According to the United States Congressional Research Report of 2021, the U.S. is the second largest producer and consumer of energy in the world. Between 2000 and 2019, energy production increased by 42% and renewable energy production rose 91%. But the energy industry is in the process of transition. The electricity infrastructure of the United States is aging, and uncertainty exists around what technologies and fuels will be used to produce electricity in the future. This is a quandary that Black Mountain, under the direction of its founder and CEO, Rhett Bennett, is working to resolve.
Rhett established Black Mountain in 2007 and the organization now encompasses several business units that operate in the areas of exploration and production, electric vehicle battery metals mining, commercial saltwater disposal, and midstream infrastructure and in-basin frac sand mining. With over 127 years of combined engineering experience and over 99 years of geoscience experience, the Black Mountain group has evaluated more than $25B of exploration and production acquisition and divestiture transactions, and management has drilled 3,100 horizontal wells, as well as supervised the production of an additional 19,600 horizontal wells. Since 2016, the company has invested over $900M in natural resource development and built 6 in-basin frac sand facilities across the U.S., thereby reducing costs for E&P operators nationally, while becoming the 3rd largest frac sand company in the world.
Rhett’s notable contributions to the energy industry have not only earned him numerous awards, including The Oil & Gas Awards Future Industry Leader, Ernst & Young SW Region Energy Services Entrepreneur of the Year and National Finalist, and D CEO Magazine’s Oilfield Services CEO of the Year, but also piqued our interest in this foremost authority and trailblazing entrepreneur. We spoke with Rhett to learn more about Black Mountain’s role in the energy industry and how they are paving the way toward the future.
Rhett, can we start with a brief synopsis of the divisions that operate under Black Mountain?
Absolutely. I founded Black Mountain in 2007 to capitalize upon opportunities in the natural resources sector. While our early investments were in oil and gas, a business unit we continue to grow today, we have diversified over the years and now have numerous business units. In the oilfield services industry, our business unit, Black Mountain Sand, began operations in 2017 to address the market void for high quality, cost-effective in-basin frac sand. Today it is the largest in-basin frac sand mining company in the world. In 2018, we established Black Mountain Metals to gain exposure to the rapidly emerging electric vehicle revolution. We took the approach of a focus on the derivative of natural resources extraction to this thematic, specifically Class I nickel sulfide and copper. We currently have ownership in five nickel mines and related midstream infrastructure in Western Australia. Just this year we have founded Black Mountain Carbon Lock, to leverage our subsurface expertise in the nascent carbon capture industry – one which we think will be enormous in the decade ahead.
And is there a collective strategy for these entities?
Yes. Black Mountain’s strategy is to always maintain incredible intellectual curiosity and to pay close attention to global trends, even when inconvenient. Being in the natural resources business forces you to do that. We strive to be early movers, and a part of that is our understanding and tolerance of risk. When we arrive at a conclusion, we move right away. That has allowed us to be where others want to be, earlier. We are currently leveraging this model in Western Australian via our metals and upstream oil and gas divisions. The world is going to be in acute need of massive amounts of battery metals this decade, and we also fundamentally believe in the future of natural gas in Asian markets, in which Australia has a massive logistical advantage.
How is Black Mountain contributing to the energy industry’s progress?
Black Mountain Metals is a global battery metals mining company facilitating projects from development and into production. We bring together world-class assets, talented people, and strong capital partners to ensure the energy transition demand resulting from the electrification of the world can be met by helping supply the battery metals required. Our objective is to fuel the electric revolution with an eye towards ensuring sustainable and ethical sourcing of battery metals, and strong environmental mining practices. As we focus on these energy transition projects, from battery metals mining to carbon capture, we also continue our traditional oil and gas production efforts. The electric vehicle revolution is here, yes, but we still have a crucial need for oil and gas production for 2+ decades ahead. We are striving to stay ahead of the curve in the delivery of the next generation of natural resources.
What led you to start Black Mountain?
The purpose of starting Black Mountain was to build the foundation of a durable natural resources business of which I could be proud. I wanted to identify and capture high-growth opportunities in the natural resource space. It was second nature to me, having been raised in a coal mining family, and my family was always wonderful in pushing me to venture forth and cut my own path in the world.
What does the future look like? How do you see the next 10-20 years playing out?
Global energy demand will continue to grow, as does the global population. This will mean we need to continue an “all of the above” strategy. Unequivocally, we will continue to need oil and gas, as well as need and welcome energy transition efforts. There absolutely needs to be an emphasis on investing in the natural resources required by energy transition if there is to be any hope of it occurring. The world is currently slow to capitalize good mining projects that support the electrification of the world. Mining is still seen as a dirty and hard business; that needs to change. Geographically, Western Australia is poised to become one of the most relevant and critical natural resources areas in the world. From nickel to lithium to copper to iron ore, it’s endowment of critical minerals is unrivaled. That’s a really interesting investment area to watch.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I appreciate the game of business and enjoy seeing where our brand can go. I enjoy the challenge of creating, so oftentimes, our business activities take us into new areas where we see interesting and thematic fundamental shifts. And we then go early. Our brand and the company have created tremendous stakeholder value in a diverse set of businesses, something I’m very proud of.
Rhett serves as a board member of the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers, and as chairman of the executive committee of the Fort Worth Wildcatters, and member of the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA), the Texas Independent Producers & Royalty Owners Association (TIPRO), the National Association of Royalty Owners (NARO), the American Association of Professional Landmen (AAPL), Young Professionals in Energy (YPE), and the Fort Worth Petroleum Club.
CEO and Founder, Black Mountain