UT System kills Texas Oil and Gas Institute after 3 years, $12.8M

Mar 11, 2018 by

When a blue-ribbon task force recommended that the University of Texas System establish an energy institute with research and academic chops reminiscent of Sematech, the computer chip consortium that helped spark Austin’s high-tech expansion, the system’s Board of Regents rose to the challenge.

“This is a great initiative, without question, and one critical to the state and the university system,” then-Chairman Paul Foster said in August 2014 as the regents voted unanimously to establish the institute. Francisco Cigarroa, who was chancellor at the time, said it was “at least a 10-year plan,” adding: “We will get the very best person in the United States or the world to lead this effort.”

The UT System hired Jeffrey Spath, whose credentials include a doctorate in engineering, a stint as president of the Society of Petroleum Engineers and a 32-year career with oilfield services giant Schlumberger Ltd. that saw him take on assignments around the world and rise to vice president.

But the system’s sunny ambitions for what came to be known as the Texas Oil and Gas Institute soon wilted like a flower in a hailstorm, an American-Statesman investigation has found.

Not long after Spath was hired in September 2015 as chief executive director, system officials began scaling back his mission. And by November 2017, they quietly decided to shutter the Houston-based institute, telling him in a letter that it no longer reflected “current strategic priorities” but praising his “excellent and productive service.”

Source: UT System kills Texas Oil and Gas Institute after 3 years, $12.8M

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