Colorado native Porter Bennett is fueled by the energy business. After more than three decades in the coal, oil and natural gas industries, the 54-year-old formed Denver-based Ponderosa Advisors in 2012. The boutique firm leverages advanced databases and analytical tools for clients involved in energy as well as agriculture and other water-related industries in Colorado and beyond. He recently sat down with CoJoradoBiz to share his love of the energy market-through its ups and downs.
You attended Colorado School of Mines. How did that set you up for future career pursuits?
I had just finished a degree--masters in international affairs at Columbia University--and I studied Chinese and mostly economics, resource issues. I came back here and visited a number of different companies and they all said, 'You've got an interesting background but you don't know beans about energy. So I got a full-ride Ph.D. fellowship up at Mines, and that's how I got started. The day I got accepted into that program I got a job.
Describe some of your early work.
I built a big database of all the local coal mines in the Rockies, the utilities that bought their coal, and a little bit of information about the coal quality. I left Mountain West, bought that database and co-founded RDI in 1982. I had a non-compete with coal, and had met some guys in natural gas. I started working and building an information system around natural gas markets.
Briefly describe your company BENTEK.
Every year we did a survey and assessment of 100 utilities all over the country, and we sold those multi-client studies starting in 1991.
Then in about 2003 we began to reform our company, and interest in Rockies' natural gas really began to pick up. So I figured maybe I'd do a multi-client study. The prices got really low, and producers wanted to know why. I knew why--it was because the pipelines were too congested. But I couldn't prove it So I started playing around with the operational capacity report on the interstate pipelines. I realized that if you decode all the receipt and delivery points, you could put the information together associated with each point and build a daily supply and demand balance for the country. What was ironic was there were a couple other companies that sold the raw data from the pipelines, but they didn't know what to do with it. We were charging five times what they were for the same data because we had made sense of it. You couldn't trade without it in the end.