Exploration an art, with lots of science
It Takes a Team to ‘Wildcat’
No one would argue that the late Michel Halbouty was a wildcatter in the truest sense of the word. Not only did he discover and produce sizeable volumes of hydrocarbons, he admittedly was never one to hesitate to “bet the farm” when necessary if he believed in a prospect.
It’s only fitting that a program created in honor of this legendary oil finder is an ongoing special event at each annual AAPG confab.
When it comes to wildcatting, this year’s Michel T. Halbouty lecture series presentation by Ray L. Hunt appears to be spot-on with current times given the title of his scheduled talk – “Distinguishing Successful Wildcatters: How Your Company Can Be Among the Best.”
The art/science of wildcatting has changed significantly since Halbouty’s prime, and today it’s more about the team rather than the individual, according to Hunt.
In line with that mode of thinking, this veteran oilman, who reigns as CEO of Hunt Oil Company and other related companies, will talk about what he considers to be the five characteristics that separate a truly great company from a good company:
- Corporate culture.
- Contrarian positioning.
“These principles apply not just to companies but also to universities, hospitals, churches, family life and oil companies,” Hunt noted.
“Our company is an independent, and there are not a whole lot of independents still around,” he said. “I think there’s a very important role for independents to play in the industry of the future and the way the industry will change in the future – and it will change.”
Hunt is big on potential opportunities in the domestic environment.
“Conventional wisdom is you need to go to places like Kazakhstan or Sakhalin to find major reserves of oil,” he said, “but we’re not ready to accept that.
“We think a lot of opportunities still exist in the Lower 48 and also international, so we’re active in both,” he said. “The Lower 48 is still very important to us, and it still receives a lot of focus and attention from us.”
When queried about today’s oil finders versus the go-for-broke wildcatters of the past – such as Halbouty – Hunt’s take on the subject is that the stereotypical wildcatter is history.
“Exploration is an art that happens to use a lot of scientific tools,” he said.
“In the days of Halbouty and my father (H.L. Hunt), you could talk about a person being a wildcatter, and it would be a correct description.
“Today a person can’t be a wildcatter because there are so many different disciplines and sciences involved,” Hunt noted. “It may take someone who thinks in a creative way to make the ultimate decisions in an organization that will allow exploration to proceed.
“Today, I think a successful exploration company will have to acknowledge they have a team of explorationists,” he said. “Each individual with different skills working together allows the organization to be successful.
“No one individual by themselves in today’s world can enjoy significant success; it takes a team – and this was not necessarily true in the days of Halbouty or my father.”
When asked whether the basic essence of wildcatting still has a place in today’s generally risk-adverse industry, Hunt noted the resource plays that have developed do not carry the same components of wildcatting as he knew it when he entered the industry.
“If you define wildcatting as risk taking, you may risk a lot of money on a technology bet that could still be a resource play,” he said.
“I think we’ll see a lot of that in the future in response to the higher price regime that now exists in the industry.”