John Chaplin [00:00:57] Welcome to Energy Impact podcast. I'm your host, John Chaplin. And today I'm here with Collin McLelland from Digital Wildcatters, the CEO and co-founder. Thanks for joining the podcast, Collin.
Collin McLelland [00:01:08] Yeah, man. Absolutely. Happy to be here, and getting to nerd out on energy is something that I enjoy doing.
John Chaplin [00:01:15] Awesome, great. Well, yeah, give me a little bit of background. What really got you interested in the energy space?
Collin McLelland [00:01:22] So, I grew up in Midland, Texas, right in the middle of the Permian Basin, the most prolific oil and gas basin in the United States and arguably, one of the most prolific in the world. I graduated high school in 2008. It was in the middle of the Great Recession, and so it wasn't a great time for any industry, to be honest, but oil and gas was also in a downturn.
Collin McLelland [00:01:45] And anyways, I didn't go to school. I was always an entrepreneur. I didn't really know what I wanted to do. I was at a Gold's Gym and I remember specifically I was lifting weights, I was on a bench press and I ran into one of my high school buddies and he's like, "Yeah, I just got a job roughneck on drilling rigs and I'm making 90K a year." And I'm like 19 years old and I was like, "You're making 90K a year?" I started pursuing that and ended up getting a job at the same company that my friend was working at and learned how to drill oil and gas wells. That was the start of my addiction to energy, drilling wells out in West Texas.
John Chaplin [00:02:23] Awesome, so you came in, not right at the beginning of the shale revolution, but pretty close to the beginning and have been riding it ever since, it sounds like.
Collin McLelland [00:02:32] Yeah, it was very close to the beginning. So to give you context, the wells that I was drilling were still conventional vertical wells, 11,000 foot wells. Our rig was extremely fast at drilling them. I mean, we were drilling them in about 12 to 14 days. Most rigs were still taking anywhere up to 3 to 4 weeks to drill an 11,000 foot well. If you look at how long it takes to drill a horizontal well now, just to give you context, you can go 10,000 foot vertically and then 10,000 foot feet horizontally, and we can do that in about 12 days now. Back then, Pioneer Natural Resources didn't even have a horizontal drilling program. And so, I really got to see the shale revolution, boots on the ground.
Collin McLelland [00:03:17] After I had drilled for a couple of years, I wanted to learn about fracking, so I moved into wireline to learn completions and just running and gunning, working 100, 110 hours a week fracking wells. And so, you talk about the shale boom, I got to see it firsthand.
John Chaplin [00:03:37] And on the ground, too. Not many people really work out in the field and then transition later on. A lot of people start off in the engineering and geologist offices in Houston or Oklahoma City or what have you.
Collin McLelland [00:03:49] Yeah. It was interesting because out of my friend group outside of the friend that got me into the industry, all my friends went off to college. A lot of them went off to be petroleum engineers and geologists and landmen and things of that nature. And so, they're off at university for four years or so. And by the time they came out, I had already been in the oil field for four or five years. And so, I felt like this seasoned vet by the time that they actually got out of university. And some of them took that path where you go work at a major oil company and you're based out of Houston. And then, maybe you work your way out to the field office eventually. That's what's interesting about the energy industry is that there are a million different paths that you can take and they're all pretty interesting.
John Chaplin [00:04:44] Yeah. So, you started off working in the field. What really led you to where you're at now, running Digital Wildcatters?
Collin McLelland [00:04:52] A lot happened in between there. One of my first drillers on my rig that I worked for, he had taken a job in Houston for this company that was a joint venture between Shell and Halliburton, originally. They had a really cool technology that was running expandable casing in oil and gas wells, and they needed a project manager. He thought highly of me, so he referred me. And that was in 2014 when I got brought to Houston by that company. The company's name is Venture Global Technology.
Collin McLelland [00:05:29] It was really great because I got to manage millions and millions of dollars of drilling and completions projects. And I was on rigs, deepwater rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. I spent time on the North Slope of Alaska in -60 degree Fahrenheit blizzards. I worked on wells in the middle of golf courses in Los Angeles. And so, I got to spend time in every oil and gas basin in the United States, the majority of them, and really just got great experience there, really seeing oil and gas upstream operations across the entire spectrum.
