Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communications Coordinator,
Monday, August 01, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, August 03, 2016
Brent Breon is a lifelong Northeastern Ohioan who graduated from Stow Munroe Falls High School and the University of Akron in the 1990s. Throughout high school Brent worked for a Goodyear Auto Service Center changing tires and performing basic automobile repairs. He aspired to go to college to become an automotive engineer and move to Detroit to work for one of the Big Three automakers.
When Brent was a senior in high school, East Ohio Gas (now Dominion East Ohio) was interviewing students at Brent’s high school for its scholarship program. Brent received one of the scholarships and started working for East Ohio as a Summer Casual before he started attending the University of Akron.
Brent spent his first three summers of college working for East Ohio performing cathodic protection readings on pipelines as part of his East Ohio scholarship. He majored in mechanical engineering and participated in the engineering co-op program, where again, he was hired by East Ohio Gas as a co-op engineer. In the co-op program Brent spent alternating semesters working in various entry-level engineering roles in Akron and North Canton. Upon Brent’s graduation, East Ohio reinstated its management trainee program and hired Brent full time. Many of the organization’s current senior leaders such as Jeff Murphy, Tim McNutt, Mike Reed, and Eric Hall began at East Ohio in this program.
“I held many different positions within East Ohio as part of the manager trainee program. The positions included roles in large volume sales, automated mapping initiatives, pipeline and compressor station engineering, and as an operations supervisor in construction and maintenance,” said Brent.
After the two-year trainee program Brent accepted a management position in 1999 in North Canton as an Operations Supervisor for the Dominion East Ohio storage compression facilities. Brent remained in this role for the next three years while he finished his Master’s in Business Administration at the University of Akron.
Work History Overview:
With his MBA completed, Brent transitioned into a different role within Dominion East Ohio and began training in Six Sigma (a data driven approach for eliminating defects and improving processes) where he became a certified Black Belt. The training assignment spanned two years and Brent worked on a number of data driven projects to increase efficiency and reduce costs. This gave him a much better understanding of the business and he was able to apply what he learned from his MBA directly to his career.
“During the time period while I was working on Six Sigma improvement projects, Eric Hall, Tim McNutt, Bill Kinney, Bruce Klink, Tom Stewart, Jonathon Airey and many others were working closely to negotiate the Ohio Production Enhancement Agreement between the Ohio Oil and Gas Association and Dominion East Ohio, which was the first every BTU adjustment given to producers and the first time producers had agreed to voluntarily pay a gathering fee on the Dominion East Ohio pipeline system. This truly was a win-win for the Ohio producers and Dominion East Ohio and was enormously successful with a 99% participation rate,” described Brent. “I was lucky enough to transition into become the Manager of Ohio Gathering shortly after the agreement was executed in 2003 and was able to participate closely in the implementation of the program.“
The timing of the agreement was ideal, as gas prices began rising through the mid-2000s and the passage of HB 278 opened up access to urban drilling. East Ohio was able to focus efforts to minimize system pressures and spent capital dollars to improve its pipeline systems to accept more Ohio production. The joint OOGA-DEO Project Review Committee, which Brent co-chaired with Bill Bennett and later with Bill Kinney, approved investments in 17 different projects that totaled over $9M between 2003 and 2007 while production volumes on the Dominion East Ohio system grew from 50 Bcf in 2003 to 60 Bcf in 2007. These investments included new compressor stations, pipeline extensions loops, and pipeline system acquisitions. The program was so successful that in 2007 it was expanded and extended through the Heat Content Agreement, which is still in place today.
Brent remained at East Ohio through 2011 holding similar roles, including managing large volume sales, system planning. In 2011, Dominion East Ohio connected the first Utica horizontal well drilled in Ohio by Chesapeake Energy, the Kenneth Buell 8-H in Harrison County. Shortly after that well began production, Dominion East Ohio and Dominion Transmission negotiated a gas gathering and processing contract with Chesapeake Energy.
