Graham Patton

Vice President of Corporate Development, Validus Energy; Principal, Pontem Energy Capital, Houston

Graham Patton studied petroleum engineering at the Colorado School of Mines and initially joined bp’s Deepwater Gulf of Mexico team as a reservoir engineer. After two years with bp, he left to pursue an MBA at Harvard Business School and transitioned to the financial side of the business, working in investment banking with Goldman Sachs before shifting to principal investing with Citadel. 

Patton subsequently joined Pontem Energy Capital at its inception in early 2020 and serves as principal. Pontem recently acquired Ovintiv’s Eagle Ford asset for $880 million in early 2021 and formed Validus Energy, where Patton serves as vice president of corporate development.

“It’s been a tough ride for all of us in energy over the last decade. While painful, it’s important to recognize the transformation, progress and learnings the industry has collectively made over that period,” he said. “At inception, the Pontem team believed there was an opportunity to generate exceptional risk-adjusted returns during a period of significant market distress, and incumbent upstream investment firms were poorly positioned to capitalize on the opportunity set. It’s taken an incredibly talented team to get us to this point, and we couldn’t be more excited about the trajectory of the business and macro environment.”

Patton recognizes that the energy industry is inherently volatile and full of ups and downs. He believes that passion and perseverance are necessary for future leaders looking to make an impact.   

“Eventually in your career, it all boils down to passion, discovering what you enjoy doing and pushing to become the best at it,” he said. “If the spark is not there, go seek it elsewhere. Without passion, there will always be someone who is more hungry, more willing to grind, more invested. Be strategic and choose the wars worth fighting.”

Unconventional start

“Growing up, I never intended to enter the oil and gas industry. Everyone progresses through life differently. For me, I wasn’t very academically motivated or career focused as a younger kid. A year into college I took a petroleum engineering class, thought it was incredibly interesting and for the first time ever academically found a source of passion and real motivation. It for sure changed my trajectory in life from that point forward.”

Valuable experiences

“My time at Citadel trading public equities was an incredibly formative experience. One of the most effective ways to grow rapidly, both personally and professionally, is being given autonomy, ownership in outcome and real-time feedback. There are very few jobs that offer the luxury of daily, candid feedback on your performance, and while the good days feel great, it’s the bad days that fire you up to reflect, learn, grow and be better.

Being in a public markets seat to witness the structural changes in the upstream oil and gas space and the evacuation of capital from 2017-2020 was a profound experience. It’s helped me build a deeper appreciation for structural shifts in the capital markets and the impact of liquidity flywheels.”

Effective leadership

“The upstream industry is such a unique space. The most effective leaders I’ve witnessed historically are exceptional at understanding the interplay between the financial and technical aspects of the business. Reflecting on the past five years, we’ve all seen countless examples of great assets destroyed by bad balance sheets or great companies ruined by poorly underwritten acquisitions. Those who appreciate and can effectively communicate both languages will differentiate themselves and flourish as the next leaders of the industry.”


“A great mentor and someone who has helped tremendously throughout my career is Bill Lambert, who I worked with at Goldman Sachs and is currently VP of business development at Devon. Bill operated differently than most; he took a genuine interest in young professionals at Goldman, encouraged us to think on our own and speak up, and gave us more responsibility than we deserved. Put simply, he knew highly motivated, smart people would step up and deliver if given the opportunity. Bill taught me the greatest challenge in your career will be to stop thinking about yourself and start thinking about others. You will only grow on the reflected glory of your people.”

Three More Things

  1. My wife is the best laser and cosmetic dermatologist in the Texas Medical Center. If you need work done, call me. 
  2. I am related to General George S. Patton and have a large collection of his historical items. 
  3. I have a crazy two-year-old Goldendoodle named Peanut whose passion in life is to chew everything in the world.