Carl Porter An Expert On Both Sides Of Natural Gas Business

By Jeff Share, Editor | May 2011, Vol. 238 No. 5
Buyer's Guide

During his lengthy executive career, Carl W. Porter has worked on both sides of the natural gas aisle – as a pipeline operator delivering product to consumers and on the service side providing operating companies with the latest tools designed to make their companies more efficient and ultimately leading to better-served customers.

There are few people who have such intimate knowledge of the natural gas business as Porter, now vice president of gas sales and marketing for Itron Inc., an industry leader in the manufacture of advanced metering systems for the gas, electric and water business. The Michigan native joined Itron in 2008, just as the Spokane, WA-based company began a determined march to increase its presence in the natural gas industry with the development of several new products.

His career also includes stints as president and chief operating officer for SEMCO Energy Inc., senior vice president of operations for New Jersey Natural Gas, and vice president of operations for Western Resources.

In an interview with P&GJ, the avuncular Porter talked about his work and changes he has watched move the natural gas business to the forefront of the nation’s energy picture today.

P&GJ: What made you decide to get into the energy industry and what was the career path that led to your current position?

Porter: When I graduated from college, I was fortunate to be hired directly into a two-year management trainee program at MichCon (now DTE). In the first two years of the program, I worked in every department at the utility. You never forget the basics of every department and that helped me throughout my career. I later focused on the business side of the utility to eventually become director of operations.

After 17 years with MichCon, I was fortunate to work at Kansas Power & Light (now Westar) and New Jersey Natural Gas. I ended my utility career at Semco, where I served as the company’s president and CEO. Nine years ago, I made the switch from the utility side to the vendor side.

As the VP of Gas Sales and Marketing at Itron, I enjoy the opportunities to develop new products and solutions for an industry where I have served my entire career. Transitioning from the utility industry to the entrepreneurial world has been very satisfying. I couldn’t be happier.

P&GJ: How have you seen the gas industry change since you began your career -both from utility and service-side perspectives?

Porter: The biggest changes I’ve seen have been greater focus on gas safety and tighter policies and standards. As consumption of natural gas continues to increase, we are always looking for ways to improve delivery reliability and safety. Tighter policies have led to programs such as Operator Qualification (OC) that ensures the natural gas work force is properly trained.

P&GJ: What are some of the biggest challenges that operators and service providers face today?