Brent had watched the successful development of Caiman Energy’s Marcellus gas gathering and processing system in West Virginia and became increasingly interested in similar opportunities in Ohio with the new Utica shale exploration efforts. In 2011 Brent moved to work for Caiman Energy as Vice President, Business Development, focused on helping Caiman expand its existing gathering systems into the Utica shale in Ohio. Early in 2012, Caiman Energy sold its West Virginia gathering and processing assets to Williams for $2.5B and recapitalized to focus exclusively on Utica Shale gathering and processing opportunities with Caiman Energy II.
“The timing couldn’t have been any more perfect to join Rick Moncrief and Jack Lafield and the rest of the team at Caiman Energy,” described Brent. “This is one of the most talented, passionate, and experienced team of professionals that I’ve ever had the privilege to work with and I’ve learned a ton about building a new gathering, processing and fractionation company.”
Shortly after the creation of Caiman Energy II, Brent, Rick Moncrief , and others at Caiman identified the rare opportunity to join Caiman’s private equity backing of $800M with Dominion Resources’ 500 miles of gathering pipelines in the Utica shale in Ohio and Dominion’s then under-construction Natrium processing and fractionation complex. Out of that vision in early 2013, Blue Racer Midstream, a joint venture between Caiman and Dominion was created.
“From late 2012 through today, Blue Racer has been actively securing Utica and Marcellus producer agreements for gathering, processing and fractionation. In 3 years’ time, we’ve contracted with 16 different exploration and production companies, installed over 200 miles of additional pipe, and constructed the Berne Processing complex in Ohio and the Natrium Processing and Fractionation complex in West Virginia,” detailed Brent. “We are currently gathering close to 1 Bcf a day of Utica and Marcellus production volumes and our processing complexes are consistently seeing over 90% utilization. The growth has been phenomenal.”
Horizontal drilling and state of the midstream industry:
“I remember in 2007 assembling agreements with 66 different producers in Monroe County to construct the Carlisle compressor station and the 8” Carlisle to Caldwell pipeline. These 66 entities were producing roughly 5 mmcf/d of conventional production and Monroe County had more new well permits than any other county in Ohio that year,” recalls Brent. “Four years later, the very first Utica horizontal test well had initial production at almost 3 times those volumes. One well, 3 times those volumes!“
The biggest change that amazes Brent has been the sheer increase in production volumes from conventional wells to shale wells and the size of gathering pipelines and compressor stations being constructed throughout the Utica Shale.
“A few years back a 6” or 8” pipeline was considered a large gathering pipeline in Ohio; now, a 16” to 24” is more the norm for shale well gathering,” Brent continued. “5 years ago a conventional Clinton well could easily be tied into and existing Dominion East Ohio distribution systems; now, Utica shale wells have their own large, high pressure gathering systems with compression, processing, and fractionation. Everything has become bigger, faster and, unfortunately, more expensive.”
History with the OOGA:
Brent joined the Ohio Oil and Gas Association in 2003, became a board member by 2005 and remains on the Board of Trustees today. Brent was pleased to attain a Board seat so early in his involvement in the association. Brent has been active in various committees such as Commerce, Producers, and Nominating (electing new OOGA Board members) and helped to start the midstream subcommittee along with Steve Downey and Scott Hallam.
“I believe the OOGA has done a fantastic job of reaching out to existing and new midstream companies in Ohio in the last 5 years. The OOGA recognized that their efforts could not only assist exploration and production companies in Ohio, but they could also be instrumental in helping to shape future pipeline regulations in the state,” said Brent. “The work the Association did on Senate Bill 315 is a perfect example of recognizing a potential threat to the midstream industry and proactively working for the good of the producers, the midstream companies, and the citizens in the state.”
Brent has also been delighted in how the increased shale activity in Ohio has increased the employment opportunities for the state and in particular the number of younger members now active in the Association. But, Brent still enjoys reminding people that, “I was in midstream before midstream was cool.”