The American Petroleum Institute and America's Natural Gas Alliance are steeped in ongoing merger talks, according to industry sources, causing consternation over the future of employees at ANGA and the loss of what some say is a "pure gas voice" in the industry.
One industry consultant said the merger appeared to show API in the driver's seat, while other sources said a deal that combines the nation's largest oil and gas industry groups would strengthen the hand of API President and CEO Jack Gerard.
"I'd say it's less of a merger than an acquisition, but ANGA was never going to be in the empire-building business anyway," the consultant said.
The consultant also said the merger makes sense in light of ANGA's accomplishments under CEO Martin Durbin's leadership.
Durbin in 2013 went to ANGA from API, where he served as executive vice president of government affairs. He had also worked at the American Chemistry Council, which represents the interests of major U.S. chemical makers (EnergyWire, March 27, 2013).
"You can actually argue that under Marty's leadership, they've achieved a lot of what they set out to accomplish, even with commodity prices in the tank. So I don't think anyone's overly surprised by this," the consultant said.
But financial incentives may also underpin the discussions.
The drop in oil and gas prices has left ANGA's members with little funding to spare on lobbying efforts. Of the 14 companies listed on its website that report earnings independently, only two made a profit in the second quarter. The other 12 lost money during the quarter, including well-known names such as Chesapeake Energy, Range Resources and Devon Energy.
Another industry source expressed concern that joining the two groups could dilute the "pure gas voice" if ANGA is folded into API. But the source said the potential merger wouldn't affect the loud call for export of domestic gas, which has already received a warm welcome on Capitol Hill.
"ANGA members are pretty much pure gas," the source said. "You lose a little bit when you lose an office full of people that are talking about the virtues of gas, gas abundance, gas issues every day and all day."
A spokesman for ANGA declined to comment on the rumored merger, as did a spokesman for API.
"In the current price environment, API's members are focused on improving efficiencies," API spokesman Carlton Carroll said in an email. "API and ANGA have a history of collaborating on issues of importance to U.S. natural gas producers and we expect that will continue. We have no comment on internal organization discussions."
Reporters Manuel Quiñones, Mike Soraghan and Mike Lee contributed.