Suzanne Ogle: Leading the Way To A Clean Energy Future

The 10 Most Innovative Business Leaders to Follow in 2022

In a fast-moving, dynamic world that necessitates energy for almost every task, natural gas can help us work our way to a net zero future.

Energy provides a better life experience for people everywhere, and the world still needs a lot of oil and gas, more than the average person thinks. 

Energy growth worldwide is happening, and Suzanne Ogle, the first woman President & CEO of the Southern Gas Association (SGA), is on the forefront of the energy revolution, helping the world edge closer to a net zero future.

A builder at heart

Suzanne never dreamed of landing in the energy industry and grew up in California, the daughter of a pilot-art director duo. As a result, the natural gas industry was not on her radar. Her unexpected entry into the oil and gas industry came after moving to Houston, Texas.

“The processes and systems that allow our country to flip a switch and have reliable power enticed me,” she says. “The coup-de-gras of my move to natural gas were dedicated and talented professionals. Even in times of adversity, they pull together to achieve a common goal: Powering America and now the world.”

For 30 years, Suzanne worked in various roles, spanning the sector: service, production, and midstream. As a child, she recalls having spent years scribbling business plans on the back of a napkin.

“I have always been a builder at heart, so start-ups suited me – I did three,” she says. “There was no doubt in my mind that growing a business would play a vital role in my career. Then, in 2019, I was presented with the opportunity to run the Southern Gas Association. Naturally, I jumped at the chance.”

Meeting the world’s energy needs responsibly and equitably

Southern Gas Association membership provides the tools, resources, knowledge transfer for natural gas operators to meet the world’s increasing need for power in an environmentally responsible and equitable manner.  They do that by providing a place to learn, connect, and innovate.

For more than a century, SGA has focused on developing individual professionals and advancing the industry by linking people, ideas, and information. As a result, the industry has redefined how to produce transport, market, and deliver natural gas.

Their members number approximately six hundred and represent the industry from drill bit to burner tip, or in plain language, from exploration and production to the distribution companies that provide natural gas to residential and industry and all those in between.

As a leader whose members are evolving with the needs of society, Suzanne’s internal measure of success is SGA’s ability to help them lead the energy evolution. Not to just to comply with investor demands, but to run toward the goal because it is in everyone’s best interest.

“In terms of business, success is leading Southern Gas Association in a way that empowers our members, my staff, and the community in equal measure, she elaborates. “I strive to create an environment that removes obstacles. My purpose is to drive results, set the vision, and share it, but it is equally essential to lift all boats.”

Suzanne believes that we cannot create a sustainable clean system by “doing a thing” or “eliminating a thing.” The energy transition mandates system-level engagement and collaboration – one that encourages and enables people to think and act beyond the status quo.

The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new. ~ Socrates

Natural gas plays a key role in delivering the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals designed as a blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

As a leader helping to advance clean energy, the most significant role SGA’s team plays is to cultivate a problem solver vs. fault finder mindset. Their role in helping to redefine energy is by gathering bright minds and technically savvy professionals and asking questions like “how might we?”

“It is not a dichotomy to have net-zero operations and provide communities with affordable and a resilient energy system that includes natural gas,” says Suzanne. “As we innovate, we must be customer obsessed, community obsessed, and world obsessed. We should make sure that policy does not get too far ahead of technology.”

She believes that we must take care of people in an economically and environmentally responsible manner and step through the energy evolution in a way that does not create a hardship. “We do not want to create a have and have-not dynamic, here in America or globally,” she says.

Envisioning the path to a clean energy future

Suzanne believes that innovation and evolution are the ante for players at the clean energy table. Operators across SGA’s membership base are learning, sharing, and iterating on ideas and implementing technology that will reduce emissions and deliver clean energy.

The natural gas industry is full of visionaries who are not content with resting on past success. Operators are consistently searching for different and superior ways to deliver energy.

They are integrating renewables into existing systems, incorporating alternative fuels like renewable natural gas and hydrogen, or deploying groundbreaking technology like Carbon Capture and Underground Storage (CCUS). 

“CCUS is superior to no emissions because it captures Co2 emissions and removes them from the atmosphere by combing it with bio-energy or direct air capture to balance emissions that are unavoidable or technically difficult to abate,” Suzanne explains. 

SGA provides a fertile environment for collaboration and creativity among engineers, industry professionals, innovators, and research. Cross-functional teams with diverse expertise and viewpoints are the stakes at the table for innovation.

“Our Board and committees have the best and brightest professionals,” says Suzanne. “To facilitate innovation our team uses a top-down and a bottoms-up approach for farming information and cross collaboration. By weaving together strategy and what is happening on the front-line, in the field and with the customers, material impact is possible.”

In 2020, SGA realigned their committee structure to align with this approach and help lead with innovation. “We realigned staff based on their experience, values and character, and then empowered them to do what they love – help supply the world with energy,” Suzanne explains.

As stakeholders demand more environmental, social and governance (ESG) efforts, regulations tighten and consumers increasingly expect organizations to act, it is SGA’s goal to help their members demonstrate that they are purposeful about sustainability, hold strong ethical standards and operate responsibly in everything they do.

“Then we will be able to provide energy, create meaningful change, and deliver a clean and resilient energy system that is good for business, society, and the planet,” says Suzanne.

