Energy Influencers #11 – #15

Energy Influencers #11 – #15

Here’s the next group that you’ll get to meet:

  #6 Arun Majumdar (Director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy) 
  #7 Jorge Piñon (Visiting Research Fellow at Florida International University)
  #8 John Pinkerton (Chairman & CEO at Range Resources)
  #9 Amy Harder (Energy and Environment Reporter for National Journal)
  #10 Marc Lipschultz (Head of Energy and Infrastructure at KKR)

 

 #11 Dan Wilks & Farris Wilks

Co-Founders of Frac Tech Services

Cisco, Texas

Many of our #Energy100 Influencers have great stories, starting out from humble beginnings to become leaders in the industry…George Mitchell, T. Boone Pickens, Harold Hamm…and the Wilks Brothers.  In 2011 Dan & Farris Wilks would go from being successful U.S. entrepreneurs to becoming internationally-recognized billionaires.

Their story starts off when teenage brothers Dan and Farris Wilks apprenticed for their father’s bricklaying business.  From there they successfully built multiple companies in construction, including two they co-founded, Wilks Masonry and Cisco High Lift (CHL).  But spotting an opportunity to shift gears, the brothers “had an interest in a well or two” and jumped into the oil and gas exploration business in the Barnett Shale.

When they went looking for someone to fracture their first well, however, the pair discovered they were among many operators seeking such services, with few suppliers to provide it.  Seeing a need and a market, the brothers started their own hydraulic fracturing business in 2002 with the technical know-how of CHL to build it and the cash flow of Wilks Masonry to fund it.

The Wilks brothers played Double Jeopardy! with their companies and they won.  Since then, Frac Tech Services, based in Cisco, Texas, had become the fourth-largest provider of well stimulation services in the United States.

The Wilks brothers got a taste of billionaire life back in January 2011 when they bought the iconic N Bar Ranch in Montana from Siebel System’s founder Tom Siebel.  A few months later Dan and Farris would join Siebel as billionaires on Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans.

In May 2011 the brothers sold their nearly 70% combined interest in Frac Tech for $3.5 billion to a consortium of investors, including Singapore-based Temasek Holdings and Chesapeake Energy.  Frac Tech Services would be renamed as FTS International Inc. and Aubrey McClendon would become a board member.

Shortly after the sale the Wilks brothers were recognized as Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur Of The Year 2011 finalists.  Who came away as the winner of the Energy, Cleantech and Natural Resources Category?  Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon.  I’m just saying.

While the Wilks brothers are now internationally recognized, their hearts remain in the “Big Country” of the Texas Midwest and the “Big Sky Country” of Montana.  Despite all their billions, the big country is still home. 

 #12 Tom Fowler

Energy Writer at The Wall Street Journal

Houston, Texas

Few people can explain what is happening in energy better than Tom Fowler.

As a business reporter and blogger for the Houston Chronicle, Fowler covered various aspects of the energy business, including pipelines, electric power, energy trading and so much more. He previously covered technology for the Chronicle and for the Austin Business Journal.

In September of 2010 the Houston Chronicle’s energy blog (NewsWatch:Energy) relocated to their new online home FuelFix.com.  FuelFix quickly became a one-stop shop for all things energy, from the nuts and bolts of how energy is made, to the complexity of energy policy.  FuelFix was a great outlet for Fowler since he’s more than just a reporter of the facts, he gets behind the headlines and tells both sides of the story.

Not only does Fowler cover energy in print, but in 2011 he also made a few guest appearances on TheEnergyMaker Show, a weekly video podcast/broadcast hosted by #Energy100 Influencer Paul Dickerson.  There he discussed a wide range of topics such the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), Texas’s use of sustainable energy, smart grids, hydraulic fracturing regulation and industry best practices.  But Fowler’s November appearance was also his last as a reporter for the Houston Chronicle and FuelFix.com.

Fowler has worked his way up from small papers to a major metro daily and now to the largest newspaper in the United States…The Wall Street Journal.  After almost 12 years with the Houston Chronicle, in December Fowler became Energy Writer for the WSJ where he could provide his invaluable insight to the energy industry on a national-level.

Although he has switched newspapers, Fowler still has the best point of view in energy…..right here in the “Energy Capital of the World.”

#13 Stuart Page

CEO at Glori Energy

Houston, Texas

The best way to describe Glori Energy is to let them describe themselves: “Nature Meets Oil Production” & ”Tomorrow’s Oil from Yesterday’s Wells.”  Good thing Glori has the technology to back-up those catchy tag lines.

Glori Energy is a venture capital backed private company that is focused on developing biotechnology solutions for the oil industry.  Their mission is to cleanly and safely recover billions of barrels of oil that are trapped in existing well reservoirs without having to drill a single new well. 

Glori’s technology is aimed at older wells where the natural pressure has decreased to a point where the oil no longer flows to the surface by itself.  Glori uses its innovative AERO (Activated Environment for Recovery of Oil) System to stimulate the growth of bacteria in an oil well.  As the bacteria grow on the droplets of oil, it evolves, becoming slicker and allows it to flow more easily.

Their technology works with wells that use water to maintain the pressure and force the oil to the surface.  The science behind the technology is far more interesting than I can relay here in a few short paragraphs, so do yourself a favor and read more about AERO and “consortia functionality” here, here, here and here.  Stuart Page estimates the technology can make old oil wells about 30% more productive.

