US, Canadian, and Russian Arctic for both government and private organizations. Dr. Bercha has also carried out projects in S.E. Asia, Australia, South America, and Europe.
     As president of the Bercha Group since 1975, he has substantial experience in business management, finance, negotiation, technical writing and presentations, and business development. Dr. Bercha was previously employed in executive and technical positions by leading engineering or research organizations, including Acres Consulting Services Limited (1972-5), University of Calgary Faculty of Engineering (1969-72), Pipeline Technologists Ltd (1966-9), and Foundation Engineering Corporation (1963-6).


Milan Cerovsek, BSc, MSc, PEng

Mr. Cerovsek has over 20 years experience in risk and reliability engineering in a variety of transportation, oil and gas, offshore production, aeronautical, and civil and municipal projects with emphasis on engineering reliability, risk analysis, economics, and statistical methods. He completed his B.Sc. in mechanical engineering in 1983, and a M.Sc. in mechanical engineering in the area of reliability analysis at the University of Belgrade in his native Yugoslavia. He is a member of APPEGGA, and has participated in over 50 projects primarily in risk assessment with the Bercha Group since his association began in 1993. He has generally been responsible for the development of computer simulation models, including probabilistic and Monte Carlo algorithms, for risk, reliability, and cost-benefit assessments. Major projects in which he has participated have included the EER systems and human performance reliability analysis for Transport Canada, the Sable Offshore Energy Project Safety Case, risk assessments of various pipeline and multi-modal transportation systems, and economic risk and cost-benefit analyses for transportation systems, offshore projects, pipelines, and multi-modal systems. He has over 15 national and international technical publications, and has co-authored numerous project reports. His general engineering experience includes design of mechanical systems, avionics, risk and reliability analysis, HAZID and HAZOPs, ergonomic simulation, and project management.

Wesley Abel, BSc, PEng, Offshore Engineering

Mr. Abel has over 40 years experience in oil and gas engineering, operations, and management in all aspects of the industry from roughneck to major oil company Vice President. Mr. Abel is an expert in project evaluation, conceptual and engineering design, engineering management, offshore logistics, operational plans, and establishment of management and supervisory systems. W. Abel and Associates and a permanent association with the Bercha Group was established following Mr. Abel's retirement from Mobil Oil after 36 years of successful service in Western Canada, the North Sea, and the East Coast.

Edmund A. Yasinko, PEng, Pipelines

Mr. Yasinko has an extensive background in the pipeline industry spanning 40 years, including engineering design, project management, and construction management and pipeline operation in Canada and worldwide. He has been responsible for the design and construction of over 200 natural gas, crude oil, NGL, and refined products pipeline projects totaling over 90,000 miles, in the USA and Canada and internationally. Mr. Yasinko graduated with an Honours Bachelors Degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan in 1958, and subsequently attended specialist oil and gas and pipeline engineering courses at the University of Southern California, Dalhousie University, and the University of Alberta. He is a registered professional engineer in several provinces and has qualified for registration in several states in the US. From 1995 to the present, he acted as Project Director for the refurbishment, reconstruction, and integrity re-establishment of the Platt pipeline transportation system from Casper, Wyoming to Wood River, Illinois in the USA. The route traverses a range of terrain types from arid desert to mountains, and goes through several high density urban areas. Directional drilling, river and lake drilled and open cut crossings, multi-pipeline corridors, and conversion of existing facilities are some of the special design and construction problems addressed. Currently he is also carrying out a high level assessment of the feasibility for conversion and upgrade of an abandoned Panamanian crude oil pipeline to natural gas and NGL service for a financial organization in New York. He has been President and Director of Producers Pipelines Inc., Superior Oil Limited Pipelines, Westpur Project Inc., and earlier managed pipeline division activities in Canada and worldwide for the Associated-Kellogg Ltd. pipeline. He has engineering and construction expertise as well as management expertise in all areas relevant to oil and gas pipeline conversion, special construction techniques including DD, integrity assessment, and natural gas pipeline operations including telemetery, controls, compressor stations, product processing, and distribution. He is a member of numerous national and international technical standards committees and is recognized as a pipeline engineering and construction expert worldwide. His responsibilities with the Bercha Group as an Associate since 1998 and co-worker since 1972 span all aspects of pipeline engineering and risk assessment.

