Case Studies

Lindsay Walton – Energy Transfer

Energy industry expertise from boots up

A dollar saved is a dollar earned. So goes the truism that Lindsay Walton takes to heart, sometimes while wearing work boots and a hard hat while stepping through the hardscrabble West Texas plains.

For the areas around Midland and Odessa are among the places where her employer, Energy Transfer, has acquired other midstream companies that expand its means of transporting and storing oil, natural gas and other refined products for industrial clientele across 41 states and the Canadian province of Alberta. Got to conserve cash and satisfy shareholders while running at peak efficiency, and part of that comes from consolidating a growing portfolio of real estate and physical assets.

As senior director of real estate since March 2020, Walton’s point woman in the process and often-times the only woman around the rigs, pipelines and storage terminals. No problem, she gets along just fine with the so-called roustabouts, roughnecks and wildcatters.

“Undeserved terms,” she says. “I’ve found them all to be respectful and willing to show me the ropes. Easy as it would be for me to stay at my desk, I function so much better once my boots hit the ground. Those field operators have a wealth of knowledge that I’m able to tap into.”

The process is reciprocal, with Walton showing the hired hands the reason for company decisions about where they’re working and why their assignments might change. This is a company that in a short time has accumulated much owned and leased land and infrastructure.

Synergy energized

Speaking to Blueprint this past November from Energy Transfer headquarters in Dallas, she says it’s been an eventful year that’s had the company activating a link for its Houston terminal to accept oil for export. The company has also completed a $325 million bolt-on acquisition of underground storage assets. Then there was completion of what’s known as the Permian Bridge project that expands Energy Transfer’s capabilities in the Delaware and Midland basins.

With Walton’s input, the company has consummated these projects as well as a new field office in Philadelphia. She’s integral to the company’s decision on whether to own or lease a property—and when the energy industry is involved, these are not typical real estate transactions.

“Very rarely is real estate one of the assets we’re most interested in,” Walton says. “The pipeline is the most valued asset while the land is a bonus.”

Infotech will have a bigger role in optimizing land value, Walton explaining how 2023’s focus includes software upgrades and data gathering. Knowing where all the infrastructure is and which pipelines are most productive should go a long way toward reaping most value.
Energy Transfer has just started a solar division and, with the help of the database, Walton says the company identified which parcels it controlled that were nearest the site and how such land could be put to best use. There’ll be much more critical information to leverage in short time.

“When the partnership needs to make a decision, there won’t be week of research,” Walton says. “The information will be at our fingertips. Saving times equals savings money.”

Value through economy

She needs no reminding that her department isn’t a revenue producer.

“We have to spend every dollar like it’s our own,” she tells those under her wing. “How can we add value to the partnership by finding something that’s off-market and would be a good fit? How can we eliminate some lease expenses or negotiate the best deals on our leased properties?”

Walton’s short answer: By being a problem-solver who functions best by alternating between the office and sites. She’s made a career out of shrewd advising on commercial and industrial real estate, initially as a comptroller at a boutique law firm with Energy Transfer among its clientele. Walton having impressed the company with her real estate savvy and eagerness to grow, she was offered a position in late 2019 and transitioned just before COVID-19 so affected the working world.

The energy industry being essential business and Texas being a business-friendly state, Walton logged just a couple weeks working remotely. She had to familiarize herself with her colleagues and meet the field workers. That she did while adhering to safety protocols that included personal protective equipment and limited face-to-face time.

The situation having much stabilized, it’s business as usual with something always pending for Walton.

“My largest focus, my day-to-day work is not granular,” she says. “My largest projects involve relocating some of our head offices or building bases for our corporate offices. We’ve gotten pretty good at this and, with the database, can forecast when to relocate or consolidate.”

Finding her niche

A Texan by birth, it seemed inevitable that Walton would make her mark in the energy industry. Her mother was a paralegal to an energy industry general counsel, and Walton grew up immersed in many of the details.

As a Texas A&M University-Commerce student, she majored in business with a focus on real estate and seemed content at the law firm until offered the chance to do much more.

And she is one to spread her wings, Walton a personable, fast-talking, even hyperkinetic sort who often can be found holding a cup of java. Passion’s important in anything endeavor, she says, and her two daughters—ages 16 and 11—seem cut from the same mold. They’re both athletes and the oldest is a budding engineer.

So there could be a place in the energy industry for another generation of Walton women. While the mother’s forte is real estate rather than engineering, she says her advice is worth heeding in any pursuit.

“Be proactive, avoid issues and think outside the box,” Walton says. “Just because you did one project successfully, do the next one even better. There always are ways to be more efficient … and there’s a need for women in executive roles in the oil and gas business.”

View this feature in the Blueprint Vol. VII 2023 Edition here.

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vol. VII 2023


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