TEMC Industry Spotlight
Keith Maxwell, CEO
NuDevco Partners and National Gas & Electric
I was born in Houston, TX in 1964 and raised in the Briargrove area, where I
graduated from R.E. Lee High School in 1983. Throughout my early years in
Houston, I experienced a highly dynamic era of Houston’s development, in which
Houston became the culturally diverse, energy capital that it is today. What I didn’t
realize at the time was that I was living through both economic and energy-related
cycles that would later become the ﬁrst building blocks of my career.
After high school, I was set in my heart early-on that I wanted to stay in Texas for
college. In 1983, I headed to The University of Texas at Austin, earning a degree in
Economics in 1987. Post-graduation, I moved back to Houston to ﬁnd a job and
to be closer to my family. The late 80’s were an extremely chaotic time in the
energy industry as a whole, with Houston itself experiencing many high and lows.
I was fortunate enough to ﬁnd a job and started my career working for a natural gas consulting ﬁrm,
specializing in gas deregulation.
In 1977, the Department of Energy Organization Act transferred most of the regulatory functions over
the electric power and natural gas industries, which had been subject to control by the Federal Power
Commission since 1938, to the FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission). This was the beginning
of the movement toward deregulation of the natural gas industry and allowed customers the choice in
purchasing their natural gas, known as “open access.” President Ronald Reagan signed a law deregulating
natural gas in the mid-80’s, which allowed gas producers and marketers to use the free market for
unregulated pricing and marketing of gas via interstate pipelines nationwide.
The ﬁrm I started working with out of school was at the forefront of this movement for deregulation. At
the age of 25, I saw the opportunity to leverage what I had learned and took my ﬁrst huge leap of faith.
In 1989, I co-founded a gas marketing and gas gathering company, Polaris Pipeline Company. Through
the development of new relationships, we were able to grow the company in a highly fragmented and
still newly developing energy market. The accelerated growth of the company was due, in large part, to
the open movement of gas to new high yielding markets in the Midwestern and Northwestern industrial
base. We later built a network of gathering gas lines and treating plants in north Louisiana. The key to our
success was building strong partnerships at both ends of the gas pipeline network, of which many we are
still partnered with today. Over the next 4 years, we consistently achieved growth year-over-year, and in
1993, sold the company to a much larger utility marketer.
I quickly realized that relationship development, whether with suppliers, customers or counterparties,
is the key foundation of starting and growing successful companies. Shortly after the sale of Polaris, I
helped co-found another gas and oil marketing company called Wickford Energy. It was here where I
learned about the oil marketing side of the business, whose markets operate vastly dierent than the gas
side. Oil marketing relied partly on movement in pipe, but had several other options that gas didn’t have
at the time, including barges, rail, and trucks. We built an oil storage and gathering terminal on the Sabine
River in East Texas as another way to enhance our marketing abilities and revenues. In 1998, Wickford
was bought by Black Hills, a power and gas utility company in the Midwest.