A New Experiment in Energy

Brian Brantley, general counsel for SeaOne Holdings, is playing an integral role in the company’s pursuit of a radically new model for natural gas transportation

Brian Brantley

“You don’t get an opportunity like this in our industry very often.”

Those are the words of Brian Brantley, who has lately found himself in a special position. As general counsel, and the only in-house attorney, for SeaOne Holdings, he’s been able to leverage his past experience to become a key player in SeaOne’s overall business strategy. And that strategy is nothing less than to disrupt the natural gas transportation market.

SeaOne has created a patented compressed gas liquid (CGL) process that liquefies, transports, and delivers both natural gas and natural gas liquids in a uniquely cost-effective way. “From a technology standpoint, SeaOne is light-years ahead” of the other energy companies Brantley has worked for, he says. “Our system may become the new industry standard in how gas is transported. The storage and transportation business is a pretty traditional place. You don’t usually get the chance to innovate like this.”

Certainly not in Brantley’s prior roles, including his time as an outside advisor in M&A and corporate finance and his work as general counsel at an established public company that operated marine terminals and pipelines. “In-house is different than an outside advisor, and in-house at an early stage company is different than at a more mature business,” Brantley says. “At this stage, everything matters. You need to be engaged in all aspects of the business to understand the objectives and what factors will drive success. This means engaging with the engineers, the finance group, the marketing team, everyone. You can’t just sit in your office. But for me, that’s a good thing.”

Brantley joined SeaOne in 2016 and, as a department of one, is responsible for all the company’s legal concerns, from contracts and litigation to management of outside counsel. The most important task is making sure the company’s contracting strategy supports its overall business, finance, and regulatory objectives—because it is, in essence, trying to do something that’s never been done before. “We have a very innovative group here,” Brantley says. “My role is to support them and their efforts to push limits and accomplish our goals.”

He came to SeaOne after the successful sale of his previous company. “I was looking for the next project, and I got introduced to the CEO here,” he says. “He described the new system and the business opportunity. The patents were done, the permits were done, the groundwork was in place, but there was a lot to do to turn it into an up-and-running business. It was an incredibly impressive group who had come up with a really innovative business model. It was a perfect combination of being on the front end of something that was also very real, so it was an easy sell for me.”

SeaOne’s propriety system is, simply, a more efficient way to transport natural gas and natural gas liquids, Brantley says. Traditionally, maritime transportation of natural gas has used liquefied natural gas (LNG) technology. LNG requires extreme cryogenic temperatures of -260ºF and can only deliver natural gas, not liquids. SeaOne instead uses natural gas and liquids together to create CGL, a process that requires a much more moderate -40ºF, and can deliver gas, liquids, or custom blends. “Ours doesn’t have to get nearly as cold,” Brantley says. “The impact of that is smaller, safer facilities that cost less to build. An equivalent LNG plant would require several hundred acres; ours is on about thirty-two. We also have the flexibility to deliver gas, liquids, or custom blends to our customers at a fraction of the cost—something impossible with LNG technology. There is nothing else like it out there, and we have the patents.”

SeaOne is building its plant in Gulfport, Mississippi, and it will begin sending CGL to receiving terminals in Caribbean market locations by mid-2020 (see sidebar). “Caribbean nations are looking for efficient ways to source US commodities for power generation and other uses,” Brantley says. “Our system allows them to access the US commodity markets directly and have the products delivered at a significantly lower cost than anything else out there.”

Along the way, Brantley’s job will continue to be to help take what the company is doing and “make it work in environments that aren’t always geared to innovation, be they regulatory regimes, capital markets, or just day-to-day contracting,” he says. “We have to accommodate what is traditional with what they have never seen before. That requires some creativity—and that is the fun part of the job.”

Stats on SeaOne’s Gulfport, MS, Facility

32 acres of land the facility will occupy in the Port of Gulfport

40 length, in years, of SeaOne’s lease on the land

1.6 billion total capacity, in cubic feet per day, of compressed gas liquid production that SeaOne expects the facility to reach

number of neo-panamax CGI carriers that will be built for phase one of the project

$3 billion the capital cost of the first phase, including the vessels

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Butler Snow:

“Butler Snow is honored to work with industry leaders such as SeaOne and its talented leadership, including Brian Brantley. We congratulate Brian and SeaOne on being recognized for their efforts to provide service to the Caribbean and Central American countries who struggle to meet their energy needs. Butler Snow is proud to represent energy clients such as SeaOne throughout the US on a variety of issues ranging from project development and large transactions to complex litigation and disputes.”

—R. Wilson Montjoy II