Canadian Biomass Magazine

From Namibia to Canada: Liezl van Wyk’s journey to biomass leadership

April 30, 2024
By Canadian Biomass Staff

Liezl van Wyk

As the vice-president of Northern Operations at Drax Group Canada, Liezl van Wyk has been instrumental in steering Canada’s largest pellet plant grouping toward a sustainable energy future.

She has her roots in Namibia, where she was born and worked as an engineer, and followed a career path that led her to being selected as the Thought Leader of the Year at the 2024 Canadian Biomass Awards.

van Wyk studied at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, and her academic roots in electrical and electronic engineering laid the groundwork for her professional journey — which spanned across the power utility industry in the SADEC region before an MBA from IMD in Switzerland shifted her focus towards mining and subsequently, renewable energy.

“When Drax approached me to join them as the VP for their Northern Operations, I was ecstatic. I was not too familiar with the industry at the time,” said van Wyk. “I decided to join… because of Drax’s values as a company and their vision for a carbon negative future through their sustainability and carbon capture and storage programs.”

Van Wyk’s leadership has not only improved operational efficiencies but has also foregrounded safety and sustainability, according to the nomination that was submitted on her behalf.

“One of the highlights, for sure, is how we are making our pellet mills safer through further investments in process safety,” she said. “You don’t ever do operations well without a very solid safety foundation to build on.”

Her broad international experience, working in more than 10 countries, has enriched her perspective, a diversity that she deems vital for personal and professional growth.

“This has afforded me great personal and professional growth and allowed me to work on very interesting projects with very interesting people,” van Wyk said.

Looking ahead, van Wyk is optimistic about the future of the biomass industry.

“The biomass industry is developing and diversifying in new and complex ways,” she said. “Responsible resource management is a key them and central to the climate change discussion.”

For those aspiring to follow in her footsteps, van Wyk offers this advice: “Aim for a good education as a foundation, stay focused and work hard, work honest and expose yourself outside your comfort zone. Learn from people that inspire you, learn from your failures emotionally and intellectually. And always treat people with respect.”


Print this page


Stories continue below