Industry Shakers: Oil & Gas Finance Guru Joins King & Spalding

Carol M. Burke says she is heartened that oil build and E&P (exploration and production) companies are planning one, three, and five years ahead, now that they have a greater access to capital.

Burke, who started at King & Spalding LLP‘s Houston office in June, moved over to the firm from Reed Smith LLP with two other partners—Susan Berry and Kimberlee “Kim” Cagle.

Burke works in corporate finance, energy, and real estate transactions. She spoke with Bloomberg Environment about the changes in the industry.

“Through the downturn, when the price of oil fell, it was harder to refinance existing debt or obtain additional capital financing,” she said in a phone interview with Bloomberg Environment.

“Now, there are financing sources available as banks and private equity sponsors are reentering the market and high yield bonds are now available. There was $40 billion of U.S. high yield energy issuance in 2017 as compared to $14 billion in 2016.”

When asked where she sees the future of financing going in the E&P markets, Burke said part of determining the future “is determining what’s going to happen to the OCC Repayment Test.”

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency repayment test determines whether future cash flow—using revenue and expense projections and other factors—is sufficient to repay the existing borrowing base commitment within a reasonable time, according to the OCC’s Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Lending Comptroller’s Handbook.

Of the 53 companies that failed the OCC Repayment Test, only three have filed for bankruptcy as of the end of the first quarter of 2018. Burke says that number is much lower than previous years.

“The banks are currently responding by allowing the E&P companies to have more cash management flexibility,” she said.

“There is currently a large number of potential investments under construction or planned along the Gulf Coast of petrochemical or related projects which are largely due to the inexpensive and large supply of accessible gas and the available access to deep ports.”

“I think that the fear of the unknown seems a lot more stable than it’s been in past years.”

In other moves:

Christoper J. Townsend has joined Freeborn & Peters LLP as a partner in the group’s environment and energy practice group.

With more than 20 years experience in the practice, Townsend was previously a member of Clark Hill PLC’s Environment, Energy, & Natural Resources Practice Group.

“Environmental and energy law and policy continue to converge at an increasing pace, with clients looking for creative but practical ways to address emerging technologies, shifting energy markets, and constantly evolving laws and regulations,” said Philip L. Comella, partner at Freeborn and co-leader of the firm’s Environment and Energy Practice Group in a news release.

“I look forward to collaborating with Chris to lead our team helping a wide variety of clients address environmental and energy issues.”

Melissa M. Buhrig has joined CVR Energy Inc. as executive vice president, general counsel, and secretary.

She also will serve as executive vice president, general counsel, and secretary for the general partner of CVR Energy’s petroleum subsidiary, CVR Refining LP and as general partner of its nitrogen fertilizer subsidiary, CVR Partners LP.

Buhrig, who officially began July 2, most recently served as executive vice president, general counsel, and secretary for Delek U.S. Holdings Inc. and the general partner of Delek Logistics Partners LP.

“Melissa’s breadth of knowledge and depth of experience in the refining industry prepares her to perform well in this very critical role for our company,” said Dave Lamp, CVR Energy’s chief executive officer, in a news release. “I am thrilled to welcome her to our leadership team.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Fatima Hussein in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rachael Daigle at