Collin McLelland [00:06:07] And so, 2018 rolls around. I'd been at Venture for four years and been in Houston and I started building up my network in Houston. And I saw something interesting happening. Like I said, I wasn't interested in going to university. I was always an entrepreneur; I was super interested in technology. And I started seeing this perfect storm brewing up. You had what was called the great crew change. You had Boomers and you had Millennials and there was no Gen X. And the reason that there was no Gen X is because of the downturn in the '80s, Gen X just did not go to school for petroleum engineering or other disciplines like that.
Collin McLelland [00:06:49] And so, what ended up happening was oil and gas was a solid, call it 15 years behind on software compared to Silicon Valley. And you'd go to these trade shows and the software that was presented was developed in the '90s and early 2000s and it looked terrible. And this presented this opportunity where you had these Millennial entrepreneurs who were engineers working in oil and gas companies and they would say, "Hey, I think I can create a better software solution and offer it as a cloud-based solution and go sell it to all these other oil and gas companies.".
Collin McLelland [00:07:28] And so, you started having this little ecosystem of digital tech startups in oil and gas popping up. And the problem was that there was no formal community or ecosystem for them. You'd talk to them, and the biggest problems were there was a lack of early stage capital. "We're building enterprise solutions and we don't have any funding. We don't have champions that are forward thinking to adopt our technology within these large oil and gas companies." And you'd go down the list and there's a few others. And so, I started talking to investors on the coast. I'm like, "Hey, you should look at oil and gas technology. There are some really cool things happening." And they would always ask me, "Where can we go to learn about oil and gas and oil and gas tech?" And there wasn't a single place on the internet to send them to.
Collin McLelland [00:08:13] And so, we started this podcast in 2018 called Oil and Gas Startups Podcast. We weren't very imaginative in the name, but it was straight to the point of what the show was about. And we brought on startup founders and gave them a platform to not only talk about the technological solutions that they were building, but also to tell about their personal story. "How did you get to this point? How did you discover this problem?" And really humanized the business and the industry as a whole.
Collin McLelland [00:08:38] What happened on the flip side of that was the listeners to the podcast were oil and gas companies, exploration companies, oilfield services. You had private equity funds, VCs that were coming to our show to discover these new technological solutions. It ended up, you'd see transactions happen. A startup would come on our show and land a $1 million dollar pilot with an oil and gas company whose engineer was listening to the show.
Collin McLelland [00:09:02] And so, we started doing that and really building this community based off of content. Part of the story is also having this realization that content was the highest form of leverage of our generation. You can now start a podcast or you can start creating content on social media and all of a sudden, you're getting this reach that... Back in the day, you had to have a show on cable TV or you had to have all of this funding, and now it just wasn't like that anymore. And so, I started leveraging that.
Collin McLelland [00:09:40] What we did was we parlayed that into these events called Energy Tech Nights. And the thesis was, "Hey, let's get some energy tech companies to come present it. We'll get the right people in the room, we'll get a couple of kegs of beer, we'll get some pizza, and we'll make it like Silicon Valley-esque and just make it a great environment where people could connect." And it was just a hit. The first one that we did, the company presents, there was an investor, and the crowd ends up placing a $5 million check into their Series A. And so, for a couple of years, we just kept giving and giving and giving value and building this community of young, forward-thinking energy professionals.
Collin McLelland [00:10:14] And so 2020, we decided... There were a lot of things that I tried doing. I quit my job in 2018 and didn't have a plan. I have a wife, three kids. I'm making a little under $200,000 a year. Like, I can't complain and I just quit. And my boss is like, "Why are you quitting?" I'm like, "I don't know. I'm just going to go start a company." Like, "What are you going to start?" I was like, "I have no idea, but I'm going to go figure it out." And so, I was throwing some stuff at the wall. I bought some oil wells up in Oklahoma and found out I didn't want to operate marginal stripper wells that were doing two barrels a day; it was a huge headache. And so, there was a lot of in between stuff there, but in 2020, I decided to go on Digital Wildcatters full time.
Collin McLelland [00:11:01] That was three weeks before COVID hit. I talked to some investors, I talked to some advertisers, and I was like, "Yeah, I think we have a commercial business here." And then all of a sudden, COVID hit and there were no investors, there were no advertisers. We really had to knuckle down in 2020 and really think about, "Hey, what's our thesis here as a business and what are we doing in the future?" We've come a long way in that thought process both on what our thesis is of what we're building and on commercialization fronts. So, I'm happy to talk about what we are today and what our vision is. I'll talk your ear off if you let me, so I'll give you a break if you have any questions.
