“Oil is first found in the human mind.” -William Pratt, a pioneering
Petroleum Geologist, and a Wildcatter.
My definition of a “Wildcatter” after having spent my entire career as an Exploration Geologist is that rare breed of oilman (and much more rarely, oil-woman) who creates major exploration projects targeting world-class reserves of oil and natural gas in areas (or at depths) not previously recognized to produce.
A wildcatter is the quintessential alpha, a lone-wolf Independent oil professional who runs far ahead of the pack. The advantage of first position is tremendous, but it’s an arduous road to travel.
Wildcatting is unique even within the context of the oil exploration business. One might be surprised to know that most oil companies are not much involved in exploration at all; instead, they are primarily involved in exploitation drilling within producing fields.
To find new oil and gas reserves, someone has to create the opportunity. That’s the territory of the wildcatter who has the insight to “see” a prospect that others overlooked; in addition, the ability to communicate the idea and gain cooperation from partners, mineral owners and investors is essential. Perhaps most importantly, is the boldness of spirit and fortitude to see the project through—win, lose or draw. It’s not everyone’s forte. Risk scares the hell out of most, but excites and heightens the skill threshold of others. Under best practices, risk ahead of the drill bit is mitigated to the greatest extent possible through meticulous research. Highly technical and carefully guarded proprietary scientific data (such a3D seismic and geochemical analysis, for example) are applied in addition to many other forms of geological knowledge and hard-earned experience to hone the wildcat prospect. Big highs and some lows are part of the adventure, but a major discovery covers the cost of dry holes along the way and creates generational wealth.
Think George Mitchell, H.L. Hunt, Clayton Williams and the revered and distinguished wildcatter, Michel T. Halbouty. He discovered 50 oil and gas fields, went bankrupt twice, yet emerged victorious making huge profits for himself and his backers. Halbouty was a remarkable man who created a legacy- an impressive body of knowledge, scholarship endowments including the annual Michel T. Halbouty award of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists. I had the honor to meet him the year he passed away. He was up in years and I had heard that he had been ill, but I wanted to meet him and show him my work. His gracious secretary promised that when he returned to the office she would try to schedule a meeting, and she did!
I lugged in my briefcases and portfolio filled with poster sized displays of seismic data and structure maps, and launched into my presentation. Michel T. listened intently. His
piercing eyes beamed extraordinary intelligence.
As I was in full swing of my presentation, Michel T. suddenly stood up and approached my story boards and said, “Margaret, this is exploration at its finest! If I were a few years younger, I’d join you in this venture.” I had walked into his office about an hour before feeling nervous and rather small, but I walked out 10 feet tall! His words never left my mind or my heart. They encourage me to this day to carry on the good fight and strive to join the billion-barrel finders club.
When I was tapped to write the new wildcatter feature for the Scene in S.A. magazine, my initial
excitement was quickly followed with the question of whether the audience was remotely interested in the subject matter. Is there relevance, given the current socio-political environment? Well, there is relevance if we are to continue to enjoy life as we know it; we cannot rely on wind or solar. I double majored in Geology and Environmental Studies. This background informs my opinions and affects project planning; but, the on-demand requirements of air conditioned spaces, long distance driving, flying, plastics, lubricants, paints and many other hydrocarbon- based products so ubiquitously part of our daily lives can only be addressed with oil and natural gas.
Without exploration, new oil and gas reserves will not be found. This leads to shortage and in turn results in increased energy cost, inflation and risk to our national security. Back to the bondage of OPEC.
We need to maintain the current business-friendly regulatory policy and very beneficial tax treatment to stimulate investment into drilling activity because a healthy oil industry creates a healthy US economy. Especially important at this time of political and economic uncertainty are hard assets.
Oil and natural gas prices are rising steadily with oil north of $50 a barrel. A huge improvement after the market collapse the CCP Covid-19 pandemic caused. The V-shaped recovery our president predicted and the warp speed vaccines appear to be here.
Wildcatters are not wild. We are deliberate in our pursuit to find and produce the lifeblood of our economy and create wealth in the process. This is the true trickle down and entrepreneurship at its finest.
Fortis Fortuna Adiuvat. n Very respectfully,
Margaret P. Graham, President MPG Petroleum, Inc. www.mpgpetroleum.com