An engineer and native of the U.K., Page joined Glori from IHS Energy where he led M&A activity and has over 25 years experience in the upstream energy industry, including over a decade in Norway at Baker Atlas which provides well logging and data analysis for drilling, production and reservoir management.  Page was brought in 5 years ago as CEO to help grow Glori Energy.

Houston-based Glori is a marriage of firms from four continents.  With technology developed by the Indian National Oil Company in the early 1990s, a New York-based private equity firm founded Glori in 2005 and quickly advanced the technology through the purchase of an Argentinean biotech outfit and oilfield expertise gained through a partnership with Norway’s Statoil.  Glori Energy is truly the product of the globalization era, much like Page himself.

With his engineering experience and international expertise, it is now up to Page to grow the business, bring investors into the mix, and partner with oil producers to deploy AERO System technology in oil fields around the globe.  Oil production is adopting a lot of new technologies and a lot of funding will be going to innovators, such as Glori Energy, that can help oil and gas companies work smarter.

With many of the big oil companies and big oil service firms developing similar technologies in-house, Glori needs to get the world’s leading energy companies to adopt the technology, then the others will see that it really works.  Page said the company, which is still privately owned and still in the testing phase, is working on doing just that.

#14 Mark Zoback

Professor of Geophysics at Stanford University

Stanford, California

Dr. Mark Zoback was a featured speaker recently in a tribute to #Energy100 Influencer George Mitchell: “The Shale Gas Miracle.”  Mitchell is the father of “fracking” and started the shale gas revolution.  Zoback believes natural gas represents the perfect bridge fuel toward achieving a less carbon-dependent economy.  Together they later published an opinion piece together titled “The Duty to Fracture Responsibly.”

Zoback is a geophysics professor at Stanford and conducts research on in situ stress, fault mechanics, and reservoir geomechanics.  He has authored and coauthored 300 technical papers and a textbook, Reservoir Geomechanics, which integrates the fields of structural geology, rock mechanics and petroleum engineering with application to problems in the oil and gas industry.

Zoback was one of the principal investigators of the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth (SAFOD) project, in which a scientific research well was successfully drilled through the San Andreas Fault at seismogenic depth.  He also served on a National Academy of Engineering committee investigating the Deepwater Horizon accident. 

In 2011 Zoback served on the Secretary of Energy Committee on Shale Gas Development which concluded that it is possible to produce natural gas safely and with minimal environmental traces.  The group suggested 20 recommendations including full disclosure of chemicals used in fracturing liquids, monitoring of fracking activities and rigorous standards for emissions of airborne contaminants.

Although expertise and experience served to be invaluable on this carefully composed panel of top academics, industry experts and investigators, it also served up some controversy.  Some scientists and environmental groups were quick to point out that all but one member of this advisory panel have financial ties to the natural gas industry, including Zoback.

Zoback is a senior advisor to Baker Hughes, a Houston-based oilfield services company engaged in hydraulic fracturing.   He was the chairman and co-founder of GeoMechanics International, a consulting firm that advises on various oil and gas drilling problems.  It was acquired by Baker Hughes in 2008.

Although most problems associated with shale gas wells have arisen from poor well construction, not hydraulic fracturing, Zoback believes enhanced utilization of shale gas resources provides an opportunity to transition to an energy future that is far less dependent on fossil fuels.

While production of shale gas depended on the experience of Mitchell to start the revolution, production of this transition fuel will need the expertise of Zoback to keep it going safely long enough for renewable technology to take the energy industry to the next level. 

#15 Harold Hamm

Chairman & CEO at Continental Resources

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Harold Hamm has the heart and soul of a true wildcatter.  His rise from humble beginnings to national leadership in the energy industry is truly legendary.

Hamm, who was born the youngest of 13 children to share-crop farmers in 1945, got his start in the oil business working for an oilfield service contractor before starting his own one-truck oilfield service business.  In 1967, Hamm incorporated Shelly Dean Oil Co., which later would become Continental Resources.

Continental’s growth strategy has focused on crude oil since the 1980s.  It is the nation’s 14th-largest oil company and is the largest leaseholder in the nation’s premier oil play, the Bakken Play of North Dakota and Montana.

Hamm has developed a reputation as a successful wildcatter by discovering oil in places that others had overlooked.  A billionaire oilman who is widely credited for jump-starting the Bakken oil boom nearly a decade ago, Hamm believes the United States could become energy independent within a few years with the “right energy policies”.  Unfortunately Hamm and President Obama have very different views with regard to what those “right energy policies” entail.

Along with his strong opinions, Hamm is also known for his wild-eyed optimism and his aggressive techniques.  He believes Bakken is almost twice as big as the oil reserve in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and could potentially contain recoverable reserves of up to 24 billion barrels of oil equivalent.

Unlike his many skeptics, Hamm believes this number is achievable with advanced drilling technologies like Continental’s ECO-Pad drilling concept which exploits two layers of oil-bearing rock over 2 square miles by drilling 8 horizontal wells from one spot.  Once the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline is built, it would include an on-ramp to transport Bakken crude along with Canadian crude to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

Although Hamm has recently decided to move Continental’s headquarters from sleepy Enid to almost bustling Oklahoma City, he is still loved throughout Oklahoma and was inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 2011.  The North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame loves him too.

Hamm said his path to success has required both hard work and the good fortune of “being at the right place at the right time.”  Hamm has been CEO of Continental Resources for 45 years…I think this wild-eyed wildcatter has been always been at the right place at the right time.

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