Life in development: Jim Crews

Business News

West Virginia, People, MPLX, Business, Careers
 (L to R) Ben Hardesty (1992 West Virginia Oil and Gas Person of the Year), Jim Crews, Lori Miller Smith (2022 West Virginia Oil and Gas Person of the Year), and Charlie Burd (Executive Director of Gas and Oil Association of WV, Inc. and 2017 West Virginia Oil and Gas Person of the Year)
  • MPLX Vice President of Business Development Jim Crews was named West Virginia Oil and Gas Person of the Year by his peers at the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association.
  • Crews has spent more than 40 years working in the oil and gas business and continues to believe in the industry's future.
  • He shares how his career provided him with a broad knowledge of the business, shaped his leadership skills, and taught him to balance work and family.

MPLX Vice President of Business Development Jim Crews was recognized by the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association as the 2023 West Virginia Oil and Gas Person of the Year for his contributions to the industry.

From West Virginia to California and back home again, Crews has worked in the oil and gas business for more than 40 years. His resume boasts roles in many aspects of the industry that have given him a broad knowledge of the business. Read how his career has shaped his outlook on energy, leadership and life.

What inspired you to select your career path?

I chose energy in general because I love West Virginia, and the three biggest industries here in the early 80s were oil and gas, petrochemicals and coal. Those were my best chances of staying close to home.

At West Virginia University, I started out in mining engineering until I had to go into an underground mine for a survey class. In the mine, you were on your stomach or side in a small space most of the time. I felt claustrophobic and came out of the mine and went straight to the registrar’s office to change my major to petroleum engineering.

Crews with his wife Jodi and their daughter Olivia at the awards ceremony.

I received my bachelor’s degree in 1982, and the industry was booming because of the Arab Oil Embargo. The U.S. needed all forms of energy and the people who could produce it. I started my career as a drilling engineer for Cabot Oil and Gas (Coterra) and worked on a drilling rig for three years. I learned the ins and outs of the industry and was able to apply book knowledge to real world situations in the field. In 1985, I went to work for Babcock and Wilcox Nuclear Power as a field service engineer for a couple of years. Then at Washington Gas Light Company, I worked in design engineering, storage and planning, while getting my Professional Engineers License in mechanical engineering. By the time I was 35, I had worked in the coal, oil and gas exploration, utility, gas storage and nuclear power industries. In 1999, I got my first business development role with Columbia Gas when they formed Columbia Electric to build natural gas-fired power plants.

What is Business Development?

In Business Development at MPLX, we look for ways to grow the company. We work in project teams that include people from engineering, operations and finance who look at opportunities to expand or refunction our facilities to meet our customers’ needs. Once it appears we may have a project, we seek input from government affairs, regulatory and legal representatives to determine its feasibility. Working closely with our customers, we construct our agreements with our attorneys. Business Development is truly a team effort with each party bringing their expertise to the table. My role is to make sure it’s all put together in a logical, methodical manner that facilitates a financial decision.

What excites you about the future of our industry?

I think our industry is the future. We have been using natural gas, coal and oil for 100 years. The 1900s were the heyday of coal and oil. You are going to see the heyday of natural gas. Beginning in 2000, we began seeing an increase in natural gas utilization as an energy source around the world, primarily on the back of unconventional development of shales. There’s a great future for Marathon, and we are evaluating all opportunities to ensure we have a place at the table. I expect we’ll continue to see more natural gas and natural gas liquids opportunities as the world transitions from more carbon intensive fuels to natural gas.

How would you describe your leadership style?

I’ve learned that most people like to be treated the way that you like to be treated: with respect. I give everyone the opportunity to be heard completely. I’ve learned that no one has the market cornered on brains, and that has served me well. Once you get people from all walks of life to express their opinion and then let them run with the ideas, that’s when you find success. If you treat people well – customers, colleagues – they will come back to you and support you in your initiatives.

Business development: Crews was involved in the project to convert the compression station to a natural gas processing facility in Majorsville, West Virginia.

What have been the biggest challenges you have overcome in your career?

Looking at my resume, just staying employed was a challenge at times. But seriously, it ended up serving me well. Those roles gave me a broad background in the oil and gas industry. It all allowed me to be successful in business development with MPLX, and I’m proud of that.

Another challenge for me was balancing family life and business. Working in business development can be travel intensive, and you put in a lot of hours when projects are developing quickly. My wife and I have two children, who are both out of college now. But in the early days, we moved several times, which was hard. We relied on my in-laws to help with the kids sometimes. It takes a good network of support when one person in the family travels a lot. My family was willing, flexible and understanding. I missed some things, but I was able to balance and be there for my family most of the time.

What would you tell others considering a career in the oil and gas industry?

There are going to be many opportunities in this industry. Don’t pigeonhole yourself but try things that interest you. Take advantage of the opportunities that are afforded to you and make the most of them.

How did you feel when you found out you were named West Virginia Oil and Gas Person of the Year?

I was really surprised! That award usually goes to exploration and production people. I’m not the CEO of an exploration and production company. I have some of that background, but I didn’t think I qualified.

It’s special because the people in this association have been my colleagues for many years. Recognition from your peers really does mean a lot. In September, I served as the Parade Marshal for the West Virginia Oil and Gas Festival Parade. I threw candy all day. It was pretty special.


Quick Facts:

Education: Bachelor’s degree in petroleum engineering from West Virginia University

2011: Joined MarkWest, which became a wholly owned subsidiary of MPLX

West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association: Current vice president of the board, past president

Registered professional mechanical engineer in Virginia and Ohio

Career Path

1982-1985: Cabot Oil and Gas drilling and production division in Charleston, West Virginia

1985-1987: Field service engineer for Babcock and Wilcox Nuclear Power in Lynchburg, Virginia

1987-1995: Engineering, storage and planning for Washington Gas Light Company in Washington D.C.

1995-2011: Various positions with NiSource Gas Transmission and Storage-NGT&S (and its predecessor Columbia Gas Transmission)

1995-2011: Design engineer for Colombia Gas Transition (now TC Energy), first introduction to business development

2011-present: Vice President of Northeast Business Development for MPLX