Paths to Success Weren't Smooth

'You Can't Even Find Oil at a Gas Station'

Humor, tales of woe, euphoric moments of success relived — it was all there at the recent Legends in Wildcatting 2003 event sponsored by the Houston Geological Society.

As five honorees shared their career stories with the SRO crowd of 565 attendees, their enthusiastic, optimistic nature was much in evidence.

In fact, it was clear from the get-go that wildcatters share not only these traits but a number of others, including a sense of humor.

 

Marvin Davis

"H.L. Hunt once told me, 'The guy that drills the most has got a chance of coming up with the most,'" said renowned wildcatter Marvin Davis during his turn on the dais.

"Well, early on, I drilled 80 straight dry holes," he said, "and I was walking around talking to myself. I figured there was no oil left in the U.S.

"I remember I took my family on an outing, and when we went to the gas station the pump didn't work," Davis said. "That's when my wife told me, 'You can't even find oil at a gas station.'"

But the best was yet to be. The tenacious oilman hung in there to ultimately amass a fortune drilling oil and gas wells and also venturing into other businesses, including the film industry.

Please log in to read the full article

Humor, tales of woe, euphoric moments of success relived — it was all there at the recent Legends in Wildcatting 2003 event sponsored by the Houston Geological Society.

As five honorees shared their career stories with the SRO crowd of 565 attendees, their enthusiastic, optimistic nature was much in evidence.

In fact, it was clear from the get-go that wildcatters share not only these traits but a number of others, including a sense of humor.

 

Marvin Davis

"H.L. Hunt once told me, 'The guy that drills the most has got a chance of coming up with the most,'" said renowned wildcatter Marvin Davis during his turn on the dais.

"Well, early on, I drilled 80 straight dry holes," he said, "and I was walking around talking to myself. I figured there was no oil left in the U.S.

"I remember I took my family on an outing, and when we went to the gas station the pump didn't work," Davis said. "That's when my wife told me, 'You can't even find oil at a gas station.'"

But the best was yet to be. The tenacious oilman hung in there to ultimately amass a fortune drilling oil and gas wells and also venturing into other businesses, including the film industry.

Perseverance just goes with the territory.

Michel T. Halbouty

"I've drilled thousands of wildcats and explored in 25 of the 33 producing states" said honoree Michel T. Halbouty. "And I've drilled in some of which have yet to produce," he added wryly.

"At one time, I discovered 14 straight fields and followed this streak with 36 straight dry holes," Halbouty, a past president of AAPG, said. "It almost destroyed me.

"Wildcatting can be heartbreaking," he admitted, "but my credo is: Don't quit, don't give up."

Although on the cusp of 94 years of age, the legendary oilman continues to hunt for new oil and gas finds on a full-time basis.

"I couldn't live without wildcatting," he said, "even though I've gone broke twice."

Besides the need for such traits as optimism and creativity, Halbouty emphasized that successful oil finders must have faith in their own convictions. They must rely on their own geological reasoning no matter how different or far out it might seem.

"Many good potential oil finders have been ridiculed by a boss who stifled a good idea with overbearing arrogance born of ignorance," he noted. "Never be afraid to experiment with an unusual idea or concept — and once you're convinced, go for it."

Robbie Gries

Honoree Robbie Gries, past AAPG president, shares this conviction.

"Some of the best fun in geology is taking risk where you're challenging a dogma," Gries said.

Both Gries and Halbouty expressed optimism that the United States harbors the potential for substantial new production. Halbouty emphasized, however, that it won't be found if no one drills for it.

Bill Barrett

His wildcatting cohort, Bill Barrett, is doing his part to make it happen.

Barrett continues to enjoy immense success drilling in his longtime stomping-ground, the Rocky Mountain region. And he thinks there is a lot of oil and gas yet to be found in conventional traps.

Sometimes known to flout the conventional approach to finding oil and gas — he once used a nuclear device for a frac job (EXPLORER Century Issue, December 1999) — it was much in character when he said, "I think ultimately a large part of our job is to make the unconventional conventional.

"That's what innovation is," Barrett continued, "looking at or doing something in a way not done before."

Lessons and legends go hand-in-hand in the viewpoint of this oil finder. Noting he has experienced decades of lessons accompanying both successes and failures, Barrett opted to share some of these with the audience:

  • Timing is important; never underestimate it.
  • If necessity is the mother of invention, technology must be the father. It will open up huge reserves for you.
  • Despite reliance on geology, geophysics and such, it's still about creativity and motivation of talented people. Keep an open mind for ideas and ways to do things.
  • Be a VIP — strive for Vision, Integrity and Performance as values for yourself and your company. Your reputation in the industry is more important than reserves on the books — and more delicate.
  • Innovation is exacting, precise work. The details are the difference. A lot of conventional thinkers overlook the details that might lead to an unconventional discovery.
  • Geology has been the one consistent thread through (my) experiences and successes. Utilize the geology. It will help find a lot of oil and gas and decrease the number of dry holes.
  • Hitting singles are for guys named Peewee. If you don't take a swing at the big reserves, you're never going to hit it big. It's better to have drilled and lost than never to have drilled at all.
  • Protect the environment, but challenge onerous, unnecessary regulatory and environmental regulations. Become involved in the political process, and fight for what is fair and right.
  • Listen to your gut. Science, technology and numbers are king, but trust your instincts, which are formed through past experiences.

Thomas Barrow

Honoree Thomas Barrow also had some sound advice: "Listen to the new geologists," he said, "they have great ideas."

He should know.

While earning his doctoral degree, Barrow's dissertation project focused on the stratigraphic and structural history of the East Texas Basin. The project, which was sponsored by Humble, convinced the company to drill the discovery well for the huge Neches Field in east Texas.

"A hundred million barrels from a graduate student isn't bad."

bsecwwybvyzwstvszvac

You may also be interested in ...