John Chaplin [00:11:46] It's super interesting what you guys have developed. I'm curious, going back to that it seems like the core thesis was around this large gap. Because I started off in the oil and gas industry. I remember the first software I ever learned was ARIES made by Halliburton. And I'm wondering how could this still exist?
Collin McLelland [00:12:05] ARIES is the poster boy for that. And you know, my friends Armand and Jeremy over at ComboCurve, that was their whole thesis, "We are going to displace ARIES." And I knew those guys when it was just the two of them working out of a house, and now they're a very large company with 300 plus employees. And so, that was the poster boy for it, ARIES for sure.
John Chaplin [00:12:28] So, have you seen a lot of that uptick in adoption of software in particular, but technologies from even these legacy oil and gas firms?
Collin McLelland [00:12:39] Oh, absolutely. If you look at, let's call it the adoption curve of new digital tech... Because I think it's important to bifurcate this conversation a little bit. Oil and gas is extremely advanced when it comes to downhole technology and physics. I mean, there's probably not a more advanced industry in the world. But talking specifically about software and digital tech, yeah, it was always behind.
Collin McLelland [00:13:03] What happened in 2018 and 2019 was... Okay, the ball started getting rolling a bit, but you still had that old adage of oil and gas where it's like, "Hey, we'll just drill another oil well, If we want to gain efficiency, that's cool. If we want to make money, we'll just drill another oil well. 2020 and COVID changed that, flipped the script and really made oil and gas companies and people say, "Okay, how do we become more efficient? How do we extract more value from our assets and our resources and scale that effort while not scaling G&A and personnel in a linear fashion?" I think that really transformed the culture and the thought process.
Collin McLelland [00:13:55] I heard someone say the other day that we would have been better off if we had another year of post-COVID suppressed prices, it would have done us some good. But overall, the culture is changing pretty drastically towards that. And I can tell you that by hard evidence that we have from the things that we do a Digital Wildcatters... We do Energy Tech Night and the company will present and E&Ps, the oil and gas companies are there in the audience and will transact with them. And so, I can tell you from my personal experience from the 2017, 2018 timeframe to where we're at now, it's a night-and-day difference to the adoption of technology.
Collin McLelland [00:14:37] Even when you look at like some of the topics like methane mitigation and flaring and methane management, things like that. If you would have brought that stuff up in 2018, people would have told you to kick rocks. And now it's at the forefront of, "Hey, what new technology is out there for pneumatic devices? How can we replace valves that are leaking? How can we monitor with fixed-wing craft, rotary, drones, satellite imaging?"
Collin McLelland [00:15:07] I'll tell you, there's a large independent operator out in West Texas that's private. The reason I say that they're private is because they have no scrutiny from public markets, from activist investors. And they have one of the most advanced workflows that I've seen with being able to detect methane leaks from fixed-wing craft. And within 24 hours, they have an entire workflow that sends it to an engineer and then to a technician to get out there and fix it. And so, it's pretty cool seeing that. That stuff didn't exist five years ago. And so a hundred percent, the mindset around technology has definitely changed.
John Chaplin [00:15:51] Awesome. Yeah, that's pretty interesting. And it's definitely good to see. Like I said, when I started the industry, I was surprised at the lack of software penetration, but I've seen pretty good inroads there. Tell me a little bit more, because I think you've expanded outright to several other podcast brands or different types of format. So beyond just tech and software, where do you see Digital Wildcatters growing and what are some of the interesting brands you're looking out there to develop now?
Collin McLelland [00:16:18] So, let me start at a 40,000 foot view and talk about what we actually are as a company and what our vision is. Because we always use content as a means to an end to build community, and it's been great for that. But what we're really excited about building is this vertically integrated professional network for energy professionals. What you saw... You hear it between you and I talking. You have digitally native Millennials who are used to software and it doesn't exist in this industry. And then, you start looking at other industries. You look at Stack Overflow.