Dr. Lawson W. Brigham, PhD, Marine Operations and Science Consultant

Dr. Brigham is a special consultant to the Bercha Group in the general area of arctic marine operations, analysis, and science. His expertise includes Arctic & Antarctic environmental change; Arctic marine policy & security; satellite and airborne remote sensing of sea ice; Arctic marine transportation; polar environmental management; Arctic coastal oceanography; and marine strategic & scenario planning. He has participated in world class field operations, including 7 Antarctic expeditions and 8 Arctic Ocean icebreaker voyages; cold regions experience with engineering & icebreaker field tests on the Great Lakes, Baltic Sea, and McMurdo Sound, Antarctica; Arctic environmental data collection experience in the Bering, Chukchi & Beaufort seas; and has transited the Northwest Passage & the central Arctic Ocean (through the North Pole). He is currently also Research Professor (Geography & Arctic Policy), University of Alaska Fairbanks and Senior Fellow, Institute of the North, Anchorage and his educational credentials include BS (Ocean Sciences), U.S. Coast Guard Academy (1970), MS (Management), Renesselaer Polytechnic Institute (1979), Honor Graduate (Naval & Strategic Studies), U.S. Naval War College (1982), Master of Philosophy (Polar Studies), University of Cambridge (1996), and PhD (Polar Oceanography), University of Cambridge (2000). The most notable professional positions he has held include:

  • Chair, Arctic Council’s Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment, AMSA (5-Present)

  • Deputy Executive Director (Arlington, VA) & Alaska Office Director (Anchorage, AK), U.S. Arctic Research Commission (U.S. Presidential Commission)( 01-08)

  • 1998-2000: Research Associate, Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, UK; Adjunct Scientist, Office of Naval Research Europe, London, UK (98-2000)

  • Commanding Officer, USCGC Polar Sea (polar Icebreaker), Seattle, WA; summer 1994 trans-Arctic voyage (Arctic Ocean Section Expedition) (93-95)

  • Chief Strategist and Head, Strategic Planning Staff, Office of the Commandant, U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters Washington, DC (90-93)

  • Research Fellow, Marine Policy Center, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, (89-90)

  • First Commanding Officer, USCGC Escanaba (law enforcement cutter), Boston, MA (86-89)

  • Coast Guard Liaison Officer to the Chief of Naval Operations, The Pentagon (85-86)

  • USCG and naval research and operating positions including First Commanding Officer, USCGC Mobile Bay and USCGC Point Steele(70-84)

  • Numerous prestigious advisory and contributor posts including Scott Polar Research Institute, NOAA Working Group, USARC Permafrost Task Force, Board of Advisors, Encyclopedia of the Arctic; Arctic Council’s Arctic Climate Impact Assessment; Polar Navigation Code Working Group, International Maritime Organization; Board of Governors, Arctic Institute of North America.

  • Awarded numerous honors including Fellow (Elected 1993), Royal Geographical Society (London); Arctic Service Medal (3 awards) and Antarctic Service Medal (four awards) for polar service to the United States; Legion of Merit Awarded by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation for Strategic Planning Initiatives; Signee (Among 76 Explorers), American Geographical Society’s Flier’s and Explorers Globe (for commanding the icebreaker Polar Sea in 1994.

Lawson has worked with the Bercha Group formally and informally in the past on the AMSA initiative, arctic research at Scott Polar, and is currently co-chair of Icetech10 participating with Bercha, the ION, and SNAME in organizing this international conference on performance of ships and structures in ice. He provides professional services in his fields of expertise, in Arctic and Antarctic marine operations and analysis.

