A Chat with Rick Smead about Natural Gas and World Shale


Rick Smead is a veteran in the natural gas industry. If you have read anything on shale gas reserves, you have have probably read something that he had a hand in creating. This come-lately niche has led to 100 speeches on the topic over the last 3 years. Rick was holed up in a Washington D.C. law firm for a few days serving as an expert witness. I went in and met with him to discuss his work and the upcoming World Shale Conference. We covered alot of information. I will bring you more of what we discussed in later blogs. But needless to say, I learned something.

Q. Tell us a little bit about Navigant.

A. Navigant Consulting Inc., listed on the NYSE as NCI, is an international specialized management and litigation consulting firm. Our services span investigative work, expert testimony, advisory work in industries from energy to health care, to construction. The energy practice is heavily focused on renewables and emerging technologies, along with many power issues—generation, transmission, markets, etc. As part of the energy practice, our natural gas practice is a small, specialized group of senior experts.

Q. What’s your background?

A. My specific background prior to Navigant was in the pipeline and distribution areas of the gas business, with many years as a senior officer of a lot of pipelines. I was Senior VP of regulatory affairs for ANR Pipeline Co. and for Colorado Interstate Gas, then VP of regulatory policy for all 50 pipelines that were owned by the El Paso Corp. I was a key player in the restructuring of the industry in 1993, under FERC Order 636. At Navigant, I’ve worked across the industry, consulting heavily on LNG import projects when they were robust and growing.

Q. How did you get involved in the shale energy industry?

A. Our firm was tapped to provide an analysis, breaking new ground in quantifying and understanding, on domestic shale gas. I co-authored, with Gordon Pickering and Ken Medlock, Navigant’s turning-point study in 2008, the North American Natural Gas Supply Assessment, for the American Clean Skies Foundation. This was the first major, aggregated recognition of domestic supply abundance. Since then, I’ve been deeply involved in the industry issues around abundance as they’ve moved forward.

Q. What type of natural gas projects does Navigant take on?

A. We are centered in the analytical, commercial, and regulatory arenas. So, for example, we’ve provided the market studies to support the only LNG export-terminal authorization so far at Sabine, and have become the go-to firm on the subject. We do a great deal of infrastructure analysis, understanding regional prices, the impact of pipeline constraints on development, etc. We support clients in regulatory arenas, whether at FERC or elsewhere. And we’ve been a major voice supporting groups such as America’s Natural Gas Alliance in encouraging growth in domestic consumption to improve the environment and displace foreign oil.

Q. In your opinion what are the top three issues the industry will be dealing with next year?

A. Oversupply/low prices and how to keep a demand “pull” steady enough to keep development on track.
All the environmental, political, and media issues around hydraulic fracturing and development generally. The industry is going to need to develop a solution to flowback water.
Infrastructure adequacy and the impact of massive supply reconfiguration, coupled with big capital costs, on the pipeline industry.

Q. Why is Navigant participating in this year’s World Shale Conference?

A. As a leader in understanding the issues around shale and as a strong friend of the independent producing community, we couldn’t miss it. Meanwhile, we have done multiple programs with CWC, and have found their programs, attendees, and overall programs to be first-rate. Meanwhile, this year’s conference is a couple of blocks from my office, so to some degree we get to play host.

Q. What will be your level of involvement this year?

A. We’re a bronze sponsor. Additionally, I’m on the steering committee for the conference and will be moderating a panel. We don’t have an exhibitor’s booth, but the vendor exposition is really interesting—it’s something we’d consider in future conferences.

Q. What benefits did you see from your attendance last year?

A. Last year’s conference in Dallas was the inaugural shale event for CWC. We were able to form several real and potential client relationships, and thanks to my having an opportunity to speak on the first post-keynote panel, we received substantial free publicity. We also just were able to see first-hand the state of the art of every aspect of shale development from around the world, in one place.

Q. How can someone reach you to follow up on Navigant or World Shale?

A. Rick Smead, rsmead@navigant.com or cal me at 713-646-5029.

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