Collin McLelland [00:16:57] Stack Overflow had a community platform for software developers where you could go ask a question about your code and you could get an answer from the community. Then that answer is indexed in a knowledge graph to where it can be queried. The next time someone has a similar question, they can go query it, find what they need. That type of platform didn't exist for the most technical workforce in the world, which is energy professionals. And so, what started happening was you had these groups of energy professionals start congregating around the internet. You have a group over on LinkedIn, you have a group over on Reddit, you have a group over on Twitter. And none of these platforms were purposely built for the energy industry, so they don't really serve the energy industry. That caused a couple of problems.
Collin McLelland [00:17:39] My favorite problem to point out was over on Twitter. You'd have a production engineer in oil and gas come out and ask, "Hey, why do I have this iron carbonate buildup in my saltwater disposal well?" And two other production engineers would come in and give answers and it was really technical and valuable information. And then two days later, that was lost into the ether. You couldn't find it unless you did a really advanced search on Twitter. And so I said, "Hey, shouldn't we be indexing that information and focusing on this knowledge transfer and knowledge retention because it's a huge problem in the energy industry?" And so, we really focused on building this app which is called Collide.
Collin McLelland [00:18:19] Collide is a professional network for energy professionals where you can come on there and have discussions with people. "Hey, I'm a reservoir engineer out in West Texas," or, "Hey, I'm working on this battery storage technology and I need a oil and gas engineer who's familiar with this permitting process." And just allow people to have these collisions and be able to streamline information and break down silos.
Collin McLelland [00:18:43] What's exciting for us about that is that we're very community-centric company. Community is at the center of everything that we do. We think in the future we're going to have the ability to build this platform where if you're looking for any piece of information, you're looking for a subject matter expert, you're looking for your next gig and want to accelerate your career, that happens on the Collide platform. That's what we're really excited about.
Collin McLelland [00:19:08] And obviously, content and your question about podcasts plays a piece in that. I don't even know how many podcasts we have now. I think we have six or seven of them. They kind of go across the spectrum. You have Oil and Gas Podcast, which we talked about. You have Chuck Yates' podcast. Chuck Yates ran Kayne Andersen's energy fund, a $6.5 billion dollar energy fund. He backed a lot of oil and gas operators. You have Energy Tech Startups, which is hosted by Jason; he's the co-founder of Greentown Labs. He has some really cool energy tech and climate tech companies on there. And so, we'll always use content as a way to educate people and bring people into the Digital Wildcatters community.
Collin McLelland [00:19:53] What's really interesting about what we've built on Collide is we have this product that's called DW Insight. And DW Insight, we've already uploaded 700 videos on there. So, we've taken all the videos from our podcast. We've already taken all the videos from our presentations at Energy Tech Night, all of our panels from our two big events which are called Power and Fuze. And then, we've started bringing in third-party podcasts. Like, my friend Yoshi, she's a reservoir engineer. She has a podcast about petroleum engineering. We've brought in the Distributed Energy Resources podcast. So, we already have 700 videos on there and it's built on this machine learning engine where you can go in there and you can search, "Hey, I'm interested in CCUS." Boom, it'll bring up every video we've talked about CCUS. It has a transcript of the video.
Collin McLelland [00:20:39] Soon in the future, you'll be able to say, "Hey, I want the five bullet points, give me a summary on this." And so, building this search engine... If you're a production engineer for an oil and gas company who's trying to figure out what you're doing on methane management, you don't have six hours to go listen to six podcasts, right? You want answers and to be able to streamline that information. And so, you come to the DW Insight and use this content search engine to search "methane emissions" and get information in a more digestible format. Those are all the things that we're working on.
John Chaplin [00:21:10] Wow. Yeah, those are all super interesting. I mean, it's definitely developing that community but then also giving them the resources to serve that community. That's how you get them to stick around, right?
Collin McLelland [00:21:19] Dude, I love that you said that because that's actually our mission. Our mission is to enable our community, enable them with the platform and resources to go solve the world's energy crisis. I think that the energy crisis is one of the more pressing challenges that society faces. And it's everyone in the Digital Wildcatters community who are working towards solving that problem. Really giving them the resources to be able to do that is what we're about.
John Chaplin [00:21:46] Awesome. Going back to that energy crisis, where do you guys see... I know you're based in Houston and really started off with an oil and gas focus, but how have you guys seen that evolve over the years with all these new technologies? Whether it's battery storage or carbon capture how is that evolving down in Houston?
