Houston corporate lawyer Trent Bridges joined Tulsa, Ok. -based Magellan Midstream Partners a decade ago when the industry was at its peak of responding to the shale revolution.
Now Bridges, who joined Sidley’s Houston office as a partner a month ago, will be on the other side of the firm-client relationship as the oil and gas industry answers the challenges of energy transition.
At Magellan, Bridges played a crucial role in the company’s development of the BridgeTex Pipeline System, the Saddlehorn Pipeline System and what Magellan calls the Houston Distribution System of pipelines.
Bridges discussed his recent move to Houston, his experience working with Sidley while at Magellan and key issues facing midstream companies in a Q&A with The Texas Lawbook.
The Lawbook: Why did you make the move to Sidley?
Bridges: While I’ve spent the last almost nine years as an in-house lawyer, I began my career in private practice and have always been drawn to its entrepreneurial nature. While at Magellan, I was very much an active practitioner as opposed to a manager of outside counsel, so the change really isn’t that abrupt for me from a day-to-day standpoint. Given how involved Magellan was in developing projects during my tenure, I’ve been able to build a very deep list of contacts and work with outstanding professionals from many companies in the energy sector.
I chose Sidley because I worked closely with its FERC regulatory team during my time at Magellan on a number of material pipeline projects, and I was opposite its transactional team on a significant deal as well. There was a comfort level with the firm, its lawyers, their reputation and a well-developed yet still growing energy practice that made it a natural fit and great platform for my return to private practice.
The Lawbook: How is the move from Tulsa to Houston going?
Bridges: It’s going great. My wife and our twin, ten-year old boys moved here in early August and we’ve spent the last several weeks exploring neighborhoods, trying out new restaurants, going to parks and attending Astros and Texans games. While Tulsa is a beautiful and great place to live and work, we’re excited about being in a bigger city with so much to offer and we plan on being involved in the local community as much as possible.
The Lawbook: How many attorneys are in the Magellan legal department? How many attorneys did you manage?
Bridges: We had around 15 lawyers. I had four lawyers who reported directly to me and I worked closely with many others in the course of managing transactions and projects. I was primarily responsible for the company’s legal work for mergers, acquisitions and business development, as well as for our crude oil commercial business segment and construction/technical services efforts.
The Lawbook: What kinds of matters did Sidley handle for you as a client?
Bridges: We worked closely with Sidley’s FERC regulatory team on interstate pipeline tariffs and various matters before FERC, such as petitions for declaratory order to approve new pipeline contract and tariff programs and responding to shipper concerns. I’ve also had some experience with Sidley’s excellent environmental team.
The Lawbook: What are two or three accomplishments you are most proud of from your time at Magellan?
Bridges: I was very fortunate that Doug May, senior vice president and general counsel of Magellan (and my adjunct corporate finance professor in law school), asked me to join Magellan in 2012 when the midstream industry was at its peak of responding to the shale revolution with new crude oil infrastructure projects. The most notable new systems our team developed, and that I spent the most time on and am most proud of, would be the BridgeTex Pipeline System that runs from the Permian to the Houston Gulf Coast area, the Saddlehorn Pipeline System that runs from the DJ Basin in Colorado to Cushing, Oklahoma, and our development of what Magellan calls the Houston Distribution System of pipelines that provide “last mile” transportation of crude oil to Houston Gulf Coast area refiners and terminals, including a new crude oil export terminal we built through a joint venture with LBC Terminals called Seabrook Logistics. They’re all important new assets in the crude oil infrastructure landscape and truly took a team effort to pull off both internally at Magellan and externally with our joint venture members and customers who helped underwrite the systems.
The Lawbook: What are the issues keeping midstream companies like Magellan up at night?
Bridges: Safety and security are always front of mind at an infrastructure company like Magellan. Strategically, given what some would characterize as the industry’s eventual overbuild of crude oil pipeline and terminal capacity, finding creative, efficient and fiscally responsible ways to stay competitive with other strategic peers to attract throughput and usage of assets is also a pressing issue. And socially, midstream companies are having to address important ESG issues and the evaluation, development and investment in alternative energy projects.
The Lawbook: What are the emerging trends or developments related to corporate transactions that you are paying close attention to?
Bridges: The combination of existing complementary midstream assets through new joint ventures, undivided joint interest ownership structures or entity combinations. With so many assets on the map, and the market always seeking more cost-effective ways to get its products from production to market, I think we’ll see a slew of transactions among midstream participants trying to ensure that assets remain actively utilized and re-contracted where possible. This has already happened with crude oil gathering infrastructure in the Permian, and I think we’ll also see it in the form of new strategic connections between pipelines and terminals, and asset owners/operators trying to provide the best wellhead-to-export vessel solutions for their customers.
The Lawbook: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Bridges: I appreciate the opportunity to have this back and forth and I look forward to working with midstream companies and their investors and customers as we all turn the page to the next challenges for the industry.