15 May 2017
From a very early age, Erica had a curious and questioning mind.
"When I was about eight and still in elementary school, I was fascinated seeing the exhaust fog coming out of cars during winter," she said.
"I would ask my parents why is that happening and why can’t you capture it?"
Today, she still has that same curiosity as an associate process engineer for BHP’s west Texas Permian Production Unit.
And her questioning nature is being harnessed to real effect both for the business and the environment.
"I was very fortunate to grow up in Denver, Colorado which is one of the most picturesque and beautiful parts of the United States," she said.
"During my childhood, there was a slow but steady amount of development and it gave me a sense of the impact progress can have and how much energy it requires."
From her childhood curiosity of energy along with a love of maths and science, she knew she would eventually work in energy production.
But she thought it would be in the renewable energy field.
"When you look at my job today it seems counterintuitive," she said.
"It would be easy to stand back and let someone else do the work.
"But I thought if I am going to make a change, the biggest impact I can probably have is from within a big company rather than on the outside or the opposite side of the fence," she said.
Erica joined BHP while completing her chemical engineering degree in 2014.
But I thought if I am going to make a change, the biggest impact I can probably have is from within a big company rather than on the outside or the opposite side of the fence
Today, the 25 year old is a process engineer at the company’s west Texas shale asset, which produces oil and gas.
It was BHP’s commitment to sustainability and safety that drew her to the company.
“Having witnessed the changes that were going on in Colorado in development and mining, I am very passionate about taking responsibility for myself and my generation and the impact we are having on the environment," Erica said.
“I also want to create a more viable life for generations to come and BHP’s core values really stood out to me.”
She said she did lots of research into BHP and believes the company stays true to its values of sustainability and safety.
"That research showed me they didn’t just talk the talk," she said.
"When I joined, I deliberately positioned myself in a job where I felt I could make a difference."
From her first day, Erica said she asked questions like, "why are we doing it this way?" and "what can we do to change it or improve it?".
She concedes change takes time and by no means is she the only person seeking it.
But she feels her voice helps magnify and speed up the process.
"While in the design area I was able to play a part in improving the processes around gas venting and flaring, where gas from the wells has to be burned off rather than stored," she said.
Today as a field engineer, she helps ensure sites are performing to their full potential.
“There’s a great benefit for the company to maximise the process but there is also a great benefit for the environment and that is why I love it so much,” she said.