Collin McLelland [00:22:04] It's funny. I have this graph that I've built, this image... I'll send it to you some time. It's what I call our knowledge graph. And at the center of it, you have oil and gas. Oil and gas still powers 80% of the world; it's at the center of everything. We start looking at these adjacent energy verticals, whether it's renewables, CCUS, geothermal, lithium, bitcoin mining, battery storage, power generation and grid. All of these things are connected to each other. They're all connected to each other. And all of these adjacent energy verticals are dependent on oil and gas for technical expertise, for resources, capital, things of this nature. I can't tell you how many times I get...
Collin McLelland [00:22:44] Last month alone, I had two climate tech startups from Silicon Valley reach out to me. One's a CCUS technology, one's a permitting automation software for renewables. They reached out to me like, "Hey, we need a oil and gas engineer. Probably 15 years experience from an EPC, familiar with the permitting process." And so, I see all of these things already. And it gets me excited. One, I'm very forward thinking when it comes to technology as a whole. And so, I love new technologies. I'm very pro-energy.
Collin McLelland [00:23:20] There are two terms that I hate. One is energy independence. I don't think that energy independence is a real thing. I don't think that it ever can be. We're a global market, and we're dependent on other participants in that market. And it doesn't matter if it's oil and gas or it's renewables. And so, having a diverse energy mix and a secure energy mix is extremely important.
Collin McLelland [00:23:49] Then the second thing is energy transition. There's not much of a transition happening here. Renewables have been additive to thermal generation. And so, looking at it and saying, "Okay, hey, look. Fossil fuels are going to be part of the energy mix for the foreseeable future, so how can we enable technology to make these operations cleaner and more efficient?" Which we are seeing this happening in real time right now, like we were just discussing? And then, what new technologies are there out there for energy production.
Collin McLelland [00:24:19] You know, the thing about energy is energy is very geographically dependent. You don't have any hydropower out in West Texas. There's no water. But you have a lot of wind, you have a lot of solar, you have a lot of natural gas, you have a lot of oil, right? You go up to parts of the Northeast or Canada, they have a ton of hydro but they probably don't have a ton of solar; the sun doesn't shine up there. I'm an energy maximalist. I'm like, "More energy." And I think more energy usage is a good thing for society. How can you build all of these different energy systems and really utilize different geographic regions? And then really, I think the problem that we have to figure out as an industry and a society is transmission distribution, load balancing.
Collin McLelland [00:25:11] One of the things that gets me most excited is virtual power plants. I think it's awesome that on my house, I can have solar panels and I can have a Tesla Powerwall and I can have an F-150 for additional battery capacity that's charged by my house. But I can also have my 12-valve Cummins diesel in case stuff hits the fan and I need a diesel engine. And then, I can get a backup nat gas generator. And all of a sudden, if I have bidirectional metering and I have software that can run all of this, all of a sudden I'm a power plant. And I can send power back to the grid. And you're starting to see this happening in Texas and California with deals with Tesla and PG&E where, all of a sudden, all these homes that have solar panels and batteries are all working together in unison to put 15 megawatts back into the grid.
Collin McLelland [00:26:02] You asked about Houston, specifically. Houston's the energy capital of the world; always will be. You have some other hotspots for energy tech and climate tech. I'll call out Boston here. Okay, yeah, try building hydrogen infrastructure out in Boston. It's not going to happen. Hey, where's the hydrogen infrastructure at? Where can you actually build stuff? It's here in Houston, Texas.
Collin McLelland [00:26:26] I talked to this startup the other day. They're 3D printing rocket fuel. And I didn't even know what that meant, but it sounds cool. They're headquartered up in Dallas, but you know where they're doing their rocket testing at? It's actually out in West Texas, in Midland, my hometown, right in the middle of the oilfield. And it's because why? You've got vast space in a very industrial place that's just used to those things. And so, Texas as a hub is extremely critical for energy. And it doesn't matter what source of energy you're talking about. It's going to be huge in aerospace, it's going to be huge in manufacturing, and it's where the large corporates are too, for resources and funding and engineering resources. You just can't be involved with energy and not pass through Houston or Texas as a whole. It's just, it's not possible.
John Chaplin [00:27:20] Yeah, I completely agree. As a Houston native, I couldn't agree with you more.
