Working for an Independent Geologist


Win Sexton June 1980-January 1987


In June 1980, I had two job offers: Hamilton Brothers, a Denver based mid-sized independent, offered me a job in Corpus Christi and Chevron wanted me back to be on a computer SWAT team based out of La Habra, California to travel and use computers to solve company-wide geology problems around the globe.

While weighing those options, both exciting and with great potential, Win Sexton (a local, well known, very successful independent geologist) called me up and said “meet me down in the Valhalla*, I want to talk to you.” He wanted to put me on a yearly retainer and give me a 2% Overriding Royalty on any prospect that I generated. He said he was an ‘equal opportunity geologist’—because good prospects will sell no matter where they were, and he could sell any good prospect that I generated.

If Win liked the prospect, then it was a go. Although I had the right to take a rejected prospect and sell it own my own, I never did because I relied on his experience. Win liked large prospects saying “it is just as much trouble to lease a small one as a large potential one—the big ones don’t always work, but when they do, it is significant.” But big prospects usually have minimal well control. That is “what majors were for—to drill deep dry holes in the middle of nowhere” and in the process their logs showed the deeper stratigraphy that we needed to decrease the risk of our wildcats.

The experience working for Win taught me not to be discouraged when working an area by the surface, land or lease situation. Do your work, do the science, and then let the merits of the prospect better define the economics of it—Be positive from the beginning.

We were so proud when we sold a downthrown fault prospect in Louisiana to Davis Oil for $1000 per acre. They proceeded to drill on the highside of the fault even though downthrown traps were working on trend and drilled a deep dry hole. We learned from that–when you sell a deal you should retain some control of your prospect.

Another deal was returned to us after the buying company shot 4 seismic lines and told us there was no prospect on the acreage we sold them. The contract terms required them to return the deal to us (including the seismic) if they were not going to drill within a certain time frame. Then, with the new seismic and some remapping, we ultimately sold 22 hundred acres to Exxon for $1000 per acre (with a 25% BackIn After Payout and 72% net leases!)—it drilled out to be a tremendous discovery in February 1986. Lessons learned here were: have a good landman, don’t be discouraged by others, believe in your own work and don’t give up.

Owen Hopkins

*The Valhalla was a petroleum hangout place on the 1st floor of the Wells Fargo Building (formerly the Bank and Trust)—many deals were sold and discussed here in the heyday of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Long before NAPE we had the Valhalla.