Navigating the challenges facing the natural gas industry

Suzanne sees three primary challenges facing SGA’s members and the natural gas industry. The first is to produce, transport and supply natural gas with fewer emissions.

“What companies need right now, more than anything, is to leverage their asset base and energy industry expertise to develop projects to reduce their environmental footprint throughout their operations,” she says.

SGA is the leader in leveraging existing infrastructure and people, and they have been doing this for 114 years. They created committees that focus on innovation and breakthrough technology and then support ideas with cross-collaboration and sharing of best practices and also for implementation.

“The second is to navigate the great resignation,” says Suzanne. “Industries across the United States are facing a real challenge with talent retention and recruitment. As a result, thousands of new professionals are entering the industry.”

She explains that the best way for new people to learn and gain experience quickly, is by gaining broad exposure across the industry and building a network. SGA provides that network and cross-collaboration like no other association because they have tens of thousands of professionals across the industry value chain, sharing experience and ideas.

“We are going to help that new hire who is working on the pipeline today turn into a leader in the next decade,” she promises. “Beyond all the technical skills needed to run safe and efficient systems, our members will need to continually develop the softer skills of communication, collaboration, and innovation.”

Suzanne believes that to attract and retain a diverse workforce, it is a priority to consider the social dividend. “We are making money and we are providing low-cost, reliable energy for the world. Plus, we are doing it in a way that is helping to meet the world’s energy demand with an eye on the emissions targets of the Paris Climate Accord,” she says. 

Suzanne also explains that Southern Gas Association’s leadership training helps leaders keep people motivated and maximizes the creativity and purpose of Millennials and GenZ, while their Energy Leadership certificate provides training to harness power of diverse teams, maintain culture with remote teams, build trust, and lead at a systems level.

“The third challenge is to ensure cost-effective and safe operations,” she says. “Southern Gas Association helps our members reduce risk and increase safety with people and systems.”

Suzanne explains how lowering cost requires the relentless pursuit of improving efficiencies in every aspect of the value chain. Lowering carbon emissions mandates best-in-class operational practices as well as continued technology development and deployment.

“Our historical success and resources make SGA valuable for sharing knowledge of assets and improving safety through resources like our PSMS Tactical Guides, Benchmarking, and workshops,” she elaborates.

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Living with purpose and growth

Suzanne defines success as living with purpose. “Personally, I view success as a process – a process characterized by growth,” she says. “For example, success might look like courage to pursue a passion, being a steadfast mother, or investing time and energy in the people that matter in my life. But most important is learning how to do it better as I navigate this life journey.”

She also believes that challenges do not define us, our response to them does. In the process of testing limits and capabilities she has learned a lot, mostly about using her strengths in a generative way.

Experience is a hard teacher because she gives you the test first and the lesson second.

“People have taught me lessons,” she says. “One taught me that it is easier to turn the knob than to kick the door down; another taught me to make sure I include the impact on people in my communication; all valuable lessons.”

Focus on the work-life equation

Suzanne believes that the work-from-home world has benefits, but it has also taken a toll on leaders who need to manage day-to-day business, maintain culture, and nurture employees.

Her day starts at 4 am with a cup of coffee, when she gets uninterrupted focus time to respond thoughtfully. From 7.30 am to 5 pm she gets on back-to-back calls with members, prospective members, business partners and staff.

 “I do not embrace the term, work-life balance,” she says. “Instead, I choose to focus on my work-life equation. In short, I think of my work and life as an equation where the time I spend on important areas of my life must add up to the number of hours in the week.”

Leadership is aspiring for greatness and making an impact

Describing herself as “tenacious,” Suzanne finds challenges and changes motivating, and values them as an opportunity to sharpen her sword, apply creativity, and develop grit.

The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth of the hole and how long you plan to stay in it.

“But not everyone can live comfortably in that ambiguity,” she observes. “So, in terms of my team, I think about them as individuals. It is essential to learn what motivates them. With that information I can create an environment that nurtures behavior.”

Suzanne knows that leadership is not easy, and it is not for everyone. She believes that what the world needs is really good leaders who have a solid foundation, and bring the strength of their foundation to serving the business, the employees, the customers, and the suppliers.

 “While I never saw it as a roadblock, nonetheless, it was a challenge to be a female leader in a male-dominated industry,” she recalls. “I am the first woman President and CEO in the history of the Southern Gas Association, a legacy of more than 114 years. My appointment reflects the SGA Board of Directors’ focus on long-term value creation for Association members.”

When Suzanne joined the industry, she was a novice, just as many of SGA’s Introduction to the Natural Gas Industry students are today. 30 years later, she has gained much experience and built relationships. “To me, the best recognition and validation of my endeavors is that incredibility talented people, that I know, want to join our team,” she says.

“You can’t put a price on eager”

Suzanne’s recommendation to aspiring leaders is to find the aspect of leadership that energizes them and make sure that the opportunities they pursue are within that realm and environment.

“You do not want to be at a startup if you need process, and you do not want to be at a large company if you want to think and do outside your ‘box.’  Remember, there are leadership roles for everyone. Find your niche,” she advises.


Her advice to leaders is to aspire for greatness, for the impact they can make, more than the paycheck they can earn. “To aspiring leaders, I would say (1) it’s fun (2) it’s demanding work and (3) be present,” she says.

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