Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communication Manager,
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
The member spotlight series features OOGA members making an impact with their membership. If you would like to recommend someone to be highlighted, please contact Lyndsey Kleven at: email@example.com
Nate and Tyler Levengood grew up in a family owned oil and gas business in Dover, Ohio. Both brothers recalled times of being “cheap labor,” working for the business in any capacity that their father (Bruce Levengood) needed them. The brothers have fond memories of being woken up on weekends to work on a service rig or anything else that need done. Nate, who is six years older than Tyler, has a few more of these weekend experiences.
In 1981, Bruce Levengood, along with his brothersformed Atwood Resources, Inc., which became their turnkey drilling company. In 1988, Atwood bought Park Ohio Industries’ wells; at the time prices were thought to be at the bottom which turned out not to be the case. In 1992, Atwood sold their controlling interest to Transfuel and the brothers amicably parted ways. Bruce took 100 of the old wells and started Sound Energy Company later that year. The company started as a sole proprietor and became Sound Energy Company, Inc. in 1994.
When Nate and Tyler finished high school, both of them went to college to forge their own paths. Neither had any intentions of working in the oil and gas industry. Nate went to college at Ashland University and double majored in finance and economics. After working in finance for a brief period, it quickly became apparent that he did not like cubical life and the career path he was on. As he was finishing college, his perspective of how the oil and gas business functioned began to change.
“I started to look at each well as its own invest opportunity and I was becoming very intrigued by that factor,” described Nate Levengood. “You get to research and invest in new deals; and every well was its own new business deal. It wasn’t hard to realize I should have been doing this the whole time.”
Tyler went to Ohio University’s business school and double majored in marketing and management information systems. He graduated in 2009 and went to work for an IT consulting firm in Cleveland. He then moved to take a position in Columbus working for Nationwide in its accounting department on the IT side. Later he ended up back in Cleveland to start a new position at Safe Guard Properties, still working in IT but with a focus on business intelligence, reporting data and analytics. This role is where Tyler started to really find his niche and it was his eye opener to analytics and using data to make decisions. It was shortly after this Tyler decided the time was right to return home and channel these skills into the family business.
Sound Energy Company
Sound Energy Company, Inc. still operates as a family business, with four full time employees. Everyone wears many hats to meet all of the business operational needs. Operating in 18 counties around eastern Ohio, its focus is mostly conventional Clinton wells. The fundamental business model is to have wells close to home that can be easily accessible within a matter of a few hours. Nate has been working there full-time since 2003 and with Tyler since 2015, when he started full-time.
Nate has experience in land work and has focused his attention away from taking new leases, to working with what they have and acquiring new production—this has been a ramification of shale’s impact. In late 2013, Nate also put together a deal for expanding their focus, and now runs commercial disposal well operations in southeast Tuscarawas County. The Dennison Disposal side of the business is a large 24-hour, seven day a week facility with over ten employees, that Nate helps manage and oversee.
Tyler describes his role as operations analyst, ranging from making sure all field issues are handled, communicating with contractors and pumpers, digesting field information from pumper reports and charts, and focusing attention to profitable parts of the field. He came back to the business at a time when commodity prices were dropping, which was a tough way to start and his first real taste of the day-to-day beginnings of the industry. Quickly after starting to work together, the two brothers were able to create a great synergy, with Nate managing overall business operations and Tyler utilizing and analyzing company data and bookkeeping.
“When I was drowning in paper work getting Dennison Disposal up and running, Tyler’s experience with business analytics was able to query and organize all of this data, which exponentially cut down my time doing paperwork,” explained Nate.
Tyler has also been able to apply these skills to all of Sound Energy’s administrative workings. The company owns about 480 producing wells, the record keeping and paperwork that goes with them consists of a tremendous amount of data. One of his primary projects after starting was getting a handle on this. He has helped Sound Energy Company utilize systems to streamline efficiencies, letting the data do the work, and making it much easier to resourcefully access all of this information.
“That’s a good thing I’ve been able to bring from my former professional life, is my intimate knowledge of data, how to organize, structure, and use it. How to make it work for us,” said Tyler. “We’ve come a long way and have been able to really automate a lot of our data aggregation, collection and distribution to whatever agency necessary.”
In 1992, Sound Energy Company started with 100 wells and their father Bruce was truly a one-man operator. The company drilled some wells over the years, becoming more oil oriented when the price of oil started rebounding in the mid 2000s. Most of what they have come from acquisitions, all conventional and some directional.
Tyler described his father’s original business model as being, “if you get enough crumbs, you can make a cookie.” Both of the Levengood sons spoke admirably of their father’s entrepreneurial skills and strong work ethic in building the company. He managed and operated the wells, getting to know the fields and the areas he was working in everyday, which help him foster relationships and lead to numerous acquisition deals.
“We do a lot of the same things today. We may not touch each well every month, but we’ve kept the same approach to growth,” described Tyler. “We are not doing much leasing now, there’s not a lot of leases left to get. You have to be more creative, if we do want to lease, we have to really craft out a deal, the volatility of the industry can be harsh.”
The industry is ever changing, and both Nate and Tyler are watchful of gas futures, trying to make smart business decisions. They both feel fortunate to have a lot of experience working in the field that they’re in and finding new efficiencies to cut costs and do a lot of the work themselves.
“Our company has benefitted from having positions in some areas where there was interest in shale. This has helped us through some of the lean times,” said Nate. “Our bread and butter is the Clinton. We try to become more efficient and work better, living within cash flow to make it through down times.”
They hold a similar outlook for where the industry is headed, with short term consolidations continuing. Nate cited more stringent regulatory policies being a major driver for pushing legacy operators with personal stakes in their operations to divest their business. For a long-term forecast, they are both optimistic for what the future holds and think there could come a time when larger operators divest non-critical fields, which could bring new opportunities and people back to the industry.
Nate cited his first involvement with the Ohio Oil & Gas Association was in 2002 when his father brought him to the Annual Meeting while he was still in college. Reflecting on changes over the years, Nate noted how the Annual Meeting was previously held in a small room, and now it hosts hundreds of attendees for a multiday event. It also stood out to him that at that time, he was the youngest person in the room with only one other person in his early twenties in attendance. There was a clear generational gap missing with a serious lack of young adults involved. Nate felt this time period was setting up for an interesting shift to shortly follow, almost a changing of the guards.
Nate and Tyler both became involved with the OOGA when they returned to the industry and Sound Energy Company, Inc. full-time. Their father’s involvement has been influential, as Bruce been an active member since the early 1980s and is on track to become the Association’s president in 2021. Nate is now on the Board of Trustees and is the Region II committee chair. Tyler recently has also been increasing his involvement and has spearheaded the Region I & II golf outing the past two years.
Becoming more involved has been a good learning experience to both of them as they see the importance of the Association and are continually feeling more inspired by everything the organization is doing for the industry. They both especially see this on a legislative and policy front and feel that OOGA really takes care of successfully advocating for the industry, in whatever undertaking it become involved with.
“If we didn’t have the Association, the ramifications could be detrimental for the industry. OOGA is a top-notch Association to be a part of and truly has the industry’s back,” said Tyler. “The staff and those highly involved with OOGA really care; they’re educated and extremely committed to succeed for the oil and gas industry.”