This week’s Pipeliners Podcast episode features Rebecca Eugia, Liz Neidlinger, and Mercedes Osbern of the IRWA organization previewing the upcoming IRWA Oil & Gas Pipeline Symposium on February 23 in Houston, Texas.
In this episode, you will learn more about the IRWA organization, why you should register for the conference, what topics the speakers will be covering, what you can expect to learn from the conference, and some key takeaways to support your role in pipeline operations. You will also get a sneak peek into Russel’s presentation during the symposium.
IRWA Oil & Gas Symposium: Show Notes, Links, and Insider Terms
- Rebecca Eugia is the Sr. Manager of the Land Encroachments Team at Enterprise Products Company in Houston. For IRWA, she currently co-chairs the Oil & Gas Pipeline Committee. Connect with Rebecca on LinkedIn.
- Liz Neidlinger is a Sr. Land Manager for Enterprise Products Company. For IRWA, she is currently the co-chair of the Oil & Gas Pipeline Symposium committee.
- Enterprise Products Company is one of the largest midstream oil and gas companies in North America.
- Mercedes Osbern is a Sr. Right of Way Agent for Flint Hills Resources, LC. For IRWA, she is co-chair for IRWA Chapter 8’s Young Professionals Committee. Connect with Mercedes on LinkedIn.
- Flint Hills Resources produces a diverse range of fuels that we all rely on every day. The company’s commitment to quality includes collaborating with the EPA to share best practices and form new standards across the industry.
- IRWA (International Right of Way Association) is a professional organization with nearly 10,000 members from over 15 countries around the world and comprised of global infrastructure real estate practitioners. The purpose of IRWA is to improve people’s quality of life through infrastructure development.
- IRWA Membership: since its inception as a not-for-profit Association in 1934, IRWA has served professionals who acquire, manage and transfer the land rights needed for building and maintaining energy and transportation infrastructure.
- Houston Chapter 8 is one of the largest chapters in IRWA comprised of over 500 members, including representatives from Enterprise Products, ExxonMobil, Kinder Morgan, Energy Transfer, TxDOT, METRO, and the City of Houston.
- IRWA Young Professionals is specifically designed for beginning right of way professionals who want to become more actively involved into the Association while enhancing their skills.
- The IRWA Oil & Gas Pipeline Symposium will be held on February 23, 2022, at the Norris Conference Center (CityCentre) in Houston, Texas. On Feb. 22, there will be a Young Professionals Hosting Networking Event at The Yard House in CityCentre.
- Register for the conference. Registration ends on February 20.
- Craig Goldman will be the keynote speaker at the IRWA conference. Craig is Chair of House Energy Resources (State Representative from Ft. Worth).
- Other speakers during the conference will include Russel Treat of the Pipeliners Podcast, Jason Modglin (President, Texas Alliance of Energy Producers), Christopher E. Smith (Editor-in-Chief, Oil & Gas Journal), and Allen Sinor (CEO, Green Chemistry Energy).
- Pipeline Right-Of-Way (ROW) is a property in which a pipeline company and a landowner both have a legal interest. Each has a right to be there, although each has a different type of use for the land.
- ExxonMobil is engaged in the exploration, production, trade, transportation and sale of crude oil and natural gas, and the manufacture, transportation and sale of crude oil, natural gas, petroleum products, petrochemicals and a range of specialty products.
- Kinder Morgan is one of the largest energy infrastructure companies in North America. They own an interest in or operate approximately 83,000 miles of pipelines and 144 terminals. Their pipelines transport natural gas, gasoline, crude oil, carbon dioxide (CO2), and more.
- Energy Transfer handles operations that include transportation, storage, and terminalling for natural gas, crude oil, NGLs, refined products, and liquid natural gas.
- Indian Affairs maintains government-to-government relationships with Indian tribes, and facilitate support for tribal people and tribal governments. They promote safe and quality living environments, strong communities, self sufficient and individual rights, while enhancing protection of the lives, prosperity and well being of American Indians and Alaska Natives.
