Friends of Finance: ONEOK’s role in energy transformation - The University of Tulsa
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Friends of Finance: ONEOK’s role in energy transformation

ONEOK President and CEO Pierce Norton (left) with Dean Kathy Taylor

With 8 billion people and counting and the standard of living on the rise, there will continue to be a need for all forms of energy in the world, according to the president and CEO of ONEOK, Inc.

“If you look at where we got most of our energy 200 years ago, it was actually from wood,” said Pierce Norton, during The University of Tulsa’s Friends of Finance luncheon Wednesday. “And then we added coal. We added gas. We added nuclear and solar and wind and geothermal, and we had all these other forms of energy. But the reason that we did was because you’ve needed more of it. … It’s really more about adding energy, as opposed to transitioning away from something.”

Norton was speaking about energy transformation. He said the word “transformation” is better suited for use than “transition” because no one form of energy can meet the needs alone. Fossil fuels account for 80% of energy creation in the United States, he added.

“And if you look back 20 years, that number was 85%,” he said. “With all the wind and solar and everything that’s been added to this country in the last 20 years, fossil fuels still account for 80% of them. And one reason for this is because fossil fuels are energy dense and are also the main ingredient to many other things including plastics in addition to just energy use.”

During a “fireside chat” Q&A with Collins College of Business Dean Kathy Taylor, Norton also discussed how artificial intelligence (AI) is growing in the energy space. “AI is something that people are just now starting to talk about a lot,” he said, adding that it takes an incredible amount of energy to support the data centers that do the complex calculations and outputs for artificial intelligence.

Norton had some advice for TU students in the audience: Don’t believe all the naysayers who say the oil and gas industry is disappearing. “I think it’s going to be around for decades,” he told the audience. “So that’s the first hurdle you have to get over is people telling you it’s not going to be here. It is.”

He also said students should not only do what is expected of them but go above and beyond. “As you’re focusing on your career, look at what kind of experience you’re getting. When you look back 10 years into your career, you want to be able to say, ‘I got 15 years of experience in 10 years,’” he said. “What you don’t want to have happen is to look back and say, ‘I got one year of experience 10 times.’ So, my encouragement would be to broaden your scope and don’t just stay in your lane. Learn what someone else is doing.”

Norton, who was previously president and CEO of ONE Gas, began the talk by discussing the merger of ONEOK and Magellan Midstream Partners. He said his company went into the merger by developing strategic criteria for a company that would help to propel it into the future.

“And so we did that, and we developed questions around it. Then once we got buy-in from our board about that, then we started putting these companies through this filter,” he said. “And Magellan was the one that kept coming to the top for several reasons.”

During the luncheon, Meagan McCollum, associate professor of finance and head of TU’s new Center for Real Estate Studies, was honored with the faculty spotlight, while Lawrencia Gaisie, who is pursuing her master’s degree in business analytics, was featured in the student spotlight.

The next Friends of Finance event is April 17. Jared Peterson, executive vice president of Member Experience at AAA and founder of the Route 66 Road Fest, will speak. Registration is now open.