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Energy Advisory Board Spotlight - William Maloney By Janet Miranda

Image of Bill Maloney

William “Bill” Maloney is on the board of directors of Trident Energy, ATX Energy and serves as an energy advisor to Warburg Pincus. Before that, he was executive vice president at Equinor, which was then known as Statoil, retiring in 2015. In that capacity he played a key role on Statoil’s Corporate Executive Committee, leading business area development and production in North America.

Maloney’s previous roles at the company include serving as senior vice president for global exploration, responsible for all international exploration activity. He also worked for Texaco and for Davis Petroleum after beginning his career as a geologist with Shell Oil Company.

Maloney also serves on AAPG’s corporate advisory board and is the co-chairman of AAPG’s sustainable development committee. Previously he served on the National Petroleum Council and the board of the American Petroleum Institute.

He attended Syracuse University, where he received a master of science degree in geology.

The following conversation has been edited for clarity.

UH Energy: How did you get involved with the Energy Advisory Board, and what do you bring to your role?

William Maloney: I got involved when I was working for Equinor as executive vice president of North America and was asked to get involved by (UH Chief Energy Officer) Ramanan Krishnamoorti, which I obviously happily did. I retired from Equinor a few years ago and now work as a member of several boards of directors and as an energy advisor.

I think I bring an outside perspective to the board. I'm not necessarily bound by one company so I can look at the whole industry in a holistic way. I also bring an understanding of trends and occurrences that I see happening in the industry. From there we can think about the implications of those trends and how they might impact the University and its policies.

UHE: You have a lot of leadership experience in the oil industry. How have you seen the industry change over the years?

WM: One way is the demographics of the industry. They are not near what they were when I first started. It's more diverse in many ways, with more women and many different nationalities. When I first started, it was mostly guys, with very few ladies and not a lot of diversity, and that has changed for the better.

The other thing that has changed is today, many people in industry need to be multifaceted in their views. They must understand their own specialties, but they must be able to learn beyond their discipline and encompass a broader range of knowledge. As an example, if you're an exploration geologist, you also need to know about petroleum engineering, economics and drilling. I think having a broad technical knowledge base is very important today. There is also a lot more social conscience than there was when I first started. Industry professionals really do care about climate and about what the energy industry can do to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

UHE: There’s an ongoing energy transition to clean energy. How do you think Trident Energy will adapt?

WM: A general view from lots of different outside sources or even different company projections is that by 2050 we will still be using oil and gas in significant quantities to provide the energy the world needs daily. If you look at 20 years from now, population growth will be high. Today the total population is about 7 billion people. This number will grow exponentially in the coming decades to about 9 billion.

We are also seeing an increase in overall wealth with the world getting richer in many ways. For example, a lot of communities globally are coming out of poverty. And so, I foresee traditional energy companies still being vital for the future. However, companies need to also be part of cleaner air solutions, and you see many starting to tap into cleaner energy. The Oil and Gas Climate Initiative is a great example. The initiative is global and includes 13 companies. The U.S, is represented by ExxonMobil, Oxy and Chevron. The entry ticket to that initiative is $100 million, so in total that’s $1.3 billion toward developing technologies to lower carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

You see some companies trying direct carbon capture, either from operational plants or from direct air capture, all of which is about the goal of trying to store or use that carbon in enhanced oil recovery. I think the carbon capture, utilization and storage industry, from an energy standpoint, is hopefully a multibillion-dollar business waiting to happen.

UHE: As energy advisor to Warburg Pincus, what sort of investment trends do you see yielding good returns or innovating the energy industry?

WM: We are seeing relatively low oil prices. Companies, when prices are low, are belt-tightening, with a higher emphasis on costs, which means they don't take a lot of risks. As a result, exploration spending is reduced because that's a bit of a risky business. This leads to a general underinvestment, most certainly in the upstream portion of business. I believe at some point in time that is going to cause issues. That’s a trend that might have an impact on the energy industry.

At Warburg Pincus, it's all about how we get the most out of the companies Warburg Pincus is already funding. People like me that are on the board and do advisory work help toward that mission. Additionally, we keep a watchful eye on new areas to get into and invest. If there are new businesses to get into, well, what are those? Who are the management teams that could make those business plans happen? And what's the risk profile of that business?

UHE: You began as a geologist for Shell and eventually you moved to leadership positions. Did you planned that move? How did your previous experiences help in your career?

WM: I think being a geologist helped because geology is the kind of discipline that forces you to think from the big picture down to the small, which I think is helpful in in management as well. When I was younger, I did have the goal of wanting to be an exploration manager, which I eventually attained. However, I never thought that I was going to be an executive vice president of a big oil and gas company. As time goes by and you mature in your career and are given positions of increasing responsibility, that reality hits you hard. When I was younger, I wanted to be in management, but I wasn’t dreaming of a top job. That came later.

UHE: What advice do you have for students seeking to enter the energy industry?

WM: Students can't do anything about the state of the industry. You know that's going to fall out where it does. They can focus on building their hard skills. In various technical disciplines, whatever their area of expertise is, for example engineering or what have you. But they must also work on their soft skills, such as communication, written and verbal skills, along with being someone that will embrace change, because it's always going to happen. Realize that persistence, perseverance and determination are equally as important as any hard skills in engineering or geoscience.

They will be looked at by their peers and supervisors not only for their IQ, but their EQ, (emotional intelligence). This means how they get on with others and how they manage feelings and relationships. I think students these days need to work on both hard skills and soft skills and prepare themselves so that when the opportunity does come, they are prepared in a broad and comprehensive way.