Meet Our Leaders
R.J. (Bob) Schoneberger, P.E. - CEO
Bob Schoneberger has been with UPI since it was established in 1997. He currently serves in an advisory capacity, providing support and guidance for critical business decisions.
Bob graduated from the University of North Dakota with a BSME in 1980. Upon graduation, he took a position as field operations engineer with Natural Gas Pipeline Co. of America (NGPL) in Mooreland, Oklahoma.
In 1982 he worked for Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Company (PEPL) in Liberal, Kansas as division pipeline engineer. Bob’s responsibilities increased when he was appointed the technical operations supervisor and area manager.
In 1989, Bob moved to Lakehead Pipeline Company, now known as Enbridge Energy, as a senior project engineer. He held many positions at Enbridge, including engineering manager, Chicago district manager, and manager of right-of-way and environment.
In 1997, Bob followed his dream – he and his business partner Dave Rickard formed United Piping Inc. in Duluth, Minnesota.
With the help of everyone working at UPI, Bob and his partner grew the start-up company from a local mechanical contractor to a leader in pipeline facility construction and maintenance. Though UPI has expanded its services in the pipeline industry, the company is still known for its high-quality and technical expertise throughout the country.
Mel Olson, P.E. - President
Mel Olson brings over two decades of experience and serves as the president of United Piping. As president of the company, Mel provides leadership to all areas of the business. He works closely with all of UPI’s leaders in fostering and protecting our treasured values-driven culture that provides winning relationships with our clients and the communities we touch across the country.
Mel is a professional engineer with a civil engineering degree from North Dakota State University. He has led a variety of roles throughout his more than 20 years of industry experience including engineering, project management, business development, estimating, and executive management.
Mel joined UPI in 2012 as Vice president and assumed the president role in 2017. His successful growth initiatives have improved UPI’s service offerings with recent additions of a Cathodic Protection division and Horizontal Directional Drilling division in a commitment to continuing to better serve our clients. Mel’s leadership and commitment to continuous development and empowerment of employees has allowed the company to take on projects that are ever-increasing in both complexity and size.
Josh Purrenhage - Vice President
Josh Purrenhage is the 3rd generation in his family to choose a career in the construction and piping industry and has over 10 years of experience in the oil and gas industry. He has been with UPI since 2015 and is responsible for management and execution of projects from award to close, developing and maintaining positive client relationships, and overseeing several teams including fabrication, training and development, asset and equipment, and technology and innovation.
Josh graduated from Michigan Technological University in 2001 with a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. He then attended Wayne State University from 2001-2005 where he studied in the Masters of Business Administration program.
In 2006, Josh took a position at Price Gregory (then H.C. Price) as a project engineer. He spent the majority of his time working on large pipeline projects in Alaska, was involved in meter station work in Ohio, and pipeline installation projects in North Dakota. Josh also traveled to Pennsylvania to serve in a business development capacity during the front end of the Marcellus Shale boom.
In 2011, Josh moved to Schmid Pipeline and became their vice president of operations. He was involved in the execution of many project scopes including gathering lines, pipeline rehab, and pigging modifications in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Maine to name a few.
Josh joined United Piping as a construction manager and took on the role of vice president in 2017. Among the many responsibilities he has, Josh feels strongly about creating an environment that people enjoy working in and focuses on providing a work place that challenges employees, provides growth opportunities, and motivates team members towards continuous improvement.
Cass Christiansen, P.E. - Vice President
Cass Christiansen has been with United Piping since 2011 and is involved in many aspects of the business. He is responsible for the development of company leaders - both field and office - that are involved in the execution of the work we perform. Cass is also responsible for leading UPI’s culture of integrity, respect, and caring by example and conveying to others what this means.
Cass took an interest in construction at an early age. He started his career at a small consulting engineering firm in Walled Lake, MI. There he worked mostly with the design of very high end residential and small commercial construction. Today, Cass is still involved with the firm as their vice president/principal.
Prior to coming onboard at UPI, Cass spent almost 4 years with Price Gregory. He started there as a field engineer where he executed facility and mainline projects in some of the harshest conditions, including subsea pipelines in the Arctic to manmade islands in the Beaufort Sea.
Cass joined United Piping as a senior project manager where he was involved in bidding facilities work, which was a great strength of his. That position evolved into engineering manager, then manager of project execution, and then in 2017 he took on his role as vice president. He has always been involved with developing UPI’s talented workforce in some capacity, which has grown more and more to include field leaders as well as interns, engineers, project managers, and division managers. He focuses on what drives each individual and helps them concentrate on that to remain engaged.