Meet Our Chairman
In an exclusive interview with Construction Global magazine, our Chairman and CEO, Greg Michaels, answered several important questions on Monkey Island LNG. The following is an abridged version of this exclusive interview!
1.What does your role as Chairman and CEO entail?
As a leader, I have always had the mind-set to only ask my team to do things that I have either done before or that I’m willing to step in and execute myself. I see myself as a person that operates in two swim lanes. First, on a macro level, I steer the company in the direction of my vision to achieve long-term success. In that lane, I think about and set policies with our end goal in mind. The other swim lane is my “get-in-and-get-it-done” daily outlook. In this lane, everything is a lot easier when you surround yourself with the right people whose goals are in alignment with one another.
Today, my macro swim lane includes corporate structuring aligned with best governance practices, potential private and/or public financing structures, the company’s capital stacks, potential exit strategies, and the company’s long-term operational needs.
2. What was the rationale for establishing the LNG facility?
With the success of my telecom utility and my three grown children beginning their lives away from home, I felt a burning desire to build world-scale projects that would have a powerful impact on society from both an environmental and financial perspective. I saw first-hand the positive impact to the State of California in regards to air quality when the state switched to clean-burning natural gas as an alternative to dirty fuels.
Many countries around the world are in roughly the same place environmentally California was 35 years ago. There is a global need for natural gas and I saw the opportunity to fill that need. Developing countries that rely on dirty fuels, such as oil and coal, are faced with serious environmental issues they can no longer ignore. The increasing demand for clean, affordable, yet sustainable energy cannot be met with renewables alone. Natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel, is two-thirds more efficient than other fossil fuels, and the United States is the world’s largest producer of this natural resource.
Our Monkey Island facility will liquefy U.S. natural gas and export it globally, enabling countries without gas reserves to take advantage of this cheap and abundant natural resource that meets the energy needs and helps the environmental goals of our ever-expanding global population.
3. What excites you most about the
establishment of the facility?
My daily swim lane includes working closely with and supporting our team on all aspects of the project, from raising early stage project development funds to seeking out and negotiating both natural gas supply opportunities for our customers and offtake contracts for the liquefaction of their natural gas.
I also work with the engineers and EPC team to provide leadership in their negotiations with contractors. I ensure that our engineering selections remain aligned with our ultimate goal of building a safe and commercially sound project with proven choices.
There is so much to say about what excites me about the facility. In many ways, what we are building is an “impact investment.” The local community of Cameron Parish, Louisiana, needs the jobs and infrastructure that are a natural by-product of a facility of this size. The residents of Cameron Parish have been very supportive of the project and are an incredible group of people.
The significant environmental impact of delivering clean-burning and sustainable energy to developing nations at a price they can economically afford is very rewarding. The fact that establishing this facility will make a difference in the lives of so many people around the world is what excites me and the entire team the most. Our investors and other project supporters keep us excited and inspired every day to move this project forward.
4. How has your past business expertise within telecommunications, real estate development, energy, oil and gas supported the development of the facility and long-term vision?
Over the past 20-plus years, I have gained tremendous insight into what it takes to be successful and what it takes for a company to win. Every industry carries specific subtleties and distinct ways in which business progresses. Becoming a student of that industry and surrounding oneself with a team of trusted and competent professionals is a successful formula I have used in my other businesses.
I am fortunate to be able to take my years of success as a business developer, investor, owner, and operator and apply the skills I have learned to this project. To support the project further, it was critical that I develop the right team to evaluate and strengthen my original ideas and vision for the project.
As students of the LNG industry, the team has taken what they know and applied it to researching and learning from the success and mistakes of our competitors. This frame of mind has allowed Monkey Island LNG to efficiently make sound business decisions.
5. I understand you are currently at the design stage. How important is communication in the construction of the project?
Communication with our stakeholders is critical during the design and construction phase of our facility. Monkey Island LNG is committed to the communities where we live and work. We understand the local citizens and landowners have an interest in the proposed project, as it will impact their land and community.
Monkey Island LNG has thousands of followers that have registered for project updates or connected to us via our social media sites. As a company, we encourage participation and collaboration from public stakeholders.
As the project progresses, Monkey Island LNG has plans to institute a Public Participation Plan for effective two-way communication with the local community through our newsletters, workshops, media outreach, open public meetings, one-on-one meetings and focus groups. Furthermore, we stay in regular communication with federal, state and local authorities to ensure that we meet or exceed their requirements for this very important energy infrastructure project.