- The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers works diligently to strengthen the Nation’s security by building and maintaining America’s infrastructure and providing military facilities where their servicemembers train, work and live. They also research and develop technology for their war fighters while protecting America’s interests abroad by using engineering expertise to promote stability and improve quality of life.
- Texas Alliance of Energy Producers is a Texas oil & gas association for small independents, larger producers, and service companies.
- Oil & Gas Journal (OGJ) is the world’s most widely-read petroleum industry publication. OGJ delivers international oil and gas industry news, analysis of issues and events, practical technology for design, operation, and maintenance of oil and gas operations, and important statistics on energy markets and industry activity.
- SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) is a system of software and technology that allows pipeliners to control processes locally or at remote locations.
- Texas Real Estate Commission (TREC) safeguards consumers in matters of real property transactions and valuation services. The agency provides licensing, education, and complaint investigation services, as well as regulation and enforcement of state laws and requirements that govern each of these areas of service to consumers in Texas.
IRWA Oil & Gas Symposium: Full Episode Transcript
Russel Treat: Welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast, episode 216, sponsored by EnerACT Energy Services, supporting pipeline operators to achieve natural compliance through plans, procedures, and tools implemented to automatically create and retain required records as the work is performed. Find out more about EnerACT at EnerACTEnergyServices.com.
Announcer: The Pipeliners Podcast, where professionals, Bubba geeks, and industry insiders share their knowledge and experience about technology, projects, and pipeline operations. Now, your host, Russel Treat.
Russel: Thanks for listening to the Pipeliners Podcast. I appreciate you taking the time. To show that appreciation, we are giving away a customized YETI tumbler to one listener every episode. This week, our winner is Emily Streetman with Energy Transfer. Congratulations, Emily. Your YETI is on its way. To learn how you can win this signature prize, stick around till the end of the episode.
This week on the podcast, Becky Eugia, Liz Neidlinger, and Mercedes Osbern with the International Right of Way Association join us to talk about their upcoming Oil & Gas Symposium. Ladies, welcome to the Pipeliners Podcast.
Rebecca Eugia: Thank you.
Liz Neidlinger: Thank you.
Russel: What I’d like to do first is really ask you guys to each introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit about who you are, what you do, how you got involved with the International Right of Way Association. Who’d like to go first?
Liz: Becky would.
Rebecca: I’ll go first. My name is Rebecca. I often go by Becky Eugia. I work for Enterprise Products Company. I’m a senior land manager of our land encroachments. It’s a small niche in the market, the pipeline industry.
What I do, our group does, is we evaluate anybody crossing over our pipelines. That can be anywhere from a heavy equipment to a wind farm to a DOT road, Department of Transportation type of road, or it can be another foreign utility line crossing over.
We evaluate it for safety. We collaborate between operations, engineering, integrity, and legal, and come up with some type of documentation to issue the request or let them know it’s a state crossing.
Got my start in the land industry and pipeline companies actually with Houston Lighting & Power Company, which is now CenterPoint Energy, straight out of high school. They funded me to go through college. After many years of working full time and going to college, I finally graduated at University of St. Thomas here in Houston, native Houstonian. I’ve been in the practice a very, very long time and have enjoyed every minute of it.
Russel: I always love professions where they talk about practicing. It’s like, “When are you actually going to get done? You always just go to practice?” Who’d like to go next?
Liz: I’m Liz Neidlinger. Work at Enterprise Products with Becky. I am on the operations and maintenance side of land. We take care of all the stuff that’s already in the ground. I joined the Right of Way Association when I moved here to Houston back in 2009. I had no idea it existed. I was taken to a meeting and have not stopped going. It’s been about 12 years since I started going to the meetings.
Russel: That’s one of the things that’s great about Houston, is we have such a large community around oil and gas and energy that some of these, what I call, micro professions, where you do this but you don’t really find your peers, in Houston, you can find your peers and network and learn together.