Dr. Chris J. Brooks, ChB, DAvMed, Ergonomics

Professor Brooks is the Director of Research and Development at Survival Systems Limited, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. He is also a Professor at Dalhousie University, in the Faculty of Health and Human Performance.
     He is a physician who holds a Fellowship in Occupational Medicine and a Diploma in Aviation Medicine. He has spent thirty-five years developing life support systems for the Navy and Air Force. His first work was as the Medical Officer in a Polaris nuclear submarine and since then he has worked at DCIEM, Toronto, first as a Project Officer, then later as the Deputy Chief. In these positions, he invented a new life jacket for the Canadian Air Force, introduced an Emergency Breathing System into the Sea King helicopter, developed a survival suit for the Navy and wrote the AGARDograph on the human factors of escape and survival from a ditched helicopter – a text that is used worldwide for training.
      Throughout his career, he has also worked with the offshore oil industry and Canadian Coast Guard to improve the safety of all who work on or over the water. He was a consultant to the Ocean Ranger commission, and with Mr. Albert Bohemier and Paul Potter, Survival Systems Limited, was responsible for developing all the offshore standards for survival suits. He still maintains his position as the Chairman of the CGSB Survival Suit Committee and has recently investigated helicopter cabin evacuation from the Super Puma and breath-holding ability of offshore oil workers.
     He has continued to work on developing underwater breathing systems for passengers in helicopters and has currently been tasked with Dr. Mike Tipton, United Kingdom, to write the NATO monograph on air supplies for crew and passengers in ditched helicopters. He has published over fifty papers in the scientific literature and the only English textbook on the design and development of lifejackets.

Dr. John Leach, PhD, Human Factors

Dr. Leach is currently a Professor at Lancaster University, Psychology Department. His current research interests include: Survival psychology. I am interested in cognition and human performance in extreme environments. Generally, I am interested in how the brain functions in extremis such as under conditions of thermal stress (heat and cold), hunger and thirst, sleep loss, hyperbaric (e.g. underwater) and hypobaric (e.g. mountains, outer space). Specifically, I am trying to answer the question, Why, when placed in a survival situation, do so many people die unnecessarily?
     Cognitive evolution. My interest here arose from the realisation that a whole subspecies of human (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis) perished in a very short period of time while a closely related species (Homo sapiens sapiens) survived the same environmental conditions. My approach is to look at hominid survival through the evolution of cognitive function.
     Biocomputing. The design and development of AI-based computer systems for collecting physiological data in extreme environments the use of computational devices to model behavioural systems.

Fred Leafloor, Safety

Mr. Leafloor has led occupational safety and health program development activities for offshore operations and onshore businesses, as well as the Client support necessary for regulatory awareness and compliance within the provincial and federal jurisdictions. Mr. Leafloor has produced a large number of in-house programs, reports and manuals for Clients and previous employers. He has presented at, and been published in, international safety conferences and proceedings. He has lectured at DalTech and at undergraduate classes in Dalhousie University. Some of his formal research work has been published internationally by the Government of Canada. His work with the Bercha Group has included research for the TDC EER PBS.


Dr. Doug Leahey, PhD, Air Quality

Dr. Leahey is an atmospheric physicist with extensive experience in the assessment of effects of sour gas, suphur dioxide, and other atmospheric contaminants. Dr. Leahey has worked with the Bercha Group on a number of joint projects including the Shell-Caroline Emergency Response Plan, and air quality assessments. He has recently collaborated with the Bercha Group on a number of sour gas drilling permit applications involving the effects of flaring on air quality. Dr. Leahey is an independent consultant to the oil and gas industry.

Dr. John Morrall, PhD, PEng, Transportation

Dr. Morrall is adjunct professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Calgary and provides specialist transportation consulting services to Bercha Engineering. Following graduation from Carleton University in 1966, he was employed as a Transportation Engineer with the Metropolitan Toronto and Region Transportation Study and the Department of Highways of Ontario. He joined the University of Calgary after completing his Ph.D. at the University of Waterloo. He was a visiting fellow at the Australian Road Research Board in 1984 and 1985. In 1996 he was a visiting professor at the School of Mountain Highway Engineering at the National University of San Juan, Argentina. His research and professional interests include all aspects of the planning, design, and economics of rural and urban highways. In particular, his highway interests have focused on rural two-lane highways. He has been on project teams evaluating the need for and location of passing lanes in Alberta, B.C., the Mountain National Parks, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Montana and California. Other projects of note have included risk assessments for posted, FLB, gated, and other typical level road-railway crossings (with Bercha), assessment of risks and operational impacts of natural gas pipelines in road right of ways (with Bercha), an investigation of side friction demanded and margin of safety on horizontal curves, a study of long combination vehicles on two-lane highways, development of slow moving vehicle model for Highway 63, and determination of passenger car equivalents for recreational vehicles for Alberta Transportation and Utilities. Studies for Parks Canada have included development of a system of passing lanes for the Trans-Canada Highway, Kootenay Parkway and the Icefields Parkway in the Mountain National Parks. Also for Parks Canada he developed a traffic management plan for traffic control during avalanche stabilization in Rogers Pass.
      He is a registered professional engineer in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, a member of numerous national and international professional societies, including the Transportation Association of Canada, and has published or presented over 80 papers in his areas of specialization.

