Suzanne West, who worked to reinvent the traditional Canadian oil and gas company by prioritizing the use of environmental and digital technology to slash emissions, has died after being diagnosed with brain cancer. She was 52.
Ms. West established Calgary-based Imaginea Energy Corp. in 2013 in a bid to demonstrate that hydrocarbons could be developed in more sustainable ways. Her ambitious and engaging style was unique in an industry often criticized for being resistant to change.
Her frequent assertion that she was out to "change the world" won her an international fan base and made her sought after on the speaking circuit. Ms. West had recently started up a new Imaginea after parting ways with her previous financial backer, taking a technology-incubator approach to the business.
"She was a very intriguing individual," said Nav Dhunay, who took over as chief executive officer of Imaginea IO in early February after Ms. West was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer.
"When I first met her, which was only a few years ago, she immediately captivated me with her passion. She spoke like no one else that I had met. She spoke from the soul. It wasn't something that was crafted. It was authentic. It was original."
Born in Calgary, she was chemical engineer by trade and became one of a still-small number of female CEOs in the Canadian oil patch.
In a story that is now well known to many in the energy and environmental industries, Ms. West had sold an oil company to a rival in 2013 and had considered leaving the industry altogether before attending a conference of entrepreneurs, academics and philanthropists on Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson's island in the British Virgin Islands.
She came back re-energized, with a new plan to start a company that could be a model for producing energy for a world that needs it, but rethinking how it can be done by employing solar panels, drones and state-of-the art computer technology to minimize impact on air, land and water.
Following her diagnosis in January, Ms. West said she had planned to stay involved in setting direction for Imaginea IO, which currently has 13 employees and is examining new financing options, perhaps involving cryptocurrency.
"Trying to change the world is taking on a new dimension. But you know what? You have to embrace all the things that the universe sends you and I've decided there are still great things to do in my life," she told The Globe and Mail last month. "It's super challenging but I also keep reminding myself that I'm lucky on many fronts."
Imaginea said in a statement that Ms. West died with her family and dog Rhea by her side.