Interview with Chad Zamarin, SVP, Corporate Strategic Development at Williams

It was a pleasure to connect with Chad Zamarin, SVP, Corporate Strategic Development at Williams ahead of this year’s virtual North American Gas Forum. 

Chad shared with us some of the new opportunities he sees arising in the midst of the current pandemic crisis, the impact of the macroeconomic turmoil on the energy industry and more. 

We invite you to read the full interview below.

ED: With a trajectory of over 100 years, Williams is clearly an example of resilience in the energy industry. In your opinion, how is the industry showing resiliency during the coronavirus pandemic and what will be critical looking forward?

CZ: The world around us has certainly changed dramatically in a short time, but the dedicated workers in our industry have been steadfast in their efforts to safely operate America’s natural gas infrastructure and continue to provide this critical source of energy to millions of households and industries. Like many companies, we took immediate steps in the early days of the pandemic to quickly pivot and evolve our virtual capabilities for our nearly 5,000 employees to maintain safe and reliable operations.

From a business perspective, Williams was well-prepared going into the downturn due in part to steps we took in recent years to increase efficiencies and reduce costs. The scale and diversity of our natural gas-focused strategy allows us to capture the benefits of continued demand. Despite the uncertainties facing the broader economy, our financial results for the first half of the year are a testament to the stability and predictability of natural gas as a clean, reliable and affordable energy source.

However, we also know we must change and adapt as urgency grows around the need for a viable and sustainable low-carbon future. Williams recently announced our Climate Commitment calling for a 56% absolute reduction from 2005 levels in company-wide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2030. As one of the largest energy infrastructure companies in the U.S., we hope this encourages others to establish similar goals based on what we can reduce with practical, immediate solutions – while also supporting the development of renewables and emerging technologies that will ultimately contribute to our aspiration to be net zero by 2050.

ED: Have you seen new opportunities arising in the midst of the current crisis? If yes, what are some of them?

CZ: The downturn in oil has demonstrated the value of our gathering and processing systems in dry gas basins in the Northeast and the Haynesville where we’ve seen strong activity. Likewise, our unique capabilities in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico have allowed us to capture additional opportunities to provide offshore and onshore midstream gathering and processing services to the Anchor and Taggart developments, which are located more than 100 miles off the coast of Louisiana. In addition, we are extremely well-positioned to serve future growth in major markets in the East and Southeast U.S. through low impact, debottlenecking opportunities along our existing Transco transmission corridor.

This spring, as part of our renewable energy initiative, we announced steps to develop solar energy installations at Williams’ facilities to provide electricity to our existing natural gas transmission and processing operations, an investment made possible through generous federal and state tax credits. The move builds on our natural gas-focused strategy, with natural gas generation bringing reliability to the electric power grid and allowing for growth in renewable energy.

ED: How are companies adapting to the macroeconomic turmoil? How is it impacting the sector?

CZ: The long-term fundamentals of natural gas remain strong, both domestically and globally, which is great news for our industry. Many thought that natural gas demand would be diminished by COVID-19 and a stalled economy, but we have not seen that. For the first half of 2020, natural gas demand continued to grow across the market and on our system. Overall, in the second quarter of 2020, demand in the lower 48 states was up 2 percent from the second quarter of 2019. The only segment that did not grow was industrial, and it was only down slightly. Even the export market, comprised primarily of LNG shipping and Mexico pipeline exports was up 11 percent in the second quarter of 2020 compared to the second quarter 2019. Of course, LNG exports were way down from the first part of the year, but there are signs they are returning, and over the long-term, LNG is key to serving developing economies in other parts of the world. Broadly speaking, we are extremely bullish on natural gas because of the critical role it plays in a clean energy economy, providing a practical and immediate path to reduce emissions and support the viability of renewables.

ED: Williams is a member of The Environmental Partnership – a collaboration of industry leaders focused on improving environmental performance. The annual report of the group was recently released. Can you share with us some of the highlights found in the report? How is Williams contributing to the industry’s environmental performance?

CZ: The Environmental Partnership has greatly expanded its coalition of energy companies and recently added midstream segment partners, including Williams. Our membership underscores our continued focus on responsible environmental stewardship and our commitment to meeting the nation’s growing demand for low cost energy while improving environmental performance and accelerating emissions reductions. In fact, Williams has reduced reported methane emissions from processing plants and compressor stations by 41 percent since 2012, and with the setting of our near-term climate commitment to further reduce emissions by 2030, we will continue to lead the industry in environmental performance.

ED: You will be joining this year’s North American Gas Forum (October 20-22 in Washington D.C.) as a panelist on the session: The year of double black swan events – How will the industry rebound? Leading up to the forum, can you share with us your view on how/when energy markets will recover from the current crisis?

CZ: Perhaps now more than ever it is difficult to predict the future, but natural gas is proving the stability it can provide during uncertain times. I believe that theme will continue over the long haul because of the important role of natural gas in the clean energy mix. Natural gas is helping the U.S. to significantly reduce emissions by replacing coal for electric power generation while keeping consumers’ utility bills low. Importantly, natural gas is also key adding more renewable energy to the power grid in large volumes, while also helping our customers and stakeholders meet their climate goals.

ED: What are you most looking forward to at this year’s North American Gas Forum?

CZ: I think those of us focused on natural gas are fortunate to be the bright spot in energy during these challenging times. I’m excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for our industry as many of us recognize the critical role natural gas plays today in a viable and sustainable low-carbon future, while also meeting growing energy demand.

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