Pat Daniel is 65 – and a half, he points out – and looking back on more than 11 years leading Canada's biggest pipeline company.
For Enbridge Inc., it was a period of major trials and even bigger growth, as the company now boasts the biggest backlog of new projects in its history.
Now, Mr. Daniel said Monday, it's time for him to go.
"Surprised? Why are you surprised?" he told reporters Monday. "I'm old."
He added: "I think it's the time – we have never had a better five-year plan in front of us than we do today."
Mr. Daniel has been with Enbridge since 1982 and served as its chief executive officer since 2001. He will now leave leadership of the company to heir-apparent Al Monaco, the company's president of gas pipelines, green energy and international, who has worked his way up through numerous roles in the company, including investor relations.
Mr. Monaco, who on Monday was named Enbridge's president, will succeed a man whose quiet statesmanship won him broad respect in industry.
"He's just one of those true CEO kind of guys," said Jennifer Stevenson, vice-president and portfolio manager for energy with Goodman & Company Investment Counsel. "He's wise, he's calm, he's bright, and he just instills confidence in people."
Enbridge announced Mr. Daniel's departure with a series of figures. During his tenure, Enbridge shares rose 250 per cent, its market cap expanded four-fold to about $30-billion, and it returned an average of 15.8 per cent a year to shareholders.
He leaves Enbridge with "more than $13-billion of secured growth projects to come in service between 2011 and 2015 and another $35-billion of new opportunities over the 2011 to 2020 time frame," the company said.
That latter calculation is one that Mr. Daniel watches closely. "We are just flying," he said. "This is the busiest year we've ever had."
It's also one of the more complicated. Mr. Daniel will leave later this year – the date has yet to be determined – without having completed the Northern Gateway project, the controversial new West Coast access pipeline that he has championed. Cleanup is also still ongoing from a major 2010 spill into a Michigan river from an Enbridge pipeline. That spill raised questions about aging pipeline infrastructure that will continue to be important for Enbridge in future years.
But the spill also saw Mr. Daniel spend most of three months in Michigan, personally overseeing cleanup work -- an effort that won over some of his critics (he has discussed plans with one detractor to canoe the river) and gained him plaudits from competitors.
"He's set the bar for all of us in terms of how you act to situations as they arise in a responsible manner and to take account for your actions," TransCanada Corp. chief executive Russ Girling said Monday. "He's very much been a leader in the industry."
Chris Seasons, the president of Devon Canada, was chairman of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers at the time of the spill, which caused a pipeline backup that cost oil companies dearly in lost profits. Mr. Daniel, at the time, walked into a shark tank of angry executives, including Mr. Seasons.
The spill "shouldn't have happened in the first place. But how they reacted to it was very commendable, and there are probably few who would do a better job of that," Mr. Seasons said. "I like his style, I think he's highly ethical, straightforward, honest and has a good business mind."
Mr. Daniel's career was filled with the whiplash that the energy industry can induce. At the beginning, for example, he worked to boost the company's presence in natural gas. He also expanded the company into green energy, and Enbridge now runs nearly 1,000-megawatts of electrical generating capacity.
"We thought the crude oil business was dead. We thought the oil sands would never be economic," Mr. Daniel said.
Now, natural gas is waning in Alberta, and oil is ascendant, with oil sands among Canada's chief growth stories.
"The business is constantly changing," he said. "We have to be prepared to change the strategy almost daily."
Another sweeping change during Mr. Daniel's time at Enbridge: the public profile of pipeline companies like his, which have been transformed from oil patch backwater to industry's most scrutinized actors.
Mr. Daniel began his career with Home Oil, in oil and gas production. When he moved into pipelines, through a series of corporate transactions, he was teased by friends for leaving the exciting part of the business. Now, he says, it's all changed -- witness the attention placed on Enbridge after its Michigan spill, or the frenzy that has surrounded plans to build new pipelines to the Gulf Coast and West Coast.
"We've gone from being dull, old, boring pipelines to being on the front page too much," Mr. Daniel said.
As his company's profile changed, Mr. Daniel began to take on a more prominent role on the national stage, discussing the need for a Canada-wide energy strategy. He has repeatedly made the case for new pipelines to send crude to Asia, an argument that is without doubt partly self-serving for a man who has never sold an Enbridge share.
But he couches his argument in nationalistic terms: Today, he said, Canadian heavy oil is selling at a $55 (U.S.) a barrel discount to international prices, in large measure because it is dependent upon just one export market.
"Would we sell our wheat at that kind of a discount?" he said. "We just can't do it any more. You can't run a country that way."
Mr. Daniel was coy on his future activities, although there is little doubt he continues to ardently support a Canadian energy strategy.
Indeed, his ability to speak out stands out to Mr. MacNeill, the former Enbridge chief executive, who called Mr. Daniel a man with "a presence that just gathers respect. He's a quiet individual, but very intelligent, very smart, and is not afraid to speak up when he feels it's important to say something."
Mr. Daniel has a green bent that is uncommon in Calgary. He once pledged to make Enbridge carbon neutral -- a goal it has not achieved -- and drives a Prius, now more than half a decade old, that is his only car. One of his two sons has pressured him to replace it with a Chevrolet Volt. He is an avid fly fisherman.
He said he will spend the coming months helping Mr. Monaco secure some of the "relationship equity" he has built up in his time as chief executive. The two will travel to China, and to meetings with politicians, the American Petroleum Institute, pipeline regulators and customers.
Mr. Daniel said he intends to leave Enbridge with enough time to build an ice rink on his two-acre property west of Calgary to fulfill a promise to a four-year-old grandson. It will be as near to NHL size as he can make it, and it needs to be done by Christmas.
With files from Carrie Tait.