It’s unique versus a lot of other places where you might find yourself working. It’s nice to know that you migrated in and you got involved in the bigger community.
Liz: It’s been a great time ever since.
Russel: Mercedes, I guess you chose to go last. Why don’t you tell us the same thing?
Mercedes Osbern: I’ll round out the group here. I’m Mercedes Osbern. I am a senior right of way agent for Flint Hills Resources, based here in Houston, Texas. My operations area, I support all new construction and existing infrastructure between Houston, Beaumont, over at Orange, and up to Longview.
I’ve been in the right of way profession for about eight years, always worked for Koch Industries, and had my start in Minnesota, originally supporting our crude assets up there, and have grown, learned, moved down here, taking over different territory.
Leading large capital and asset management projects, management of the existing infrastructure, and supporting right of way for other Koch companies in the U.S. Anytime anyone needs a new right of way from one of our properties and one of our companies, I’m the middleman.
Have been in the IRWA right of way group since I joined the profession eight years ago. Now, for Chapter 8, I’m the co-chair for the young professionals committee.
Russel: Awesome. I find it interesting. I don’t know that a lot of people know this. Right of way is really a real estate profession.
Mercedes: It has a lot to do with it.
Russel: It’s about knowing who owns the property and who has the right to do what with the property, putting in place all those agreements, then getting it through all the counties and the various registration authorities, and all the things you got to do to dot the Is and cross the Ts. Most of us have experience with that in buying a house.
How is what you guys do as real estate professionals different than what most of us might know as buying and selling a piece of property?
Rebecca: The underlying rights has a big factor in our work. It depends on what we’re dealing with. Are we dealing with an easement or a property that’s purchased in fee?
Are we dealing with a license, that’s usually in the case of a railroad, or a DOT, which we might have acquired the rights by permit? That’s one of the first things we look at to determine what rights or restrictions we have before crossing or negotiating with a third party.
Russel: Becky, that’s a great answer because it frames up very clearly that, like a lot of other things in our world, this is all easy until you know enough about it. Then it starts very quickly getting very difficult and very complex.
Liz: Very much so.
Russel: We asked you guys to come on to talk about IRWA and, in particular, the Oil & Gas Symposium. Before we get to the symposium, why don’t you tell me about what is IRWA? What does it do? What is its mission? What are you guys about?
Rebecca: It’s a professional organization with about 10,000 members from over 15 countries around the world. It’s comprised of global and infrastructure real estate practitioners. The purpose is to improve our quality of life through infrastructure development.
The organization was actually organized back in 1934. It has served professionals to acquire, manage, and transfer land rights needed for building and maintaining energy and transportation infrastructure.
The chapter that we represent, that we’re a member of, is one of the largest in the IRWA, comprised of over 500 members, including representatives from Enterprise Products, ExxonMobil, Kinder Morgan, and Energy Transfer, TxDOT, Metro, and City of Houston. At any one of the meetings, you’ll see members attending that are landmen, surveyors, abstractors, parties, and/or engineers.
Russel: You left out appraisers.
Rebecca: Appraisers, definitely. It does serve a wonderful networking atmosphere, because a lot of these people we deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Russel: One of the important things for people that listen to this podcast to understand is that right of way is bigger than just pipelines. It’s addressing utility lines, both above ground and underground. It’s addressing roadways, railways. It’s addressing federal agencies and their requirements around transportation. There’s a lot of parties involved trying to figure out who’s got what rights to what land to do what.
Rebecca: That’s exactly right.
Russel: That’s one of the things that’s interesting about that aspect of the business. You’re really dealing with a lot of other folks outside of just energy.
Rebecca: That’s correct. I know Enterprise itself has property that we have to cross our deal with or negotiate with, which is the Bureau of Land Management and then also the Indian Affairs.
Liz: We cross just about everybody you possibly can. Cities, Indian Affairs, government, Corps of Engineers.