Collin McLelland [00:27:28] I was going to say, some people are probably like, "Oh, they're biased. They're from Houston." I've lived in Houston for nine years. I'm not from here originally. I love this city. I think that there's more opportunity in this city than anywhere else in the world, actually, maybe outside of Midland. Midland's got a ton of opportunity for entrepreneurs and builders. But Houston is amazing. It's an amazing place that I think is just going to continue to grow in value with the rise of different energy systems. So, it's a pretty exciting time.
John Chaplin [00:28:02] Yeah, it definitely is. So, I also wanted to touch on Fuze, which is an event I think I'm actually going to be attending later in October. Maybe give me a little bit more info about that or like history. What came about with this Fuze event and what's really driving it?
Collin McLelland [00:28:25] I talked about our Energy Tech Nights a little bit ago, earlier. With Energy Tech Nights, a great event... Those have really grown to where they're like 200 or 300 people. It's a very casual atmosphere. What we thought of was, "Hey, how can we expand this to have a South by Southwest of energy? How can we create this festival style feel that has a focus on energy tech? And so, that's what Fuze is.
Collin McLelland [00:29:00] We did the first one last year. We had about 1,000 people attend. We had great speakers. Keynotes from the CEO of EQT, Toby Rice. EQT is the largest nat gas producer in the United States, actually in the world. You had Mike Skelly come and speak, Mike Skelly's the OG in renewable assets and building those out. You had Jane Stricker. She's runs the Houston Energy Transition Initiative. She's amazing; worked most of her career at BP. And you had a ton of startups across the spectrum. You had the cutting edge technology in electric frack trucks. So, we had two electric frack trucks out there. Accenture was there with their metaverse platform. And so, really the idea there was, "Let's focus on the future of energy tech."
Collin McLelland [00:29:58] This year, I think that we'll probably be a little bit more adjacent to oil and gas and subsurface tech, like hydrogen, geothermal, things of that nature, because you don't want to spread out too too far and too wide. It was a little hard to get in depth on the content on all of those topics. And so, it's going to be a great time. John Arnold... I don't know if you know John Arnold, a multibillionaire hedge fund trader. He was critical in building the first natural gas trading marketplaces that are still used today, and now he's very active in funding renewable assets and transmission. He and Mike Skelly are business partners now on their new venture. And Bobby Tudor will be speaking. Bobby was the founder and partner of Tudor, Pickering, Holt and just very well-versed in capital markets when it comes to energy and energy tech. And so, the idea for any of events is that we focus on collisions. I'm going to go on a rant here, and you can stop me...
John Chaplin [00:31:09] Go ahead, yeah.
Collin McLelland [00:31:11] We talked about software being antiquated in this industry. Another thing that was super antiquated were the events and the conferences and the tradeshows. And every conference that you go to, it was in some hotel lobby and it was stuffy and you had to wear suits and they're serving baked chicken and it was very boring. It looked nothing like Silicon Valley, right? And you go to a big conference or a trade show and it'd be in the convention center and just very awkward. You'd walk up to people; it wasn't very inviting. And so, with our events we said, "How can we flip that script? How can we host a party and inject valuable content in that so that we can remove that friction and actually allow people to connect with each other?"
Collin McLelland [00:31:58] What we coined was we wanted to create these collisions. And those collisions are the catalysts for ideas and collaboration and opportunity. And we've seen it time after time after time at our events that people just run into each other and things come from that. Businesses come from that, deals come from that, funding comes from that. And that's why we named the app Collide, because we want those same collisions that happen in a digital atmosphere now too. And so, when you come to our events, our motto used to be, "Lose the suit and tie." Like, come dressed comfortably. We don't want this to be stale and boring. We just want to get smart people together and enable an atmosphere where everyone can further both their career and the industry, and we've been pretty successful in making that happen.
Collin McLelland [00:32:49] You want a funny story about this? I told you I can talk, so I'm going to make your job easy for you as a podcast host. A funny story is Toby Rice, who I was telling you about, the CEO of EQT... He had to do an interview live on CNBC the day that he was there. And so, we set up a camera and a microphone and everything. The event was outdoors; we did it at a brewery and we had this big stage set up that said "Fuze" across it. And so, Toby's sitting outside with this stage behind him and he's doing this live interview on CNBC. And at the end of the interview, the CNBC anchors like, "And that's Toby Rice from EQT at what appears to be a music festival." So, I was like, "Yes!" I know that we're hitting the vibe there if he thinks that it's a music festival. It's just a good time and we want people to get a lot of value out of it.
