Ray

Location:

Toronto, ON

Position:

Senior Engineer | Inspection & Maintenance

“I live and breathe what I do. I look forward to retirement and international travel—the more you see and experience the more you understand, amazement is around every corner.”

Favourite Film: The Matrix
Personal Passion: scuba diving—I’m working on my Masters certification
Secret Talent: “I can cook Chinese better than my Chinese wife.”

In the summer of 1989, Canada was coming out of a protracted recession and hiring was only just starting to pick up. Ray was just out of grad school and looking to begin his career. He had been offered another job, but (then) Ontario Hydro was having an Open House, so he attended. The rest, as they say, is history.

At the time Ray joined the Inspection and Maintenance Department, Ontario Hydro was the monolith, managing the Province’s electricity from generation all the way through to the consumer’s door. While the energy sector changed around him, Ray stayed focused and evolved his career and the technologies used for inspection and maintenance.

“I have a very unique and interesting job—one foot in the lab and one foot in the field. At the stations, we need to make sure operations are safe. The Nuclear Safety Commission needs to know that people are working safe and that the equipment is safe. We typically inspect things we know there may be eventual problems with, but there are always new challenges with new or unanticipated failure mechanisms.

I come up with inspection methods to address these unanticipated problems. We look at it as R&D, but really it’s development work, answering questions that were never posed before. I develop, implement, and train methods to address these challenges in the field and produce good results.

I went back to my 25-year reunion with my graduating class and they all looked at me and said, “Ray, you’re the last of the hardcore engineers.” Many engineers move past their technical background to management. A lot of engineers never practice engineering. I’m one of the few who actually does solve problems from first principles. That has led to some pretty interesting stuff.”

The Matrix Inspections Technique (MIT) is an ultrasonic testing method developed by Ray’s team. The technology was originally devised to address the thinning of the heavy water feeder pipes in OPG’s nuclear power stations. These pipes are oddly shaped, with poor access for inspection. MIT was developed from scratch for use on the reactor face, for inspection situations where access is difficult and the object to be inspected resists inspection.

For testing, they send in ultrasonic waves and the object returns the ultrasound in a lot of different ‘directions’. Using a very powerful computer, the team reconstructs the structure of the object, using it as a mathematical model to look into the object, reconstructing each surface to identify and see what’s beyond it. With a relatively small budget and a very small team, OPG was able to develop three working systems in just 20 months. MIT is accurate in the range of a human hair.

“It’s the ultrasonic equivalent of MRI. The technology is in its infancy. When I give a talk about this technology, it’s standing room only.”

Ray has published many conference papers and journals, and is involved in international institutions including the British and Chinese Institutes of Non-Destructive Testing. He explains that the inspection methods used by OPG can be applied to any number of industries—oil and gas, transportation, large infrastructure like bridges, and medical applications. “OPG took an idea and developed it further, extending the concepts beyond where they were in academia. OPG can proudly say we developed the concept, it’s our technology, and we have patents.”

“I have the best job in the entire company. I really do. I am so lucky to be doing what I’m doing. I’m given free reign or enough rope to go and hang myself. The technology we’ve developed since 2007—we’ve developed a great team. Everyone has each other’s back, we’re focused on doing the right thing. There’s no malcontents, just people who give 110% all the way across the shop floor.