Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton speaks of Texans’ Opportunity to Lead

June 1st, 2019

Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership President Bob Mitchell, right, congratulates Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton for an outstanding speech at the BAHEP meeting.

By Kathryn Paradis

Without the aid of PowerPoint or notes of any kind, not even a few words scribbled on his hands, Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton delivered a dynamic, passionate speech to members of the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership during its General Membership Meeting at the Clear Lake Hilton.

He spoke about The Opportunity to Lead, but his speech was about much more than leadership. First, however, it would be good to know a little of Sitton’s background. He is a mechanical engineering graduate of Texas A&M University. Elected Texas Railroad Commissioner on Nov. 4, 2014, to a six-year term, Sitton is the first engineer to serve as Railroad Commissioner in more than 50 years. In 2015, he was named one of the 40 most influential leaders under 40 in the Houston area. With nearly 20 years of experience in the oil, gas, and petrochemical industries, Sitton is considered a leader in his field. He, no doubt, knows a little something about leadership.

He began by speaking of the tradition of the Aggie Muster, which he had attended the previous evening. He said that Aggies learn from the first day on campus about the importance of believing in something more important than themselves.

“The thing that makes Aggie Muster such a special tradition for us is that it is one of those examples that show how we as a society recognize service,” Sitton said. He later spoke of his own three children who are 10, 13 and 15 years old. He asked, “In the world that we live in today, at what point in our kids’ lives do they begin to learn the lesson that if you want to be successful in this world, you’ve got to make it about people other than yourself? What is it about your life that will echo beyond yourself?”

“When I talk about the opportunity to lead, it always starts with the opportunity to serve.” He explained that this is an historical point in time for Texas saying, “This state produces nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil per day, which is 5 percent of the world’s crude. Texas produces about 24 or 25 billion cubic feet per day of natural gas. That’s close to 5 percent of the world’s natural gas. We refine along the Gulf Coast a little over 6 million barrels per day of crude oil. That’s 6 percent of the world’s refining capacity. Out of the Port of Corpus Christi, we export more crude oil than all of the other U.S. ports combined. We have over 30,000 miles of pipeline in the state. In the last five years, Texas has gone from a strong energy player to arguably the most dominant force on the planet. Energy requires massive industries to produce it effectively, and the State of Texas does it better than any other place on Earth.”

Sitton went on to ask, “Now, what do we do with that? We talk about the opportunity to lead, and opportunities come in a lot of different ways. We in Texas have the opportunity to leverage this position in energy like we haven’t done in a generation. We are changing the landscape in the world. The question is what do we do with that? How do we capitalize on that opportunity?”He said that the world is hungry for affordable, reliable energy that is produced safely, and Texas can provide that better than anyone else.

Market Rebound

July 1st, 2015

Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton

Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton

August conference features look at expanding opportunities in energy industry

By Rod Evans

The evidence has been impossible to ignore. From widespread layoffs to the dramatic drop in oil prices, it’s obvious that the past several months have not been exactly robust for the energy industry in Texas, but Texas Railroad Commissioner Ryan Sitton says a deeper look at the market, specifically in Texas, reveals reasons for optimism for the remainder of the year.

Sitton, a Friendswood resident who was elected head of the statewide regulatory agency in 2014, believes that despite the recent downturn in the industry, the state of the energy sector in Texas remains strong and he believes a bounce back is in the offing.

“Over the last eight years or so, the oil and gas industry in the state has more than doubled and we’ve seen oil and gas production in the state triple,” Sitton said. “Natural gas production has doubled and we are seeing a fundamental shift in the economic landscape around the oil and gas industry due to what’s happening in Texas production.”

When the Pasadena Convention Center hosts the Petrochemical & Maritime Outlook Conference on Aug. 27, Sitton, along with Port of Houston Authority Executive Director Roger Guenther, will be one of the featured speakers. The conference will include discussion of a wide range of topics, including updates on congressional activity, petrochemical plant production, industrial workforce expansion, transportation and logistics. In his address, Sitton says he plans to discuss how advances in the technology of energy exploration and product acquisition are helping to make Texas a global energy leader again.