John Chaplin [00:33:41] I think your mission statement is well-aligned, being able to lower the barriers to really have people connect from all over the industry and just be able to share that knowledge, share their experiences, and really just bring further people into the energy industry. I remember when I got into it just being amazed at everything that went into it. Some people just turn their lights on and think it's as simple as that. But there's a whole team of people across the globe who are working to make that happen. So, it's pretty interesting.
Collin McLelland [00:34:11] Yeah, most of society thinks that electricity just comes from their wall. They don't understand what it actually takes to create that energy. One thing that I've seen is it's easy to bash those types of people. But you think about it... If you're a kid that grows up in New York City, why would you ever be thinking about energy production? You've never been exposed to it. You never had a medium to really consume interesting content. That's what's been interesting about Digital Wildcatters. We've been able to create content that gets broadcast out to the masses and teaches people about energy so there's an element of raising energy IQ from the content that we do.
Collin McLelland [00:34:52] And then, the second thing I really saw that we had an obligation to be a bridge between traditional energy and new energies. It's easy online... I think social media has ruined society a little bit in terms of everything's always a conflict and people always hate each other. And, "Oh, I like wind and solar. I hate oil and gas." Or, "I'm oil and gas. I hate wind and solar." And on Twitter, on Reddit, people are fighting.
Collin McLelland [00:35:18] I get those people together in the same room all the time and you find out that, one, people are much more cordial in person. And two, there's actually not that big of a gap between how people think and operate in energy. That's what we did with Fuze last year, like, "Can we bring people together from all these different energy backgrounds and have a successful event?" And we did that. That's what happens when you allow an environment for people to connect and just share information and knowledge with each other.
John Chaplin [00:35:54] Right. That's exactly right. I think it's always surprising when people who think that renewables and oil and gas are at odds learn that most renewable assets are in West Texas where there's plenty of wind and solar to be able to be mined. It's the same people who used to work in oil and gas that are usually working on those asset developments as well.
Collin McLelland [00:36:14] Texas is the leader in wind power generation. A lot of people don't know that, in the United States. And I think soon they'll probably be the leader in solar power generation as well. You go out to my home out in Midland, Texas. Guess what? It's drilling rigs, frack jobs, pumpjacks, but then you have a ton of wind farms, you have a ton of solar arrays. To your point, it's a lot of the same technicians, a lot of the same landmen, a lot of the same financing groups, so there's a lot of overlap between them.
Collin McLelland [00:36:41] Again, that shows more ignorance than anything, and that's just something that needs to be educated on. And I love looking at West Texas. Like, West Texas is pro-energy. If West Texas had water they'd have hydropower too. And so, really looking at that like, "Okay, how do you increase energy production across all energy systems and maximize what you have available?" I think that's super important moving forward.
John Chaplin [00:37:14] Yeah, definitely. Well, yeah, I'd love to ask quick questions. You're at the collision point for all these technologies. Outside of oil and gas and, let's say, solar and wind since those are pretty developed, what is the new technology that you think is really gaining a lot of interest or has a lot of momentum behind it?
Collin McLelland [00:37:35] From an energy production standpoint, there's a lot of talk around geothermal and hydrogen. My good friend Tim Latimer, CEO of Fervo Energy, is doing some big things with geothermal. But I think the key point of what you asked is like, "What's new?" And you look at geothermal... Geothermal is not new. We've been doing geothermal since the '70s. Really, it's the advent of new drilling technology in oil and gas that has enabled geothermal to now look appealing. But even at that, I mean, you're still looking at small scale.
Collin McLelland [00:38:10] What I'm actually interested in is small modular reactors and nuclear. I think that nuclear energy, we discovered it too early and then we figured out how can we use nuclear technology to kill people instead of power the world. And then we had some incidents and it's just put too many layers of bureaucracy and scar tissue on it. But like, if we discovered nuclear technology today we'd be like, "Oh, this is the answer to a lot of our problems." And so, I'm pretty interested in SMRs. Nuclear fusion is another thing that's interesting to me. I think that there's probably more hype than substance around it at this point, but I do think that humans will eventually figure that out.
Collin McLelland [00:39:05] If you look at nuclear, it's pretty funny. There are two responses about nuclear from the oil and gas industry. The first response is, "Yeah, of course nuclear is the future. We understand energy density." The second response is, "Hey, don't tell anyone nuclear is the future. It could displace oil and gas." But at the end of the day, everyone understands that nuclear is a solid answer. There's a lot of pushback out there, especially from the renewable crowd, that nuclear is not economic.
