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Tom Seng

From landman to renewable energy entrepreneur

man with dark hair wearing a black crew neck sweater smiling
Mo Abdalla

When Mohammed (Mo) Abdalla graduated with a B.S.B.A. in energy management in 2011, he — as so many others do — took his new knowledge and skills and parlayed them into a well-paying career in the oil and gas industry. After just two years of working as a landman for ConocoPhillips, however, Abdalla had a change of heart and vision. This led him to seek a new path forward in the blossoming field of renewable energy.

Following a year traveling the world, Abdalla returned home to Texas and, in 2014, founded Good Faith Energy. “My company’s vision is to transform the energy ecosystem with smart, sustainable, reliable technology,” Abdalla said. “Simultaneously, I want to ensure a positive and lasting social and environmental impact.” Perhaps fittingly for someone who was born in sun-washed Egypt, at the center of Abdalla’s business is designing and building solar energy systems for homeowners and businesses.

“Mo is a great example of the kind of versatility the energy management program helps to develop in our students,” said Tom Seng, the director of TU’s School of Energy Economics, Politics and Commerce. “While Mo ultimately decided the oil and gas industry really wasn’t for him, he was equipped and motivated to pursue a different avenue within the energy sector. He and Good Faith are now part of the energy transition occurring here in the United States and across the globe.”

Sustainability from end to end

For Abdalla, renewable energy is “one of the few industries where you can have an impact on the triple bottom line: You can make a sustainable living, create long-term sustainable jobs and lower your carbon footprint along the way. For me, that’s also the kind of legacy I want to leave behind.”

five men standing on a rooftop smiling
Mo Abdalla (center) flanked by Good Faith Energy team members

But the switch from conventional fossil fuels to renewables – let alone starting a business from scratch focused on green energy – was not easy. From 2014 to 2018, Abdalla focused on acquiring knowledge (including by completing the Social Impact Strategy program at the University of Pennsylvania), building relationships and gaining experiences from various project developments and industry mentors. Good Faith’s first customer did not appear until 2016 and Abdalla did not start drawing a salary until 2018. “But I always viewed startups as much like a college degree,” he mused; “if you can achieve success in four years, then it’s worthwhile continuing the pursuit!”

Growing a startup organically has been, hands down, Abdalla’s biggest and proudest professional accomplishment. From boot-strapping Good Faith Energy with an initial loan of just $20,000, Abdalla can now claim over $30 million in lifetime revenues. “In addition, there’s so much satisfaction in knowing we are putting 540-plus meals on the table every day for our amazing employees while also positively impacting the planet,” Abdalla remarked. “Altogether, that’s what keeps me motivated and passionate each and every day.”

What’s in a name?

The name Good Faith Energy came to Abdalla in 2014, while he was floating in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Peru. But it wasn’t the result of a heavenly revelation. Instead, it dawned on him that all the oil and gas contracts he had read subtly included the legal clause “in good faith.” As Abdalla puts it, “I knew right then it was time to redefine what “good faith” means when it comes to energy generation and contracts.”

Ingredients for success

Being an entrepreneur and a good leader “requires being grounded, well-rounded, interpersonal and resourceful,” Abdalla said. “You also need a high pain threshold and have faith that what you’re creating will prove useful enough to humanity that people are willing to spend their hard-earned dollars to pay for your products or services.”


Abdalla also credits TU’s energy management program with equipping him with a diverse set of skills that have “proven essential” in a startup setting. “In particular, I learned so much from Professor Tom Seng. He opened my mind to the benefits of renewable energy technologies and encouraged and supported me in my entrepreneurial venture – while many others distanced themselves from me entirely. TU played a huge part in transforming me into a ‘solarpreneur.’”

Green futures

According to Abdalla, the future is dazzlingly bright for people who want to work in the field of renewable energy and distributed generation: “Green careers are the careers of the future, and the future is now!” As pledges to reduce carbon emissions continue to be made around the U.S. and much of the rest of the world, Abdalla sees exponential growth in the demand for rooftop solar, utility-scale renewables, energy storage systems and other smart-grid technologies necessary to reach those goals.

How about you? Does a future in green energy quicken your pulse and stir your ambition? Then you definitely need to check out TU’s energy management program today!

School of Energy helps Oklahoma communities grapple with natural gas supply, distribution and pricing

Poster advertising the OMAG natural gas seminar in Glenpool and WoodwardLike much of the southern United States, Oklahoma endured frigid conditions for two weeks in February 2021. In addition to all the burst water pipes in people’s homes, a number of smaller municipalities across the state got stung by extremely high natural gas bills – from $4-$5/MMBtu in a normal winter, Storm Uri led to several days where natural gas ran at $1,000/MMBtu and higher. Most of these communities cannot easily afford such exorbitant bills and many lawsuits have been initiated over failure to pay or non-performance by suppliers.

In order to help city managers, supervisors and public works superintendents get a stronger grasp of how natural gas is supplied, stored, distributed and priced, Collins College of Business Professors Tom Seng and Buford Pollett recently developed and ran educational seminars in Glenpool and Woodward.

In search of profitable and sustainable distribution systems

man in blue polo shirt pointing towards a large screen
Tom Seng

These seminars were requested and sponsored by the Oklahoma Municipal Assurance Group (OMAG), which provides property and casualty insurance for 500 towns and cities in the state, including Muskogee, Bartlesville and Ponca City. Approximately 50 smaller Oklahoma municipalities – from Guymon and Tuttle all the way down to tiny Ramona and Burbank — operate their own natural gas distribution systems. These communities typically do not employ specialized staff to oversee those systems. Yet, such systems play a large part in enabling them to fund their municipal operations.

