Working for a Major Oil Company

Chevron 1969-1977

After graduating with a BS in Geology from the University of Oklahoma, I was hired as a well-site geologist with Chevron (at the time, “MS and PhD need only apply” for exploration geologist employment). In that capacity I had the opportunity to log many, many wells both onshore and offshore Louisiana from Chevron’s Lafayette office—we had to log, core and test these wells with little communication with the office. I was briefed on each log run by the development or exploration geologist responsible for the well. I spent many hours on the offshore rigs—for many hours, many times I was out there waiting for them ‘to get out of the hole’ or ‘to get unstuck’ or ‘to trip the hole’. I turned this ‘waste of time’ into a ‘gift of time’–I brought logging books and manuals out with me, and I coded programs for a computer to solve some our common problems that were worked out with slide rules and charts and equations at the time. Remember, calculators had just been invented and HP had one available for $495 (almost half a months salary!).

After getting my MS degree from Tulane University night school, I was transferred to Offshore exploration in New Orleans. Those were exciting, hectic times getting ready for lease sales—getting maps prepared, approved by management and bids prepared and submitted for approval. Chevron was a large company–we had seven layers of management that had to approve our prospects. At one point, I became frustrated with the system, and decided to talk to someone. I visited with the Division Geologist and he explained the system to me—all prospects were annually risked and ranked within each district and each district had a budget, so the money was allocated from the top down— to get a prospect approved, it had to be bigger and better than others in your district.

Also Chevron was in the habit of moving experienced geologists from district to district. What was this all about? As soon as we got familiar with a trend and what was working and what wasn’t, you got transferred to a new area.

We farmed out a non-commercial offshore block to C&K Petroleum after we drilled a well and only found 30’ of gas at the bottom of a 100’ clean, wet sand at 15,000’. C&K discovered two 150’ thick gas sands that were mostly faulted out by a sealing fault in the Chevron well.

Some of what I learned from my Chevron days:
–get hired, get in the door, get in the system—then you can learn and move up the ranks
–companies will help with continuing education—it helps the company and you
–bigger prospects get funded and drilled
–take advantage of your situation–turn negatives into positives
–good, experienced geologists can work any trend—they may not be biased by years of working the same trend—“don’t you know there are no sands east of the Wall Fault” or “don’t you know there is no oil on the north flank of that dome” or the classic quote — “I will drink all of the oil found west of the Mississippi”
–there is a reason that water can be on gas in a thick, clean sand

Owen Hopkins
8/10/06 rev

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