Brent Hopkins

brenthopkinshowWhy rocks?
During my sophomore year of high school at Penn Yan Academy in central New York, I was lucky enough to have Ms. Jepson for Earth Science (I think – the name might be wrong but she was definitely a Ms.). In this class we were introduced to the various concepts of Geology, and from that point on I knew I was going to college to be an Oceanographer. In 1977 I finished high school and was off to the only College which would take me, and my parents could afford: The State University of New York at Cortland (I am still on the waiting list for the US Coast Guard Academy, so I have that going for me). Cortland had everything I ever wanted except Oceanography, so a Geologist I became. Cortland State was your typical small Liberal Arts school, primarily a teachers college. The Geology department consisted of five professors and an assistant, and they taught you everything from Geophysics to Paleontology (dead bugs). I think we had a total of around 8-10 students in my class. At Cortland we spent a lot of time doing field work in the various gullies and road cuts measuring sections. We spent a lot of time in that Devonian Black shale that thirty years later has became so popular. The Oil Industry had died in New York State and Pennsylvania had died 50 years earlier, and the colleges up there didn’t teach petroleum geology. The closest most of us had gotten to the Oil Industry was working at a gas station or watching JR on Dallas. In 1981 they handed me my Bachelor of Science degree in Geology, and I was off to conquer the world. The only industry hiring in 1981 was the Oil and Gas business so it was off to Houston or Alaska and my future wife choose Houston.

I drove into Houston Friday afternoon in late May. It was about 90 degrees. I had never really driven in a big city before, and I didn’t have air-conditioning in my car. I am sure some of you remember Houston in the late seventies and early eighties. Houston had just passed Philadelphia in population by going over 4 million people, and the main highways were two lanes in each direction (now I think I10 has at least 10 lanes each way in places). My first thought was, “What in the hell did I get myself into?!”

Planet Houston: I was officially the last guy hired in the Embargo to Early 80’s boom. I started with Genesis Producing Company as a Geo-tech on July 1st in their Houston office. At the Genesis Houston office I had the good fortune to work for Miller Quarles and Jim Richards. Miller was my direct supervisor and even though he was 66 years old at the time he was very driven. Office hours were from 8:30am – 7:00pm. Genesis had worked a deal with Houston Natural Gas and was tasked with working South Padre Island State waters adjacent to their pipeline. This was an exciting time in Geophysics as this was when the first bright spot work was being utilized. I learned a few very valuable lessons: first, it is better to build the pipeline after you find the gas; and secondly, 2% gas can cause a really big bright spot. While working in the Houston office for Genesis, I logged a lot of wells, timed a lot of seismic lines (yes, we did it by hand then) and was lucky enough to be in a small enough environment where I was immersed in both Geology and Geophysics. I was really hooked now. In 1984 Genesis discovered Star Brite Yegua Field in Duval County, and they decided to move me to Corpus Christi to handle the development of the field. With Cary Pyle’s lead, we made another significant discovery in the Yegua at Four Sevens Field on the Duval and Jim Wells County border. I made 54 separate log runs in Duval and Jim Wells Counties in 1984. Everything was going great… except the prices started to tank, and by 1986 the business was really struggling – over 400,000 people lost jobs in the Oil Industry. More than a few of us could be seen at CCSU (as it was known back then) taking night courses in Hydrology and Computer Science and hoping a career change wasn’t in the cards. Again I was lucky Genesis had between 20-25 employees (including retainers) when I went to work for them in 1981, and by the end of 1986 there were six of us left. Another lesson I learned was that when times are bad being able to do both Geophysics and Geology gives you a definite advantage, and being the lowest paid employee is great job security. Somehow we rode out that cycle and on the next I stayed at Genesis for 20 years before starting out on my new adventure. Looking back I would say that I have been very blessed in my career so far to have been mentored by some excellent Geoscientists (Quarles, Richards, Pyle, Henderson, and Neil Wendling to name a few) and probably mostly to have been mentored in the oil business itself by JM Smith.

Note: English was never my strength (without Margot’s help I would still be in Freshman English) and this was not my idea, so if you are bored blame Owen. Secondly, I must not of had a lot of cameras around growing up, so early pictures are lacking.

Brent Hopkins – Geologists

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