Collin McLelland [00:39:33] But my point is, you look at offshore wind right now. It seems to be a zero interest rate phenomenon. Projects are getting crushed. And so, if we're going to subsidize energy, why not subsidize nuclear over non-dispatchable renewables? It's unfortunate that nuclear has so much baggage with it, but definitely interested in geothermal, in SMRs, in maybe some hydrogen in the future.
John Chaplin [00:40:10] Yeah, definitely. Like we talked about earlier, it's not really one winner take all. It's going to be a diverse energy mix that's appropriate for whatever area we're talking about and whatever resources are available.
Collin McLelland [00:40:24] Yeah. You know what I do think is interesting? I don't like to talk about individual technologies. I like to talk more about conceptual systems, I would label it as. I think that North American manufacturing is onshoring. You're going to see it in places like Texas and Mexico. And what's going to happen is that these manufacturing plants are going to start co-locating with energy assets. So whether that's solar, wind, geothermal, they want access to cheap and reliable energy, so they're going to go straight to the source.
Collin McLelland [00:41:02] I think that's super interesting when you think about hydrogen, especially in things like steel production which has so much CO2 emissions that if we can replace fossil fuels in that process, now you have geothermal or wind. It's powering electrolyzers that are producing hydrogen. And now that the hydrogen is the input and the feedstock to produce steel like we talked about with virtual power plants earlier. Those are the things that I'm pretty excited about. You know, I love Bitcoin mining as dispatchable load for load balancing. It's hard to be like, "Hey, what's one thing that you're excited about," because there's a lot of cool stuff happening. And it's not necessarily just like, "What's one cool energy production that I'm excited about?" I'm more excited about how all of these systems tie together in the future.
John Chaplin [00:41:58] And play together. Yeah, that makes sense. And it's going to be a pretty interesting world over the next couple of decades to see how these solutions get married together. You're right, I think the co-location is where most energy sources are headed. Especially with the renewables today, but even battery storage and other solutions in the future.
Collin McLelland [00:42:18] If you look at society on a timeline, we haven't been producing energy like this at a commercial scale for a very long time. We started whaling and getting whale oil, and then we discovered oil and gas over the last, call it really 100 years. We really started commercializing the oil and gas industry and then over the last couple of decades started building out renewables.
Collin McLelland [00:42:48] It's interesting that you brought up, "What's one energy tech you're interested in?" I don't even believe... The future of energy? I don't think that we've discovered it yet at this point. You think about it, if there are advanced civilizations out there in the universe and they are traveling the cosmos, do we think that they're powered by wind and solar or even nuclear? Probably not. It'd be pretty ignorant to sit here and say, "Hey, definitively, what we have now is what we have in the future." No one would have ever thought that we'd be doing what we're doing with oil and gas back in the 1800s, early 1800s.
Collin McLelland [00:43:30] But I think if you plot that out on a timeline, like you said, the next couple of decades are super exciting and interesting because so much is changing and is changing quickly. That change opens up opportunity. You look at how cycles are shifting. Tech software is moving into a recession. And now all of a sudden, energy is cycling up and bringing new technology into the energy industry. And so, it's just a very exciting time to be in this industry and be involved in it.
John Chaplin [00:44:06] Yeah. I couldn't agree more. Well, Colin, thanks for joining and telling us more about Digital Wildcatters and all the events and media going around it. I'm looking forward to participating in Fuze. Any way that people can get in contact with you? What's the best way to engage with you from the audience?
Collin McLelland [00:44:25] You can find me, personally, anywhere on the internet. My name is fracslap on ever social media. So, you can find me on Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn. Pretty easy to find there. If you want to engage Digital Wildcatters, you can go to digitalwildcatters.com. If you're an energy professional and you're interested in joining Collide, you can find Collide at collide.io. It is free to join. We have a beta group of users in there, so we need help squashing bugs and feedback on features. So, we'd love to have anyone's help on that.
John Chaplin [00:44:59] Great. Awesome. I encourage any of our listeners to absolutely do that. Well, thank you, Collin. You have a good one.
Collin McLelland [00:45:05] John, appreciate you, man. Thank you.