J.U. (Hans) van der Wal, PEng, Offshore Dredging

M.Sc., Civil Engineering, Delft University, The Netherlands, 1965
B.Sc., Civil Engineering, HTS, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands, 1959
     World wide involved in operations and project management of numerous projects during 30-year career. This concerned mainly offshore and river delta projects in developing countries and in the Canadian and US arctic. Additionally drafted the conceptual design of a number of dredgers, both new and refits, for construction of deep water islands in arctic regions, offshore facilities and infrastructure development. Experience covers project management and the overall responsibility for operations in a variety of regional arctic and remote regions, including:
• Safety and EER Projects
   - SOEP safety and EER model development with Bercha Group as part of Safety Case.
• Island Construction in the Canadian Arctic
• Island Construction in the US Beaufort Sea
• River Delta Development

Mike Zelensky, MEng, PEng, Air Quality

Mr. Zelensky and the Bercha Group have cooperated on a number of projects ranging from studies of sour gas blowouts to air quality assessments for chronic leakages of pipelines. They are currently collaborating on the development of a risk analytic protocol for the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board, in which Mr. Zelensky is responsible primarily for dispersion and air quality modeling, while the Bercha Group is developing the frequency and risk assessment protocols including fault tree approaches the assessment of release frequencies from sour gas facilities. Mr. Zelensky and the Bercha Group have collaborated extensively over the years, commending in the late 1980s.

Major K.T. Lean, Malaysia

Major (Retired) Lean has represented and aided the Bercha Group in Malaysia since its inception of operations there in 1987. Major Lean is an expert logistics and operations manager, as a result of his experience in the Malaysian army when he was posted in northern Borneo in the provinces of Sabah and Sarawak. He is well-known in the Malaysian oil and gas industry, having represented a number of major offshore companies, and currently continues to represent Bercha Group interests in east and west Malaysia.

Dr. Luis Vargas, PhD, Colombia

Dr. Vargas is the president of Petrolcarbon in Bogotá, Colombia since the late 1980s. He has a PhD in Petroleum Engineering. Dr. Vargas is expert not only in oil and gas operations and service requirements, but also in reservoir engineering and exploratory drilling. In addition to representing the Bercha Group and other international organizations, he conducts day-to-day operations involving quality assurance, inspection and maintenance, and onsite safety in the Colombian oil and gas industry.

General Pranoto Asmoro, Indonesia

General Pranoto, a retired general from the Indonesian army, is well known in Indonesian business and political circles, and has successfully represented the Bercha Group interests in Indonesia since 1984. With General Pranoto, the Bercha Group has acquired several major projects including the laser topographic mapping of transmigration sites in Kalimantan, technology transfer of remote sensing technologies to members of the Ministry of Mines and Energy, and several other projects for private oil companies operating in Indonesia.

Mr. Dave Strachan, Australia

Mr. Strachan, operating in Perth, west Australia, has successfully been both a representative and a employment (head hunter) for oil companies for a period over 20 years. Mr. Strachan, in addition to his representative and high-level employment search functions, is an expert in offshore logistics and operations. He has successfully represented the Bercha Group in Australia since the commencement of their association in 1986.

Dr. Lawrence Chu, Sabah and South China

Dr. Chu is head of a major computing services and hardware corporation located in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. Dr. Chu not only conducts the business, which employs over 500 people on location, but also is active in export and import, particularly with China, where he has an office in Shanghai. Accordingly, Dr. Chu represents Bercha Group interests in east Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) and southern China, with emphasis on Shanghai.

Sam Liu, North China

Mr. Liu has been active in the tourist and export/import business in northern China for over 15 years. He is recently met with the Bercha Group during a visit to Beijing in 2003, and has agreed to represent their interests in the Beijing area. As an expert in the tourist industry, as well as a former teacher at both secondary and university levels, Mr. Liu is particularly helpful as a result of his familiarity with Chinese business practices and customs, and is able to facilitate international trade activities. Mr. Liu speaks Mandarin, Cantonese, and several Chinese dialects, as well as English, German, Spanish, and Portugese.

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