“During the late 1990s and early 2000s, advances made in the accuracy and capabilities of directional drilling, coupled with hydraulic fracturing (fracking) have opened up reserves that were previously thought to not be economically developable,” Sitton said. “Now, we have double and triple the oil capacity out of those reserves. But the other thing that has driven this increase is global demand. When you look around the world, from 2008 through 2015, we’ve seen oil demand and usage grow from 85 million barrels per day to 92 million per day. We’ve seen an increase in demand at the same time that Texas has been opening up new reserves, so Texas is filling the gap and becoming a bigger supplier to the rest of the nation.”

Sitton says the Houston Ship Channel and the Port of Houston are playing huge roles in strengthening the energy sector, particularly in supporting the production of natural gas and the numerous ancillary products and services that are derived from this “feed stock” resource. He says the increased production of natural gas, made possible in large part due to the increased use of the controversial fracking technique, is driving renewed investment in manufacturing of plastics such as polyurethane and polyethylene at facilities located along the Ship Channel. Because American manufacturers are now selling these products oversees in ever increasing amounts, the ability to get those products into the marketplace via the Ship Channel is helping the state of Texas and the U.S. as a whole become a provider on a global scale.

But with the average price of a barrel of crude oil trading at around $59 as of mid-June, the effects of the downturn in the energy industry are still being felt.

“The fairly substantial downturn in prices is certainly having an impact on the industry,” Sitton says, “but most of the layoffs we’ve seen have been in service companies. Most of the operators have been able to weather the storm and maintain their headcounts and operational capabilities and assets even while a lot of their capital allocations and investments have been scaled back for this year due to cash flow. Our production is still holding strong even with half the drilling rigs running that were running a year ago. But we have seen some growth over the last couple of quarters and I think we’ll see a leveling out as operators get more efficient and will be looking to drill only the most profitable wells.”

Sitton says while hydraulic fracturing is a technology that dates back to the 1940s, technological advances that have made the practice—consisting of injecting fluids into rock formations hundreds or thousands of feet below the surface in order to extract oil or natural gas reserves at increased levels—more efficient have helped to make it a more widely used technique. That increase in prevalence has also brought concerns about the environmental safety and impact of the procedure, but Sitton and other supporters of fracking maintain that it is safe for both the environment and residents in areas where it is being utilized.

“It’s been proven to be a safe technique. Even the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) of all agencies, released a statement recently that said based on their research there is virtually no evidence of contamination of water sources caused by fracturing. There have been a number of studies done that say fracking has nothing to do with the number of earthquakes recorded,” Sitton said. “Because of the quick growth of the use of fracturing over the past 10 years, it’s bringing the activity closer to home for a lot of people and they are asking questions.”

When Sitton delivers his address at the upcoming conference—of which Bay Group Media is a presenting sponsor—he plans to discuss the role the Ship Channel complex has played in helping to reverse trends of the past 30 to 40 years that have seen the U.S. buying more of its energy from sources abroad and manufacturing operations move to other countries.

“Over the last decade, we’ve been talking about the U.S. re-taking a leadership position by developing more of our energy and products to the point where now we’re talking about the U.S. becoming a global provider,” he said. “If we’re going to compete on a global scale to sell our products, you have to have shipping capabilities, and investing in infrastructure across the board, including roadways, ports and airports, is a fundamental piece of that equation,” Sitton said.

In addition to addresses by Sitton and Guenther, the conference is scheduled to include appearances by U.S. Reps. Gene Green and Dr. Brian Babin, as well as by representatives of Chevron Phillips Chemicals, Dow, BASF and many others. The Economic Alliance Houston Port Region is serving as the coordinating agency for the conference. For more information, visit Allianceportregion.com/pmoc.

Bay Area Houston Magazine