Russel: When you think about a pipeline company at size, one of the things that’s unique about them versus others is the amount of territory they cover and the number of jurisdictions that they’re involved with. A lot of people don’t know this, but the details of land rights, those contracts, surveys, and county records is all different county to county and state to state.
Liz: It is very interesting. Very interesting. You go from handwritten deeds that were two pages long to the easements these days are 20 pages long and written in lawyerese. It’s very interesting.
Russel: I’m going camping this weekend with the Boy Scouts. The ranch that we’re camping on has been in the family since the original Spanish land grant in Texas. The guy that owns it is very active in the Scouts. He always comes out and gives a talk about the land, the family, and the history. It’s just absolutely fascinating.
Liz: That’s so cool.
Russel: It is. It’s very cool. You can’t see this on the podcast, but all these ladies are grinning about the idea of working with property that was part of an original Spanish land grant. See, we’re all nerds in this business. It’s just what flavor of nerd are you.
Rebecca: I used to do abstracting, which is Cornell’s research, and go back all the way to the Spanish grants. To me, it was like working a puzzle.
Russel: I have a piece of property that I own. It’s never been plotted. It’s contiguous to a bunch of pipeline properties. It’s all metes and bounds. I’ve got involved in a big, ugly, real estate controversy about who actually had title to what and all that. I know more about that than I care to. I’ll say it that way.
Liz: We start finding out old deeds and old maps, and we’ll all start lighting up and just giggling, which is weird but fun.
Russel: Exactly. I always find it interesting whenever I get into this conversation. When you start getting into the technical aspects of all the various professions in pipelining, how every group has its own unique interest and nerdiness. That’s cool.
Rebecca: I guess you can call us right of way geeks.
Liz: Land nerds.
Russel: Land nerds?
Rebecca: I like that.
Liz: I’ll own it.
Russel: That sound sounds like it ought to be a Saturday Night Live skit with Sally knocking at the door, “Uh, Leonard?”
Russel: We should probably talk about the Oil & Gas Symposium that’s coming up. First off, why don’t you just give us some of the details? When is it? Where is it? What is it? We’ll go from there.
Rebecca: The Oil & Gas Pipeline Symposium, this is actually our third symposium that we’re putting on. We actually initiated this back in 2019, being our first symposium.
Liz: I think so.
Rebecca: It’s the first of our chapter. I believe it’s the first of the organization altogether. We just thought, “What better place to have it than Houston, Texas, where there’s so many pipelines.” We’re kicking it off on the 22nd of February with a young professional event that’s going to take place at the Yard House, which is there in CityCentre, which is close to I-10 and the Beltway. That will be starting at 5:30 to 7:30. You don’t have to be a member to attend. It’s a wonderful, good time, great opportunity to network. You don’t have to be a young professional. You can be a senior like me. It’s a great time. I’d like Mercedes to speak about the young professional organization a little more because she just got the Young Professional of the Year 2021.
Russel: Awesome. Congratulations, Mercedes. That’s cool.
Mercedes: Our group, it’s co-chaired by myself and Barrett Haby of AWS. It’s an appraisal firm here in Houston, Texas. Our group intends to foster networking and opportunities around young professionals, making sure that whether you’re new to the industry or new to working, in general, that you have a widespread of people you can ask for help, guidance, opportunities, etc.
Normally, we host a monthly either volunteer event or happy hour. This event here at the Oil & Gas Symposium is going to take place of our monthly happy hour event.
Russel: Awesome. Do you guys coordinate what you guys do at all with the young pipeline professionals or are you separate from that group?
Mercedes: We’re separate from that group. After hearing them on your podcast, I have brought up maybe coordinating an event together so that we can further our network.
Russel: That’d be great. Certainly, I love opportunities for folks to move across the lines and meet people in different departments and groups that you might not meet just going to work.
Mercedes: A lot of the participants in that group also belong to companies that are represented in IRWA as well.
Russel: You got all these technical disciplines that have a young professional group. They’re all working for the same companies. They’re meeting with professionals, with other companies, but in their discipline. Then there’s the opportunity, if you can work with some of the other groups, to not only do that, but work with other people in the same industry and other disciplines.
