Although it was founded to serve the liquefied natural gas (LNG) sector only five years ago, NextDecade’s leadership boasts a combined 200 years of direct experience in LNG and natural gas projects. This brings a lot of heft to the company’s work.

“We’ve been there, done that,” founder and CEO Kathleen Eisbrenner says. “We know what works and what doesn’t. We believe that attracts customers to us. And at the end of the day, that is what’s most important.”

A relatively new company, NextDecade works closely with its customers to provide tailored opportunities that meet their unique needs. Currently, it offers services such as short- and long-term access to LNG cargoes, flexibility in the purchase of cargoes and assists in the development of infrastructure to accept NextDecade’s cargoes throughout the world.

The company plans to continue to grow as it develops several projects throughout North America. NextDecade is expecting to make a final investment decision on its Rio Grande project in Brownsville, Texas, within the next 18 months, likely second-quarter 2017 and anticipating startup of operations at the end of 2020.

“We have several milestones we’re looking at continually,” Eisbrenner explains.

“We named the company NextDecade fortuitously because our first project will come online in 2020, but it’s important to realize there is always another next decade. NextDecade is not a one-trick pony; NextDecade is a company that builds projects that are meant to last for decades.”

Market Change
The natural gas market is in a constant state of flux, depending on the economy and competition from rival energy sources, including renewables. But this doesn’t deter NextDecade. Eisbrenner says the company is ready to adapt and it even benefits from the changing market. “The lowering of the overall current oil price and perceived oversupply of LNG has created an aura that no more LNG is necessary, yet when we speak to potential customers, we hear the opposite,” she says.

NextDecade continues to develop its world-class projects while bolstering its existing customer base because it firmly believes demand for LNG will remain strong for the long term. NextDecade contends that in the real world of energy consumption, natural gas will continue to be the fuel of choice for the foreseeable future because there isn’t a reasonably priced, more environmentally friendly alternative. “We provide the best incremental fuel and customers want it,” Eisbrenner says. “We’re excited and confident in the business plan we’re executing.”

NextDecade welcomes the challenges of the current market. Shaun Davison, senior vice president of development, says a tough market thins out the competition so only those with strong projects and business strategies will remain standing. “We believe our projects, partners and the way in which our projects are put together means we can withstand these down markets, as opposed to companies just looking to capture an opportunity,” he says. “Those companies will fall by the wayside. This is a great way to get rid of the flotsam and jetsam and the good projects will remain. We’re comfortable with the situation and we are well positioned to come out on top.”

Outside the Box
NextDecade views itself as a community that fosters an entrepreneurial spirit and encourages thinking outside the box. Everyone is encouraged to come forth with ideas on what the company can do better in the LNG market. “The overall attitude is that this is a great place to work and a great place to come forth with an idea,” Davison says. “No one laughs at you or thinks you’re crazy when you have an idea. The company overall is coming up in the world and is young and new and creative and looking to do different things, in an industry that traditionally has been slow to embrace new ideas. This is the perspective of someone who jumped on board here and loves every minute of it.”

Given these attitudes, NextDecade doesn’t find it difficult to find new people to join the company. The industry is small and, given the combined experience of the executive team, the company can call on a wide network of talented people. “That gives us access to resources of people when we need them as we need them,” Eisbrenner says.

Eisbrenner is proud of the team she has assembled and its work in the industry. NextDecade’s goal is to become the leader in the second wave of LNG projects in the next 10 years. “There’s no status quo; we always have to get the job done. But we’re always thinking outside the box and what else we should be doing,” Eisbrenner says. “I feel that building our culture and team is a precious resource for us. We are all of a similar mindset and ambition. Similarly, we place great value on our industry partners, from our EPC firm, CB&I, to our environmental consultant, Ecology & Environment, these companies provide tremendous credibility to our projects and play an integral role in turning our vision into a reality.”