6. How do you ensure positive working relationships with internal and external partners?
Team alignment is about focusing people’s attention and energy on what is really important for that team to succeed. It’s a stepwise process, both internally with the team and inclusive of all key stakeholders, to provide the team with the conditions necessary to execute tasks effectively.
Monkey Island LNG incorporates a structured alignment process whose purpose is to ensure team member progress in an effective mode of operation as quickly as possible, and then develop the team’s capabilities. This process involves:
Developing a positive project culture.
Empowering an effective organization through mutual respect.
Clearly communicating common corporate objectives for the protection of health, safety and the environment, and rewarding great work as quickly as possible, while simultaneously achieving the project goals and the success of individual participants.
Monkey Island LNG will spend a significant effort on team building and alignment at the onset of the project development that will continue through the project’s lifecycle and normal operation. The quality of a company is directly related to the quality of its working relationships, so we are very selective about the people we hire and those with whom we work with.
7. Has there been any current design challenges to overcome?
Fortunately, no. That is not to say that we didn’t review other designs along the way. Every time we studied different designs and the potential challenges those designs could encounter, we became more deeply rooted in the direction we are taking. I strongly believe that if you want to be successful on a world-scale infrastructure project, you should look at other companies who have achieved the results you want and, whenever possible, emulate them in order to achieve their same success.
We have a team with extensive experience who worked on previous LNG projects, so all decisions we make - from design and technology choices to which contractors to hire - come from selecting only what has worked successfully for other projects and avoiding anything that has not worked, or that hasn’t yet been proven. This strategy has saved us considerable time and money.
8. How do you plan to ensure the safety of workers?
Monkey Island LNG has a corporate commitment and passion for the health, safety and environment of our employees and all participants of the construction of our facility, whether on the site, at our corporate office, or at vendor and supplier sites. We will ensure that our contractors adhere to our HSE policy and procedures, as well as adhere to their own HSE operating system with top management commitment and personal responsibility and accountability from each team member.
Monkey Island LNG will ensure continual HSE training of all team members, which includes monitoring of leading indicators to pre-identify potential risks. Each individual will have authority and the obligation to stop work and immediately address any unsafe situations and behaviors. It is our commitment that each and every worker go home safely every day to their families.
9. How will the facility tie in with the infrastructural needs of the area, in addition to providing long-term benefits?
Development of the facility will bring long-term benefit to the local community and the State of Louisiana in the form of jobs and increased tax revenues. During the construction of the facility, over 1,500 jobs will be created annually during the roughly five years of construction, in addition to 225 permanent jobs for the long-term operation of the facility.
New ad valorem taxes on the facility paid to the State and local government amounts to millions of dollars per year. Infrastructure upgrades required for the project, such as a new bridge and improved highways, will benefit the community and improve property values for our neighbors on Monkey Island.
10. How important is sustainability to you with regards to long-term projects?
Monkey Island LNG considers sustainable development crucial to our project’s success and will cooperate with authorities, non-government organizations and industry organizations on sustainability improvement initiatives. We will create a partnership with the local community and contribute to the wellbeing and development of the area.
The world is moving towards clean-burning fuels to support the environment and reduce carbon emissions, so it imperative that the energy solutions being offered are sustainable by being both abundant and clean to justify the billions of dollars invested into developing these infrastructure projects around the world.
11. What drives you to succeed and achieve your objectives?
As the founder of Monkey Island LNG, it could be said what some have deemed “the founders mentality”, which is a love for the company and its people, an obsession with the company’s vision and major impact it will have on the world, and a commitment to take personal responsibility for the risks and costs associated with every business decision, especially with regards to how it will affect the employees and shareholders. When you are privileged to be part of something great that will change the world and improve the lives of those around you, you work early mornings and late nights because you want to, not because you have to.
Monkey Island LNG has been able to make substantial progress and hit key milestones. It’s a great feeling, and our team is very proud, which further motivates us to keep taking massive, determined action every day so that this project will succeed.
12. What does success mean to you?
I believe success means making a contribution to the world that will have a massive, positive impact. As the CEO of Monkey Island LNG, success will be delivering an affordable and clean-burning energy solution to the world while returning dividends to our shareholders. With our business model, we will be supplying energy to those in need, particularly developing countries, reducing the carbon footprint on the global environment, and creating huge returns on investment for our shareholders and those investors who believed in our vision from the beginning.
Our success is a result of our standards. Monkey Island LNG has set extremely high standards for itself and is run by an inspired and passionate team.