Our world is interesting. It’s relatively small in terms of the number of players in it. The longer you’re in it, the smaller it gets. I was just having a conversation with a guy yesterday who I worked with many, many years ago on a set of projects. Those things tend to come back.
Liz: Yes, they do.
Rebecca: They do.
Russel: You come back across those folks. Just for the young folks, you should remember that. You’re going to meet these people again.
Liz: Yes, you will.
Rebecca: Never close doors.
Russel: Exactly. What topics are you guys covering at the Oil & Gas Symposium for IRWA?
Rebecca: It’d probably be best just to name who the speakers will be, and that will say a lot in itself. Our keynote speaker is Craig Goldman. He’s the chair of House Energy Resources, State Representative from Fort Worth. He will be kicking off our symposium that morning. We have the president of Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, Jason Modglin, who we’re really interested in hearing his speech.
In the afternoon, we have Christopher Smith. He’s the editor-in-chief for Oil & Gas Journal. He’s going to give us an overview of the oil and gas industry. We have Allen Sinor. He is the CEO of Green Chemistry Energy. He’s going to be talking about new fracking technology.
Then yours truly, Russel Treat, who will be speaking about his Pipeliners Podcast and going over some of the cybersecurity issues that we’re dealing with.
Russel: I’ve actually been thinking about that. One of the things I plan to do, I want to talk a little bit about what’s going on industry-wide, but also want to spend some time and just tell people what they ought to be doing personally to improve their cyber posture as a person, because that’s just as important.
Probably, there’s more risk for a lot of us there than there is with what we do with our companies. We’re going to talk about that a little bit. I’ll talk a little bit about what I do. I’d get a little off-topic, so I apologize, but it’s important to talk about this.
What I plan to do is cover that. It’s something that I become very sensitive to just because I’m close to what goes on in operations and critical infrastructure around SCADA, automation, and such. Also, doing the podcast, it became evident to me that I’m higher profile. That’s making me more of a cyber target. Consequently, I need to harden my posture from a cybersecurity standpoint.
I want to share some of the things that I do and disciplines I practice and such, and try to make some of the things I do easy versus hard, like changing passwords. We all love to change passwords.
That is an impressive slate of speakers. After you listen to all of that, you’re going to have an idea of what’s going on in the industry and what things you’re going to be working on, given what’s moving and shaking in the industry.
Liz: I hope so. We’re pretty impressed with who we were able to get to come and speak this year. We’re looking forward to it.
Russel: Awesome. What about sponsorships? We should probably talk about that a little bit. You guys are looking for sponsors for the symposium, I’m sure. All these professional organizations have to have a way to pay for the things they do. You’re looking for sponsors. What are you all doing in that domain?
Liz: We have a couple of different levels of sponsorship. We have the big one, which is our exclusive, which is $4,000. It’s the one that will sponsor the networking event that happens afterwards. After all the speakers, there’s a little networking event at the end. They will sponsor that. Their logo will be up everywhere. They’ll get four free tickets to come to the symposium.
Just below that, we’ve got the platinum level, which they get half a page of advertisement in our beautiful event program. They get two symposium tickets. They’ll have their logo up all day during the session. We ask them to bring some promotional items, some gift cards, or maybe some rodeo tickets, because the Houston Rodeo is happening day after. Good timing.
The next level of sponsorship is our gold level, which is $1,000. They get a quarter page of advertisement and one free ticket to the event. Their logo will be highlighted at the morning and afternoon break. We ask them to bring the promotional items, gift cards, or rodeo items.
We have a silver level of $750. They get a quarter-page advertisement. No free tickets, unfortunately. We also ask them to bring the promotional items, gift cards, or rodeo items. The smallest level is bronze, $500. Their logo will be on a sponsorship page in the event program. We ask them to bring promotional items as well.
