By Kate Permenter, Pipeline Editor
Recently EnLink Midstream invited me out to West Texas to see my first pipeline spread – the Martin County Extension Pipeline. On the way to the line we stopped by the Deadwood gas plant where I met Chris Coleman, EnLink Midstream’s senior landman. He was amiable, genuine and welcoming, even letting me ride shotgun in his work truck, which I had to jump to get into. As we drove across the flat Texas land, kicking up a flurry of red dirt, he began telling me about his job. I was immediately immersed in his sector of the industry because this is essentially where a pipeline’s life either begins or ends.
An East Texas native, Coleman acquired an interest in oil and gas at a young age and was drawn into the industry by his grandfather, whom he would shadow on trips to meet landowners. He recalls these trips fondly, often leaving the landowner’s home feeling like family. This philosophy has continued to resonate with him over the years; it is what he strives for when working with landowners.
Dallas-based EnLink Midstream has a diverse geographic footprint and a strong financial foundation, with a strategy of delivering tailored customer solutions for sustainable growth. The company’s expansive gathering, processing, fractionation, transportation and logistics assets are located in the most prolific oil and gas regions in North America, including North Texas, the Gulf Coast, Haynesville, Permian, Utica, Marcellus, Eagle Ford, Cana and Arkoma-Woodford.
Coleman said he believes that treating a landowner’s property as though it’s your own, being honest and keeping your commitments are the crucial elements in a successful landowner/landman relationship. That unyielding sense of integrity has made Coleman the model landman he is considered today.
In this interview, Coleman talks about the job of a landman in helping a pipeline project move forward, a role that really doesn’t receive the attention it deserves.
P&GJ: Where are you from and what were your interests growing up?
Coleman: I grew up in Canton, which is a small East Texas town. My family owned and ran the local tractor supply company, and my grandfather was an operator for Pure Oil and Union Oil. I enjoyed fishing, baseball and any outdoor activity, but I always had the most fun working with my mother and father at our supply shop and riding with my grandfather when he checked wells and met with the landowners in his area.
P&GJ: What motivated you to work in the energy industry and when did you join EnLink?
Coleman: Watching my grandfather engage in the daily activities on a lease motivated me to work in the energy industry. We would pull into a gate and the rancher or farmer who owned or managed the land would always meet us with a smile and would start off discussing his issues with the price of cattle or the lack of rain the area was getting. By the time we would leave, I felt like I was part of the landowner’s family. In the summer of 2006, I was lucky enough to join EnLink Midstream, where I get to engage with landowners on a daily basis, like my grandfather did.
P&GJ: How did you end up as a landman and what specifically do you do?
Coleman: I ended up as a landman by luck! I started out abstracting at the local courthouses in southeast Texas while working for my uncle, who is a career landman, and loved what I was doing. I have always enjoyed the research side of the industry and have found it fascinating to learn the history of a property, including how many generations it goes back in a family or how it was acquired.
I thought my job could not be any better, but then I was promoted to an acquisition agent and was lucky enough to be given the nod to deal directly with landowners on a daily basis. As a landman at EnLink, I do everything from abstracting to permitting and acquisition and get to follow the property throughout the lifetime of our asset.
P&GJ: What role does a landman play in pipeline development/construction and how can he make a difference in the success of a project?
Coleman: The landman plays a key role in pipeline development, as we are one of the first team members to look at a property, aid in determining the route and follow the pipeline through construction to help answer any questions that may arise from the landowner or your project team. At EnLink, we always say that people’s best comes out when they feel valued, and that’s part of what I do when interacting with landowners – listen to what they say and help them understand our processes.
P&GJ: What are some of the biggest challenges of the job in today’s market climate, and for you personally, what are the most memorable ones that you’ve encountered?
Coleman: It’s a challenge to keep up with this fast-paced industry, so I work to stay current with the news and keep my ear to the ground to keep inf ormed on what’s happening. This is also a cyclical industry, and with that comes opportunity – to grow, to rethink the way we do business and to improve what we do day in and day out.
One memorable challenge was helping to build EnLink’s assets in West Texas. I really enjoy working out there. Most of the landowners I deal with have been involved in the industry for several decades, and I’m able to learn from them while representing my company.
P&GJ: What are some typical questions people ask you? Do you find that people you deal with are more knowledgeable today?
Coleman: The most typical question I’m asked by a landowner is, “What is the next milestone in the U.S. energy industry?” People are aware of the energy boom happening across the country and want to know what is going to happen next. EnLink is continuing to grow, and I tell them to expect great things from us. I feel my colleagues are much more knowledgeable today than they were even yesterday. My colleagues at EnLink balance years of knowledge and experience in the industry with keeping on the leading edge of industry technologies and developments.
P&GJ: Although all of the people you deal with have different concerns, are there some obstacles that are common with most and how do you overcome them?
Coleman: The main obstacle that is common with most individuals is gaining their trust. As a landman for EnLink, I set out to make new friends, but first, I have to be invited into their home, business or a common area to build a foundation that will hopefully last a lifetime. Most individuals have a horror story to tell from a past dealing with a stranger. I set out to give comfort and back that up with up-to-date and honest information. One of our guiding principles at EnLink is to “deliver more than we promise.” That’s important to earn the trust of landowners.
P&GJ: With that in mind, since everyone you deal with has a specific need, how do you prepare for each meeting?
Coleman: As I would for a test in school: study, know my information and give accurate and detailed answers.
P&GJ: What are some do’s and don’ts that a good landman should follow?
Coleman: It sounds simple, but DO close a gate after you go through it. Overall, treat a property as if it was your own and respect it as such. Don’t make a promise that you cannot keep. Your word is your bond as a landman. Adhering to ethics is as important to me as it is to the landowners whom I work with, and it’s important to EnLink as a part of the communities where we work.
P&GJ: How important is it for a landman to have confidence that his company will follow through with its promises?
Coleman: Having confidence in your company is paramount. Personally, if I do not believe in the brand I am riding for, then it will reflect in my attitude and job performance. EnLink Midstream has given me a solid foundation to promote the industry and to thrive in a fast-paced work environment. As I said, EnLink instills in all of us that we should deliver more than we promise. As earning people’s trust is a huge part of my job, it is reassuring that EnLink puts such emphasis on reliability.
P&GJ: What role do social media play in your work?
Coleman: Social media is a part of my day-to-day activities. With information available with the tap of a finger, we can see what is happening all over the world and attempt to gauge how it will affect the areas we work in.
P&GJ: With so much information available to most people, is pipeline construction being hampered by public concerns or is that limited to specific areas?
Coleman: Information is one of the keys to any good industry. It is a benefit to be able to see if something may work better in one area and not as good in another. Pipeline construction is similar to many other kinds of construction. It provides jobs for hard-working individuals who, working together, can accomplish a common goal.
P&GJ: At the end of the day, what is the most rewarding part of the job?
Coleman: The most rewarding part of being an EnLink Midstream landman is receiving a thank you from a landowner after we reach an agreement. Knowing that I will be invited back to their property – and many times back to their dinner table – it makes me feel like I accomplished something real.
Editor’s note: Originally published in the March 2015 issue of Pipeline & Gas Journal.