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Member Spotlight: Karen Matusic, XTO Energy

Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communication Manager, Monday, April 1, 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: lyndsey@ooga.org

Background/ Industry Overview

Karen Matusic grew up in Jefferson County before the oil and gas industry’s impact was even a thought there. Matusic stayed local for college, attending Bethany College in West Virginia and was a communication major with an emphasis in journalism. Right out of school she took her first job as a journalist in Caracas, Venezuela, where she began working as a foreign correspondent for a local newspaper. This would lead her to her next position as a journalist for Reuters News Agency where she wrote in English and in Spanish. In the late 1980s she started covering the oil and gas industry, at the time Venezuela’s involvement with OPEC was a hot topic.

Matusic described saying to her boss, “I want to cover the oil beat, and my boss said, “no woman has ever covered the oil beat,” and by the end of my time at the newspaper I got to cover the oil beat. I learned about the upstream and downstream sectors and it was an exciting time as they were developing heavy oils there at that time. I learned a lot from being in a producing country and a lot about OPEC.”

Matusic has dual citizenship in Britain and the United States since she was born in London to a British mother. After four years in Venezuela (and loving every minute of it) she went to London to work for Dow Jones in the early 1990s to cover energy, eventually running its global energy service.

“The first day I was covering futures markets I didn’t even understand the language. After six months I was talking that language, which was the same situation as when I was learning Spanish. This really planted the seed in me that I loved commodities,” explained Matusic. “I began to see that oil and energy is a key factor in geopolitics and is the cog in virtually every economy, whether you’re a producer or consumer.”

After three years at Dow Jones she was poached by Reuters to go back and run its energy service, covering OPEC there up until the mid 2000s. Her return to Reuters started in London but took her to the Middle East, based in Dubai where she was the first woman Bureau Chief for the Gulf Countries covering Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and Yemen. The reporting expanded from OPEC, to covering wars, and the Saudi royal family. After moving back to London, Matusic was in charge of UK general news which covered the war on terror during the time of September 11 and the spread of Islamic extremism in Europe.

Matusic described that every job she had, whether it was in general news, always led her back to energy and politics. She took a new opportunity to move to Washington D.C. to work for Energy Intelligence, and she was reporting for the publication Petroleum Intelligence Weekly where she specialized in Middle East and Iraq war coverage.

In 2006 the American Petroleum Institute (API) offered her a job to run its media department. Matusic cited the transitional struggles many journalism professionals face transitioning to public relations, but that she was eager to take on this role and new faucet of communications.

“To go from journalist to PR is not an easy thing for a lot of journalists. I had been a journalist all of my professional life. But I had covered the industry and I knew there were a lot of fallacies about the industry.  Since I believed in the industry and admired the technology and know-how, it was not a difficult transition for me.”

An active member of API, ExxonMobil offered Matusic a position to do corporate media relations in 2010 from its Dallas headquarters. The job focused on executive corporate media relations for then-CEO Rex Tillerson and Exxon’s senior management committee. The acquisition of XTO Energy in 2010 would make ExxonMobil the largest producer of natural gas in the United States. When XTO opened an office in Pittsburgh, Matusic mustered perhaps her best lobbying performance to convince her boss in Dallas to allow her to move back home to set up public and government affairs in the region in 2011.

XTO Energy started out of Cross Timbers with a small group of oil and gas employees that formed the company. They expanded to eventually become the largest gas producer in the country, at which point an acquisition by ExxonMobil became of interest. Specializing in unconventional production, the company had the technology and know-how to cost effectively produce oil and gas that was difficult to access. As the merger matured, XTO unconventional resource experts are overseeing a key cog in Exxon’s upstream portfolio shales and are currently operating in most shale plays across the country and others worldwide.

Back home

After serving as an Exxon lobbyist in Washington DC, where she worked on lifting the U.S. crude export ban, and then returning to Texas where she helped establish Exxon’s public affairs operations in the thriving Delaware Basin division, Matusic has returned back to the job she has most loved. Matusic is based in Wheeling West Virginia, and covers the Appalachian division which spans Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky and Delaware. However, she primarily operates out of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Matusic oversees everything from community engagement, to media relations, to government affairs, to internal engagement and communications, social media for the region, and engagement with public or government officials.

Having grown up in this region, Matusic has seen firsthand how the industry is transforming the area. In Ohio, XTO is concentrated in Belmont and Monroe counties. Belmont is the largest producing county in Ohio and is very prolific  

Investment in the communities they operate in extremely important to XTO and ExxonMobil, with the adopted philosophy of entering the community as an active participant. This takes the form of community advisory panels meeting quarterly to discuss areas of mutual interest among county commissioners, first responders, charitable organizations, educators, and service companies.

“I think there is a welcome here that you don’t always get in some other states,” said Matusic “However I still think there is a still a lot of education to do, and a lot of fallacies and rumors to dispel; communication is key, and we are very proactive in the communicating with our stakeholders.”

Part of why Matusic thinks this way, is that Ohio has a history of extractive industries. All of the employees at XTO live in the tri-state and most are from the area, so they have an appreciation for what’s important to the community. Another component of what goes into their approach to entering a new community is to never assume that they know everything, that why it’s so important for to engage, well before they start to drill.

The greatest misconceptions among the tri-state area that Matusic runs into is that all of the counties and townships are the same and that they all operate similarly. This is definitely not the case and drives home the importance of the steps they take when entering a new community.

Matusic describes what she thinks is a great attribute about the region, “I think here there is a community sense that they want to industry to do well, because that means the community does well. There’s an appreciation that this industry is here to stay, and that we’re investing in the future. Great sense of community that we’re all in this together and want this to work, more some than some other areas.

OOGA Involvement

XTO and ExxonMobil are both advocates of trade association involvement and presenting a united front on issues of mutual importance. XTO has been a member of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association since it started operating in Ohio in 2010. They are also involved in numerous other state trade organizations, every big national organization, and every chamber of commerce where they have a drill bit.

“I think with Ohio what strikes me is everyone in Ohio, from the community members, to the trade association, to the operators, are pulling together because we want Ohio to thrive, and we all want to be a part of that.”

The camaraderie among the trade groups and the stakeholders is also extremely important in providing regulators, legislators and policymakers with a one stop shop for industry information.

“I really like being a member of OOGA because technically speaking you have a lot of expertise,” said Matusic. “Those of us who have come in new to Ohio benefit from the knowledge and the history of the folks that have come before us. Ohio has a rich history of being an oil and gas state, so whenever there is regulation discussed I can also count on the expertise and ideas of other producers involved with OOGA.”

Matusic is a current OOGA Board of Trustees member and is actively involved on the communications committee. She truly feels forums of shared ideas among this group and talking about different ways of communicating is vitally important to this industry. It is really important that everyone is on the same page and that we provide good materials to the public and policy makers because it is not an easy industry to understand. At the end of the day, we all are in this together.

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