Well, it ended up that my our pleasant time in Midland was only a brief interlude. The company was getting out of the gas processing business in the Permian Basin for good. The office was closing down and many of us were heading back to El Paso. It was a particularly hard move for my son since he was just entering senior year at Midland Lee High School. He had adapted so well there. He had played in the band for a while, was editor of the yearbook, and had made many many new friends. I was hoping he would be coming back to El Paso to re-join his friends from St. Clement’s and it wouldn’t be too awful. But it was.
Meanwhile, it ended up that I was going back to El Paso with no job. Evidently, no one had thought of where I was going to go. No office, no desk. Just a sort of embarrassed silence. It actually took a while for it to sink in since I had always been so fortunate in getting into a job that I loved. There was some talk that I would be given a Principal Engineer position, where is where they put aging engineers that they didn’t know what to do with. At the same time, Rhodes had announced that he hated the new townhouse we had found back out in Tennis West and he wanted to go back to Midland. So did I. Years later, realized I probably should have looked for a job in Midland, especially with the experience I had. But too many years of going to Catholic school and doing as I was told, prevailed and I didn’t even think of it. Meanwhile, a good friend told me there was an opening in Marketing. Marketing was going through a big shakeup with a new VP and a new Marketing Director both from the east coast. Fine with me, I was from the east coast — but anathema to most of the west Texas folks. The job opening was for a Manager and it was a step down from being a Director, but I jumped at it. It ended up that I had gotten the position instead of a favorite from within the Section which I didn’t fully realize at first. But it WAS a job!
In fact, it was a most interesting job. The natural gas marketing function was being deregulated so there was a lot going on. Historically, El Paso had just assumed that the Calfornia customers (PG&E and SoCalGas) would keep on taking gas from El Paso and was even expanding its lines to ship more gas. Unfortunately, El Paso had never demanded that the Califonia sign contracts to take the gas we were producing and sending out to them, and a new gas supply was coming on in Canada. This sent it all into a tailspin.
The whole gas industry was switching over from consolidated supply and demand merchant function to only a transportation function through the pi[peline system. That was an enormous change. Many of the gas producers out in the Permian Basin had long-term contracts with El Paso to take their gas. This contractual situation introduced the term “take or pay” which meant the pipelines had to take the gas or pay for it anyway.
Stay tuned for more adventures!
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