William J. Barrett, a Kansas native who rose to become one of the profession’s top explorationists and company-makers, added to his long list of accolades with acceptance of the L. Austin Weeks Memorial Medal at the AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition in Long Beach, Calif.
In accepting the Foundation’s highest honor, Barrett encouraged the opening session crowd of over 1,200 to “get involved and support the profession through the AAPG Foundation.”
His words should be heeded, for his vision and choices has brought him a storied and half-century-plus career of success, building four successful companies with exploration geology at the core.
Barrett – and companies under his leadership – found and developed 10 giant or near giant size oil and gas fields and a number of smaller fields throughout the Rockies.
He didn’t get a running start on his career. Barrett’s achievements were earned. He was born nine months before the Great Depression hit into a poultry-farm family with nine siblings.
In 1959, after working on the family poultry farm and a stint in the U.S. Army after being drafted, he obtained a master’s in geology from Kansas State University on the GI Bill. He launched his geology career as a stratigrapher for El Paso and later as chief geologist Wolf Exploration/Inexco. It was a well initiated by Barrett that was the discovery of the 200 million-barrel Hilight oil field.
Only a year later, Barrett’s geology led to the discovery of the Madden gas field, which is still being developed. He continued to make finds in Colorado’s Piceance Basin.
When Wolf relocated to Houston, Barrett – by then the father of seven children (the Barretts later had three more) – decided to stay in Denver and formed B&C Exploration, which in 1971 merged into Rainbow Resources.
Barrett then funded a new private sole proprietorship, Aeon Energy, a precursor to the privately held Barrett Energy Company.
Barrett and his partners discovered enormous resources in North Dakota’s Williston Basin. In 1978, Rainbow sold for $40 million, to Tulsa-based Williams Cos.
The third public company Barrett launched, Barrett Energy Co., was begun in 1981 and went public in 1983 as Barrett Resources and recorded big successes, becoming one of Colorado’s largest independent oil and gas companies.
A buyout of Plains Petroleum in 1995 created the sixth largest natural gas operator/producer in the giant Hugoton gas field in southwest Kansas.
Soon after selling Barrett Resources for $2.8 billion in 2001, again to the Williams Cos., Barrett was happily settling into retirement when in 2004 his geologist sons, Fred and Terry (both AAPG members), suggested a venture too good to pass up.
Bill Barrett Corp. was formed and its work in Utah’s Uinta Basin earned Oil and Gas Investor’s 2005 Excellence Award for Best Discovery. The New York Stock Exchange-listed company now has over 300 employees and continues exploring in the Rockies.
He retired, for the third time, in 2007.
Throughout his career, Barrett has been involved in numerous charitable activities.
An AAPG member since 1961 and AAPG Foundation Trustee Associate since 1998, he received the AAPG Norman H. Foster Outstanding Explorer Award in 2003, and in 2009 was named one of AAPG’s “100 Who Made A Difference.”
He has been an integral working member of the AAPG Foundation, where he has served as a Foundation Trustee and on the Financial Campaign Committee. Last year he was recognized as a member of the AAPG Foundation Legacy Society and became an AAPG Foundation Trustee Emeritus.