When I started college in the early seventies, I chose elementary education as my major as many of my friends had also done. Then during my coursework, I took Historical Geology as a science elective and was fascinated with the subject. The professor made the course so interesting that I was totally taken with geology. Coming from a small town 30 miles outside of San Antonio, and having no connection to the oil industry or any earth science, I’m not sure I even knew what a geologist really did as a profession. However, by the start of my junior year I had changed my major to geology. I loved all the field trips and made it through the courses, even Chemistry and Physics!
My first job was with Ashland Oil in Houston. I was a little intimidated to be the only female geologist. It was still a woman’s pioneer career trail back then. I was introduced to working the geology of East and West Texas and then Offshore Louisiana. On my first helicopter ride I discovered that helicopters really can fly through a thunderstorm, as we flew our way back from one of the offshore rigs over the swamps of Louisiana while the lightning was crackling and the thunder was booming. I also remember one of the older Ashland geologists trying to tell me back then about the cyclical nature of the oil and gas business. He said “You will have some good times, but there will also be some tough times like we had back in the fifties.” Things had always gone pretty well for me—I had two job offers coming out of college—so I just took what he said with a grain of salt.
In 1979, Ashland had sold most of their properties, and I had gone to work for Sun Gas in Corpus Christi. We had a good group of geologists. Some who are still around include Sebastian Wiedmann, Gloria Sprague, Jeff Osborne, Dennis Taylor, and Roy Staiger. Sun had great acreage positions in almost every trend, so I got a lot of good experience with plenty of log runs! One of the thrilling times for me during my time with Sun was when I was able to rejuvenate the production trend in the mature McFaddin Field where new drilling turned production around, so that it was no longer just marginally economic.
By the mid to late eighties though, the cycle forecast by the older Ashland geologist became an eye-opening reality. The oil business crashed like I had never seen before. Many geologists struggled for years, and I eventually moved into the environmental field, working for consulting firms as well as one of the refineries here in Corpus Christi. I guess I can say I’ve worked almost full circle in the petroleum industry. In addition to my early years in exploration and production, I have worked at gas stations cleaning up underground storage tank sites. I have worked with transportation pipelines, and even in a refinery—something I had never imagined for myself! However, my work with the refinery was very rewarding and included ongoing soil and groundwater cleanup as well as negotiation with the State Attorney General’s Office to develop a comprehensive groundwater cleanup plan.
Today I am still working in the environmental/regulatory field for a service company to pipelines and refineries (we install cathodic protection for any of you who might need it!). However, recently I was able to work at least part time in exploration and production again, working for Stone Earth Sciences here in Corpus Christi. It’s like riding a bike! And so fun to correlate logs again!
All in all, my decision to major in geology, somewhat impulsive at the time, has lead to many twists and turns or “ups and downs” as the Ashland geologist might say. There have been some tough times, but geology is still truly fascinating to me, and I love the challenges that go with it.
Jeanie Timmermann – Geologist