Have the moon and stars aligned?

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    Whether or not the moon and stars were in alignment was the question on the table at the Houston Energy Breakfast Friday, March 29, 2019, with 300+ industry professionals in attendance.

    The energy breakfast has been around for more than 25 years. In addition to a networking opportunity, it can also be considered a biannual state-of-the-industry for energy insiders.

    Bob Patterson, managing director at Witt O’Brien’s, is a breakfast veteran. He’s attended 10 or 11 times over the years and likes the format.

    “You end up sitting at different tables so you meet at least eight or 10 different people at each event and they always have a good line-up of speakers.”

    Bob Patterson, Managing Director/Witt O’Brien’s

    Bacon, eggs and business beliefs

    Since about 2014, when K Carpenter Associates (KCA) took over as host, each breakfast has a theme and includes an eclectic panel of speakers: a market spokesperson, an operator, a service company representative, and someone to address technology.

    Kevin Carpenter of KCA serves as moderator during the Houston Energy Breakfast.
    Photo by David Postma, Genesis Photographers

    Kevin Carpenter, founder and chairman of KCA, moderated the most recent panel which included: R.T. Dukes from Wood Mackenzie; Trent Lee from Schlumberger; Todd Abbott of Marathon Oil; and Dr. Ramanan Krishnamoorti, University of Houston.

    These are some of the actual questions which led to the breakfast’s galactic theme:

    • How has the market changed in the last six months?
    • Has production, capitalization and the price of commodities lined up?
    • Will on-shore shale be a boom and will it continue?

    So, HAVE the moon and stars aligned?

    “Cautiously, yes, but not to the point you’re going to go out and spend money like crazy.”

    Kevin Carpenter, founder and chairman of KCA

    Carpenter drew that conclusion based on what the speakers had to report. According to R.T. Dukes, the market is tighter than we may have anticipated.

    “The production has increased a little bit faster than we may have forecasted. Faster than demand has pulled it.”

    R.T. Dukes, Research Director at Wood Mackenzie

    Dukes says it is no longer about how to make more oil. It is about how to make more oil profitably. He says that small distinction is driving behavior change throughout the oil industry. He has no crystal ball, but, he does call it like he sees it.

    “It could be a bumpy ride. Today’s all about an evolving market. It’s not going to be smooth sailing and we expect that to continue for the next few years. We don’t see anything that says this is a stable environment.”

    Trent Lee focused on how volatility is impacting service companies, specifically Schlumberger.

    “Volatility has been high, yet the rig count has not gone up and down with the same volatility.”

    Trent Lee, Managing Director Gulf Coast Area/Schlumberger

    Lee says his company has reworked contracts, service and off-shore agreements to become more nimble and responsive to market demand. Noticeably, more responsive than a large company was a decade ago. He believes it’s actually possible to “take volatility out of the equation simply by making smarter decisions.”

    “Low-carbon systems will be the biggest change we see in 2019.”

    Dr. Ramanan Krishnamoorti, Chief Energy Officer, UH

    Dr. Ramanan Krishnamoorti served the breakfast as the technology expert. He offered a different perspective on carbon emissions, usually considered a negative. Forget trying to tell people not to consume in order to curb emissions.

    “Sustainability will transform the energy industry. It’s going to be something that’s not going to be seen as a cost, it is going to be seen as a profit-making entity.”

    Dr. Krishnamoorti believes “we already have the technology in place to turn CO2 into a valuable commodity. We just need to promote the technology.”

    The Portfolio Theory

    Over time, Marathon Oil has developed into the shale space and continues to grow there. That’s what Todd Abbott shared. He’s responsible for Marathon’s Permian and Eagle Ford businesses, as well as the land and commercial services.

    “Any time you want to go in a new direction, you have to look at all the things you’re doing.”

    Todd Abbott, VP Resource Plays South/Marathon Oil

    Abbot says if the new direction has a lot of value, something with low value needs to be taken off your plate because you only have so many resources.

    “Balancing that portfolio is key to any business success.”

    An energy breakfast of this magnitude requires a great deal of energy behind the scenes, too, a.k.a. sponsors. About a dozen companies signed on this year and were represented at the event.
    Photo by: David Postma, Genesis Photographers

    Acknowledging that energy is such a dominant industry in Houston, the CPA firm PKF began sponsoring two decades ago. Brain Baumler sees this event as a family reunion.

    “We consider the energy industry a very closely-knit family of people. We’re there when the industry is doing very well. What’s most important, we’re there when the industry is not doing as well.”

    Brian Baumler, Energy Practice Leader/PKF Texas
    Panelists during the Q&A portion of the Houston Energy Breakfast.
    Seated from l. to r., R.T. Dukes, WoodMac; Trent Lee, Schlumberger; Dr. Ramanan Krishnamoorti, UH; Todd Abbott, Marathon Oil.
    Photo by David Postma, Genesis Photographers

    CDW is a global IT solutions provider servicing oil and gas companies. Kojo Mensah-Bonsu III is a field sales manager.

    “We want to hear from those customers and clients and understand what they’re doing, some of their challenges, how they’re resolving those issues and how technology is impacting that.”

    Kojo Mensah-Bonsu III, CDW

    Mensah-Bonsu appreciates rubbing elbows with the industry thought- leaders who value technology.

    “There was a time where the business used to drive technology. Now, if technology’s not driving your business, you’re behind.”

    Pink Petro’s founder/CEO has also made the early morning commitment. Katie Mehnert appreciates all other energy companies making the same investment.

    “We’re getting women in the room. We’re getting different ideas in the room. I see a lot of new faces every time we come.”

    Katie Mehnert, Founder/CEO, Pink Petro

    Mehnert believes this is a win-win partnership. Pink Petro brings diversity to an event which, in turn, helps carry out the company mission.

    “Which is to bring different minds, different faces and different voices to this very critical discussion around energy.”

    Diversity may actually be an energy breakfast theme in the near future. Kevin Carpenter believes bringing together varied perspectives is key to coming up with unique, doable, creative solutions. He says, “You’re never going to get that if everyone in the room has the same background and thinks the same way.”

    Want to be part of the ongoing discussion? The next KCA Energy Breakfast is scheduled for September 20.