MIDLAND, TEXAS—When a United States senator makes a call to deliver a keynote, you know your conference’s subject matter is striking a chord.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) helped get the Permian Basin Water in Energy Conference (PBWIEC) off to a good start with his remarks at the dinner and reception held on Wednesday evening, Feb. 19, capping the first full day’s events in what would be a three-day affair.

The three days included numerous panel discussions and talks by key figures in the world of oilfield water supply, treatment, and/or management. For a full slate of the topics covered and the speakers who appeared, see the conference’s website at pbwiec.com. The conference is a 5013(C) and proceeds from the occasion benefit the University of Texas Permian Basin (UTPB).

Attendance neared the 500 level—almost equalling last year’s turnout—and attendees expressed satisfaction with the event’s lineup and its discussions.

Kris Koller, CEO of Buchanan Disposal Solutions, called it a great conference.

“I have done conferences all over the United States as [a representative of] an energy investment bank, and I’ve done the IPAAs in New York and other conferences, and I can say that this is really a first class event,” Koller said. “This is my second year to be here and my first year as a sponsor.

“There is a lot of interest in the water space out here. And everybody knows why,” he said. “We’re putting out a lot of water and trying to figure out what to do with it. So it is a space that keeps on building a lot of interest from a lot of people. It’s a good networking event, and it’s a good way to get our name out.

Buchanan Disposal Solutions is an energy landfill, and as such is regulated by the Texas Railroad Commission. “We take waste streams that come off of leases that are approved by the Railroad Commission,” Koller said. “That could be your oil based muds, your water based muds, your drill cuttings, and we also take tank bottoms that form in all of the salt water disposals, so a lot of our customer base is out here. We also have salt water disposal facilities ourselves.”

Randal Strickland, vice president of sales at New Wave Energy Services, was another attendee who appreciated the show. “The conference has been great,” Strickland said. “A lot of good information. A great networking event. It’s funny that we seem to communicate a lot more these days through email and text, and then sometimes we will actually meet in person, after communicating remotely for six months to a year, and finally get a face-to-face. So it’s a great opportunity for everybody in the industry to come together.”

John Durand, president of XRI Holdings LLC, was both an attendee and a panel participant. He spoke on the Midstream panel that took the stage on Wednesday the 19th.

“We are a water midstream company,” Durand said of XRI. “We were founded in 2013. We now have 300 miles of pipeline throughout the Permian Basin. We source midstream, we treat water, and we recycle. We do 140,000 barrels per day of recycling. We are expecting to grow that, maybe even double that, by the end of this year.”

As for the conference, Durand said it is the most well run, and it presents the most diverse agenda, of any water conference in the industry.

“That’s true without a doubt, and I attend every water conference, at many of which I am asked to speak,” Durand said.

Jim Woodcock, who is co-chairman of the event, expressed pleasure with the turnout and the energy. “The quality of the speakers, and the quality of the audience, is fantastic,” Woodcock said. “There is excitement, a lot of electricity in the air. People feel good about things and we are seeing, I think, some good things coming out of this conference. One of our objectives, is, of course, working with water, is trying to get collaboration between the communities and between the states [Texas and New Mexico]. One of our speakers Wednesday was the Chancellor of the University of New Mexico [Dan E. Arvizu], and attendees also got to hear from people at our own [local] University of Texas Permian Basin. And I think you are going to see collaboration and partnership between them—partnership that will make a difference. It makes a lot of sense to see that happen between these two schools so close to center of the oil and gas industry in the United States.”

Dr. Steve Beach, dean of UTPB’s College of Business, was one of those UTPB participants, and he later remarked on the experience of hearing a diversity of views on what is happening within the water space. “I think it’s outstanding,” he said of the proceedings.

Jonna Smoot, who is conference organizer, event chair, and founding board member (one of two), announced after the event that she was to resign from PBWIEC in early March to concentrate more fully on her role in community banking at West Texas National Bank along with the nonprofit boards on which she actively serves.

“One of the things of which I am most proud is that our group took an abstract idea—the thought of a non-commercial, collaborative water in energy conference—and turned it into the highly sought after and recognizable brand of PBWIEC,” Smoot said. “A laser-like attention to detail, giving the personal touch to most every customer transaction, having an appreciation for the conference’s audience and their ever-changing needs in content, conference cost, and sponsorship levels—all of this is what kept attendees coming back and new attendees and sponsors coming in.

“I was fortunate to be surrounded with some of the best and brightest minds in the water space on my advisory board and advisory council these past three years,” Smoot added. “This past year, the main programs committee consisted of a phenomenal group of four individuals that worked tirelessly to get our Year Three agenda into the great shape we presented at the conference. Monica M. Jacobs, Partner/Chair, Water Law Section, Kelly Hart and Hallman LLP; Gabriel Collins, Baker Botts Fellow in Energy and Environmental Regulatory Affairs, Rice University’s Baker Institute; Tyler Hussey, Water Resource Engineer/Permian Completions, Apache Corporation; and Tim McWilliams, SVP, Operations, Seawolf Water each led the program’s committee to a unique, diverse, and informative Year Three agenda. I couldn’t be prouder to have been associated with each of these individuals, along with the larger advisory board and council, at the conference.”

When asked about what will happen now with the Year Four conference, Smoot noted that Conference Chairman Jim Woodcock, PBWIEC’s advisory board and council, and UT Permian Basin have each indicated they are looking forward to continuing the PBWIEC conference tradition. According to materials published at the Year Three conference, conference officials are anticipating having their Year Four PBWIEC.com website available online by July 1, 2020, and have already announced a Feb. 23-26, 2021, Year Four conference date. “It’s been a truly fantastic three years working on, establishing, and growing this conference,” Smoot said. “I’m looking forward to watching the conference continue to blossom in Year Four and going forward.”

From the proceeds of this year’s event, organizers were able to write a $50,000 donation check to UTPB for scholarships and other items, and the conference provided five scholarships directly to students through its Poster Session Contest, totaling $5,500. The five (out of six possible winners) included graduate and undergraduate students from Rice University, UTPB, and Texas Tech.

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