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Leadership Insight Series: 2nd Annual U.S. Department of State Briefing

An Exclusive Roundtable & Discussion with Rick W. Westerdale, II : Update on the Impact of OPEC

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Roundtable with: Richard (Rick) W. Westerdale II, Director, Policy Analysis and Public Diplomacy Office, Energy Resources Bureau, U.S. Department of State

Although OPEC was the central topic of discussion, Westerdale was sure to cover other current and pressing subjects. He discussed the meaning of the OPEC agreement made in Algeria in November 2016, how it has impacted certain countries and what it means for the U.S. now that it has entered into a shale revolution. Next, Westerdale covered OPEC, its current standing, its future, as well as the issue of compliance. OPEC’s maneuvers do not matter as much during the shale revolution as U.S. producers have adapted to the market dynamic and have been sustained by new technology and innovation.

Westerdale noted that the U.S. is producing 9 million barrels a day while last month, the U.S. averaged 1 million barrels a day in exports. He suggests that OPEC has two choices: 1) either they let the price evolve on its own and balance the market or, 2) they concede market shares to the U.S.

Westerdale described how we are living in an interconnected economy. “When we are in the U.S., for example, filling up our gas tanks, it matters what’s happening in the Gulf and the rest of the world.”

Moving on to Saudi Arabia’s situation and developments, Westerdale noted that the Kingdom meets most of its energy needs through the use of its own crude oil, which takes away from their export opportunities. The U.S. is working with Saudi Arabia on its Vision 2030 plan which seeks to recreate their economy by shifting away from their dominant source of income, oil, and to diversify its energy resources. As an example, Westerdale highlighted that Saudi Arabia has some of the best solar energy companies in the region. However, they are still incurring some structural challenges with regards to finances and regulations.  Therefore, the U.S. is suggesting Saudi Arabia turn to natural gas and renewable resources in order to make their vision a success. Although the Vision 2030 plan is ambitious, it is to be admired as it can present good opportunities for the U.S. and LNG.

Lastly, Westerdale communicated how the U.S. administration is going to affect the energy industry as energy plays a role in foreign and domestic policy. He stated that the new administration’s mission can be explained in four points, below:

  • Enhance global energy security
  • Promote modern and efficient energy infrastructure
  • Ensure energy markets remain open, efficient and running
  • Promote energy related employment

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With over twenty years of experience in the Energy Industry, Richard (Rick) W. Westerdale II is currently Director of the Energy Resources Bureau’s Policy Analysis and Public Diplomacy Office.  Rick leads and directs efforts to identify, analyze, and evaluate the strategic importance of policies in international energy affairs including governance, access to energy, use of renewables and low carbon technologies, and increasing access to conventional energy resources.  He represents the Department in a variety of senior-level engagements and carries out official visits to advance international engagement, forge cooperation with partner-nations and establish agreements on a range of energy security policy initiatives.   Rick maintains liaison with key stakeholders in the U.S. and foreign media and private sectors, other USG and foreign agencies, public groups, NGOs, and organizations with equities in the international arena.

Prior to his current assignment in Washington, Rick was responsible for providing expert commercial & technical advice, guidance, and leadership in the oil and gas sector with a specialization in Energy at the United States Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq.  Previously, with both Westerdale Holdings and GM Ryan International, Rick was responsible for new business development and identifying a suite of strategic growth opportunities; then implementing an aggressive strategy for pursuit and capture. This extended beyond traditional business development that is focused on project / program development and included the development of human capital.

During his tenure with ExxonMobil, Rick last worked within a small staff group that reported directly to the Chairman & CEO. Prior to that, he lived overseas, in the Middle East and Australia, and held multiple senior level positions. He gained extensive commercial and marketing experience by working with host governments and stewarding multi-cultural engagements. While in Abu Dhabi, his duties included initiation of commercial strategies, coordination of internal resources, and development of proposals that included competitive tender submissions as well as direct negotiations. While in Australia, Rick was responsible for overseeing marketing efforts into the Asia Pacific and developed the company’s first equity marketing strategy for LNG. Rick also managed and stewarded non-operator interests within multiple Joint Ventures.

Additionally, Rick has held a variety of positions in ExxonMobil’s downstream business which included Business Unit Manager, Support & Controls Manager, Operations Manager and Engineering Supervisor. These assignments provided both managerial and leadership experience including P/L responsibility, staff development and managerial oversight. Rick’s early assignments were primarily engineering related with construction, maintenance and environmental emphasis. Subsequent sales assignments broadened his knowledge of the industry and marketing, including retail sales.

A native of Winchester, Kentucky, Westerdale received a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Kentucky in 1991.  He was awarded the honorary title of “Kentucky Colonel” for service to his state and community that same year.  Rick earned a Master of Business Administration degree from Averett College in 1994.  He is also a registered Professional Engineer.  Rick is married and lives in Northern Virginia where he and his family are active in the local community.