We get a lot of really great companies that get involved and sponsor. They’re pretty proud to be a part of it. We’re very happy to have them all on board. We can’t thank them enough.
Russel: Awesome. One of the questions I wanted to ask you guys is, what should everybody that’s a pipeliner know about IRWA and the land profession?
Liz: Like you said, it’s a very close-knit, small group. Everybody tends to know everybody. If you don’t know somebody, you know somebody that knows somebody.
I know when I’ve been working on projects, if I don’t have a contact at a specific company, I go to the IRWA page and go look in the member registry to see if I can find a contact that way. Every person I’ve ever reached out to that way has always been very kind, very helpful. Everybody knows everybody.
Rebecca: They provide classes. These classes are offered all over the U.S. and internationally through 15 countries. If you’re new to the organization, it’s a good source of getting additional knowledge in the industry or even in a certain facet, like you mentioned appraisal. There are appraisal classes. There are relocation classes. There are classes on just basic pipeline industry.
Mercedes: One thing, you can use some of the courses as part of your recertification. For appraisers, you can use those classes to re-up your license. I believe it’s the same with a number of other professions. It’s not just unique to IRWA. You can use it to further your existing licenses.
Rebecca: Exactly. There’s even some credits that you can get in the real estate industry if I’m not mistaken.
Liz: I think so.
Russel: Interesting. That’s fascinating to me. I’ve never thought about the need for licensure as a right of way agent, but it makes sense.
You’ve got a licensure as a real estate agent. It’s a similar professional practice. You’re dealing with contracts, deeds, and other types of legal documents. You would expect people that are doing that to have some level of knowledge, licensure, and so forth. That’s interesting that that’s part of what you guys do.
Mercedes: Another interesting facet of the IRWA and some of its participants is that they also are participating in the lawmaking process, where the requirements to be a right of way agent are changing now under Texas law and the TREC licensing process. Being in the group helps you get a good understanding of what those changes are going to be, when that’s going to take place, and how they’re going to require that you go about that.
Russel: Lets you stay ahead of those kinds of changes versus behind them.
Russel: Awesome. Listen, this has been fun for me. I really appreciate you guys coming on. I really appreciate being asked to come and give the last speech of the day. I’ll be sticking around for the happy hour after the event. Hopefully, some people will come and I’ll get to meet some folks, actually go out, be in person, and shake some hands. What a radical idea.
Rebecca: Russel, I just wanted to reiterate that the symposium is going to be held on Wednesday, February 23rd at the Norris Conference Center in the Red Oak Ballroom. That’s at 816 Town and Country Boulevard, Suite 210. There is parking, it’s free, and it’s connected to the Norris Conference Center. There’s a direct entrance on the third level.
It starts at 8:00 AM with a full breakfast and it ends with the networking event, which we plan on seeing you there. That admission to the Oil & Gas Symposium not only includes a full breakfast, but all the sessions, the morning and afternoon breaks, which we find out some surprises in, and at reception at night, that social event.
Russel: Awesome. For the listeners, as we always do, we’ll put these details up on the website on the episode page.
Russel: Just go to pipelinepodcastnetwork.com, go look for this episode, and you’ll find all the details.
Rebecca: Thank you so much.
Russel: Thank you, guys. It was fun. I enjoyed the conversation.
Liz: Absolutely. Thank you for having us.
Russel: I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode of Pipeliners Podcast in our conversation with Becky, Liz, and Mercedes. Just a reminder before you go, you should register to win our customized Pipeliners Podcast YETI tumbler. Simply visit pipelinepodcastnetwork.com/win and enter yourself in the drawing.
If you’d like to support the podcast, the best way to do that is to leave us a review. You can do that on Apple Podcast, Google Play, Stitcher, SoundCloud. You can find instructions at PipelinePodcastNetwork.com.
Russel: If you have ideas, questions, or topics you’d be interested in, please let me know either on the Contact Us page or reach out to me on LinkedIn. Thanks for listening. I’ll talk to you next week.
Transcription by CastingWords