Q&A with Neoflow’s Director of Industry Engagement

October 13, 2022

Twila Riffel is a seasoned professional in the field of Customs and Tax. With a career spanning over 25 years, Twila held prominent roles at Enbridge, PWC and EY. Twila is passionate about innovation.

Tell us about your role at Neoflow and the path you took to get here.

I joined Enbridge in 2007 as an Indirect Tax Specialist, where I was quickly immersed in the world of Customs when the oil and gas pipeline industry came under intense scrutiny by US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Customs officials had limited knowledge about the industry and as such, they were unsure if the industry was compliant with the laws in place. The major issue that this industry has historically faced is that the laws in place relate to other modes of transportation and are not reflective of the pipeline industry. This started a long journey of working with industry colleagues and Customs officials through numerous collaborative partnerships. I personally spent a significant amount of time training both US and Canadian Customs officials and policymakers about the industry, providing Pipeline 101 training over 30 times with the goal of having them understand the industry, its challenges and how to establish more appropriate processes, procedures and regulations for the industry.

Not all of these partnerships were successful, and we are still in a situation where neither the US nor Canadian polices have changed. What was successful on the US side was that with an increase in knowledge about the industry, CBP recognized that the industry has the information for Customs purposes but that it is CBP’s own systems that were not capable of ingesting all of the information available in a useful format. Armed with that knowledge, CBP began exploring a new technology called Blockchain which would use automation and data security to close the gap between CBP’s needs and its capabilities to gather information. With Enbridge being the largest crude oil pipeline in North America, its participation in a new Distributed Ledger Technology (DTL) project was paramount and in my former role with Enbridge and unique knowledge of the industry, I was the first to join the project team on behalf of the industry. Shortly after the project started, I retired. This meant that I retired without seeing to completing the very big project that had the potential to resolve all those years of industry and CBP challenges. Shortly after, the opportunity came for me to join Mavennet / Neoflow to provide industry expertise to the DLT project. This has evolved into a dynamic and interesting project, and I could not have imagined the nuances and capabilities that are truly transformative and revolutionary for CBP and the industry.

From a personal perspective, understanding the challenges that industry faces and developing a strong working relationship with my CBP colleagues has allowed us to work together collaboratively to resolve the issues that were unsolvable in the past. It’s been very exciting to see CBP’s knowledge progress and their willingness to make this project work for both of them as well as the industry. I know that from the industry side, there is skepticism as to whether this will actually be completed by CBP or whether it will just be another project that CBP abandons. From my perspective, the likelihood of success has never been higher. I think the difference is that our industry always the party asking CBP to work through the issues and change processes. This time the project is a top-down approach where the entire CBP process and systems are changing. The pipeline industry is one of the 5 industries setting the standards for the re-imagined Customs world — and that’s an exciting place to be.

What is your vision for Neoflow?

Neoflow enables the digital representation of the supply chain, completely automating the current paper chase while enabling importers access to duty-free imports into the US of Canadian crude and natural gas — a feat that is not usually possible in the current paper world. It also closes the lack of visibility that CBP currently experiences on imports and does that in a fully automated and standardized process that eliminates decade old paper-driven processes.

Neoflow is developing the DLT for crude and natural gas, 2 of the 5 DLT projects through CBP’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program. These 5 projects are establishing the standards for the future of communicating with CBP in its new ACE 2.0 system.

I see an incredible future for this company in the long term. An interesting aspect of Neoflow is that as we are working through the development, we are seeing so many other applications of this platform, such as tracking of Environmental Emissions, information that can assist other groups in our customers world such as oil and gas traders as well as having one clear source of truth that other government agencies can potentially access.

Where is Neoflow’s biggest opportunity for growth?

Our work with CBP is starting with pipeline movements on Canadian/US border. However, CBP has indicated that the future state will need to include other modes of transportation — vessels, trains and trucks, the US/Mexico border and exports from the US. Neoflow is working towards these pillars at CBP’s direction. CBP’s future vision is visibility into the global supply chain.

Added to that is the environmentally consciousness element. Development of an environmental passport is the wave of the future. There is a significant opportunity for companies looking to fulfill their Environmental Reporting in a meaningful way.

Lastly, this industry is frothy with reporting to numerous government agencies on both sides of the border. Most of this reporting is highly manual and the reporting requirements amongst agencies vary. This platform has the capability to provide one source of truth to all users, providing information that is immutable and more timely than currently available.

What do you foresee to be the greatest change in the energy industry over the next 5 years?

We are inundated with the movement towards electric vehicles. However, that type of conversion doesn’t happen overnight. An environmental passport can be used to show that the energy industry is working towards being social responsibility and continue to educate the public about this industry is working towards helping to climate change issues.

What would we most likely find you doing on the weekend?

Given that I’m retired, one of the things I haven’t been able to do is retire fully. I love the work that I do and I’m probably busier than I was before. Funny how that works! Generally, my mornings are spent doing work for Neoflow and then I have a sales tax business that keeps me busy as well. I also fill my spare time golfing with my husband.

We spend our winters in Palm Springs, which gives us a different perspective on retirement. I don’t know how well I would have done retiring in winter and having to live in the cold but coming down here there’s just so much we can do.

My life is relatively busy from some perspective, but it also can be quite quiet. I like to spend time outside reading books and I must admit, I like to watch reality TV shows from time to time (It’s my guilty pleasure). My husband and I watch lots of sports. We’re huge sports fans.

What advice do you have for someone new to the industry?

The advice that I have given people all the time is not to be scared to take on new challenges. When I started my career at Enbridge, I knew very little about customs. Within a couple of years, I became an industry specialist and an industry expert, and it has open doors that I never expected. I believe if someone presents you with an opportunity and you think it’s something that you would be interested in, go for it, and don’t hesitate. My whole career has been built on taking chances. I took on many roles in the industry that nobody seemed to show an interest in. My innate curiosity has served me well throughout my career. People will admire you for taking on challenges and continuing to learn even if you don’t have the answers right away. There’s always an opportunity for growth!

About Neoflow

Neoflow Inc. is a Calgary based company, a team of digital innovators, entrepreneurs and energy industry experts. We have a common passion for transformation in the energy industry along with a common belief that the Neoflow platform will create opportunities to transform the energy value chain. To learn more about Neoflow visit our website www.neoflow.energy and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Medium.