“OMAG’s goal is profitable and sustainable natural gas distribution systems with less uncertainty and better positioning to exploit opportunities,” said Bill Tackett, OMAG’s director of strategic initiatives. “This follows our belief that the best-run cities and towns have risk exposures that are less severe and less frequent in nature, which also promotes a higher quality of life for their citizens.”

In discussions with OMAG clients, Seng and Pollett found that most, if not all of OMAG’s cities and towns have little understanding of the workings of the natural gas marketplace. “To some extent,” Seng remarked, “that leaves them at the mercy of more knowledgeable suppliers where they could potentially be taken advantage of.”

The power to make better decisions

man standing in front of a podium speaking
Buford Pollett

Seng and Buford saw this awareness gap as an opportunity for the School of Energy Economics, Policy and Commerce to provide them with information about the natural gas industry that could help them in their procurement decisions in the future. “We also wanted them to understand better the events of last February as this winter approaches,” noted Pollett.

One of the brass tack challenges is that larger communities have greater purchasing power when it comes to natural gas procurement. The relatively small volumes most of OMAG’s clients consume impose more administrative burdens on the suppliers who charge a premium for such services. However, that sometimes can lead to a lack of attention to these smaller accounts which, when prices become historically high, can be very costly for these cities and towns.

a group of about 30 adults seated at tables in a room
Attendees at the Glenpool seminar

According to Seng, who traded natural gas in the mid-continent region for most of his career and has worked for natural gas transportation and storage companies, “despite natural gas procurement being a small portion of the duties of those managing Oklahoma’s smaller municipalities, they need to understand both the marketplace and supply chain.” They also require a “deep understanding of the industry’s standardized agreements for the purchase/sale of natural gas, transportation and storage, and pipeline and utility tariffs for service.” Meanwhile, as a lawyer licensed to practice in Oklahoma, Pollett was able to bring to the seminars his extensive knowledge of the detailed provisions of such standardized agreements.

“OMAG is thankful to Tom and Buford for sharing their valuable knowledge in the areas of price discovery, nomination, storage, contracting and the roles and responsibilities of natural gas providers,” said Tackett. As a next step, OMAG will explore with these two experts how to build on the seminars in order to strengthen further the business operations of Oklahoma’s municipal natural gas distribution systems.

Safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable energy for the future: If you’re interested in a career in this growing, profitable sector, check out all the educational pipelines on offer at TU’s School of Energy Economics, Policy and Commerce.

Extra energy

The Landman Scholarship Trust has granted scholarship awards to 13 undergraduate and one graduate student studying energy management at The University of Tulsa for the 2021-22 academic year. “Our students received a total of $50,000 in scholarship awards from the Landman Scholarship Trust,” said Tom Seng, the director of the School of Energy Economics, Policy and Commerce. “This generosity is much appreciated, especially given the state of the oil and gas industry over the past year.”

The following undergraduate scholarship recipients are enrolled in TU’s BSBA in energy management program:

  • Ashley Allgood
  • Brett Bowman
  • Ileana Braddock
  • Michael Carson
  • Jerik Embleton
  • George Enterline
  • Jonathan Fisher
  • Alexandra Lesner
  • Luc Lignieres
  • Matthew Rhoads
  • Luis Salazar
  • Ryan Still
  • Jannethe Sanchez Vidales
man smiling, wearing glasses, dressed in an open-collar shirt and a dark-colored blazer
Jeramiah Cooper

Jeramiah Cooper received a 2021 American Association of Professional Landmen (AAPL) Landman Scholarship, which honors university students in energy-related fields of study for their academic and leadership achievements. While he works as a staff landman with Apache Corporation in Texas, Cooper also finds the time and energy to be a student in TU’s online master of energy business (MEB) program.

“I am extremely thankful to the AAPL for their continued support of professional landmen like myself who are pursuing higher education degrees through AAPL-accredited universities,” Cooper remarked. “Even more, I cannot say thank you enough to those professors at TU who have sacrificed their time to impart wisdom from their career onto those of us students in the MEB program. Thank you for your time, effort and dedication to the program.”

Both the undergraduate energy management program and the MEB are accredited by the AAPL. The undergraduate program is one of only nine AAPL-accredited programs in the United States, while the master’s is one of only three that has received AAPL accreditation.

“This year’s scholarship award recipients from AAPL’s accredited programs represent very special attributes,” said Nancy McCaskell, CPL, chairman of the Landman Scholarship Trust. “They are the best and brightest, and they have persevered and excelled despite unprecedented obstacles before them. During the pandemic, they have continued to move forward with their dreams. They have learned and participated online, continued to strive as leaders in their own communities and local associations and have provided an example to all of us of dogged determination and academic excellence. We look forward to the impact each will make as future leaders in the land and energy profession. The Landman Scholarship Trust and AAPL applaud every recipient.”

The Landman Scholarship Trust was established in 1959 by the American Association of Professional Landmen, a professional industry association that promotes the highest standards of technical and ethical performance for all women and men engaged in the practice of landwork associated with the stewardship of energy and mineral resources. Since its inception, the trust has granted over $1.5 million in scholarships to students aspiring to careers as land professionals in the energy industry.

To be considered for a Landman Scholarship Trust award, an applicant must be a full-time student in a petroleum land management (PLM) or energy management (EM) program at one of the 15 AAPL-accredited programs. Applicants must also have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or greater, be a student member of the AAPL and serve as an active member of the student organization associated with their university’s PLM/EM major if available.

Energized by the energy business? Then look no further than TU’s dynamic School of Energy Economics, Policy and Commerce.