Doug Strickland dreamed big when his work led to discovery of the Covenant oil field in central Utah.
He still imagined the biggest plays when he passed away on May 4.
Strickland had received AAPG’s Outstanding Explorer Award in April at the association’s Annual Convention and Exhibition in Houston.
At the meeting in Houston, Strickland excitedly told the EXPLORER he was working on“something big” – and said he’d be able to talk more about it after the meeting.
An accomplished and renowned exploration geologist, Strickland was honored for his efforts in the central Utah Hingeline play. The Covenant field was the first major discovery in the area, an unexpected find that drew nationwide attention.
Strickland’s greatest strength as a geologist may have been his ability to visualize overthrust plays.
In an interview just two weeks before his death, Strickland talked about his recent work in northwest Montana.
His company, Red Rock Resources LLC of Oklahoma City, holds lease acreage in the emerging Alberta Basin Bakken Shale play east of Glacier National Park.
He described the play as the familiar Bakken shale-clastic-shale sequence with oil in the middle member – but without as much thickness as the Bakken in North Dakota and northeastern Montana.
The Glacier County play is somewhat shallower and less expensive to develop, Strickland said, and he foresaw a rewarding venture.
It wasn’t what he was after.
Strickland grew excited about the possibility of a major gas field lurking to the west of the new Bakken play.
“I’ve been working in this part of Montana for 25 years. One of the largest prospects I believe I’ve ever mapped is in the western portion of the Blackfeet Reservation,” he said.
He described a trend that started in Canada and extended south into the Glacier mountain front.
“Across the border, there are three major fields within six miles of the United States,” he said.“There’s a swath in there that looks very prospective.”
As an early entrant in the Alberta Basin Bakken play, Red Rock Resources was able to acquire acreage at an attractive price in one of the most promising areas for oil production.
Should an explorer concentrate on the lucrative money-maker with a proven play concept, or go after the technically challenging, unknown, potential elephant?
That’s a question you don’t bother to ask a true exploration geologist.
“There is a resource play out there, and companies like resource plays. They’ve mostly ignored the thrustbelt,” Strickland said, commenting on the industry’s lack of interest in the Glacier mountain front.
“Companies have been leery of the risk and the exploration costs,” he noted.“Northwest Montana is very remote.”
After Wolverine’s discovery of the Covenant Field in Utah, Strickland founded Jayden Consulting LLC.
Through that company, he met and began working the Rockies with Jennifer DeHaan from Idaho.
DeHaan, Strickland’s partner in Red Rock Resources, said the Montana overthrust project was“dear to his heart.”
“The mountain front was a prospect that Doug had worked on for 25 years,” she said.“In some form or capacity, it will go forward.”
Strickland was the lead geologist for Red Rock and its partners in the Bakken play, and they now will have to discuss future plans for northwest Montana, according to DeHaan.
“Doug was a true wildcatter who never shied away from adventurous, promising projects,” she said.“I was blessed to have been able to work with him on a daily basis and enjoy his genius.”
A geologist with insight into the complexities of thrustbelt exploration, Strickland felt the Montana mountain front held important and overlooked potential.
“It’s very difficult for people to understand the geometry of the thrusting, much less what the prospect looks like,” Strickland said.
“What’s neat about this area is that you’re just six miles from word-class production – it’s six miles across the border,” he added.
He left envisioning another, world-class exploration discovery.
Douglas K. Strickland, who in April received the AAPG Explorer of the Year Award at the annual meeting in Houston, died unexpectedly at his home May 4 after an illness. He was 58.
The Oklahoma City consultant received the award for being principle discoverer of the Covenant Field in Sevier County, Utah, the initial discovery within the central Utah Overthrust Belt in 2004, and subsequently Utah’s Providence Field. The fields comprise a 100-million-barrel province in an area the U.S. Geological Survey had deemed without any petroleum potential, and which is 200 miles from the nearest production.
Strickland joined Chevron after earning a doctorate at the University of Kansas, previously receiving a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern Colorado and master’s from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He was working the Rockies’ Overthrust Belt for Chevron when he joined W.R. Grace and made discoveries in Oklahoma, North Dakota and California as well as the Madden Deep well in the Wyoming Overthrust.
He continued finding oil and gas as an independent and joined with Wolverine Gas & Oil to get his central Utah prospects drilled.
Strickland had taught AAPG’s Creativity in Exploration course with E.A.“Ted” Beaumont for several years and was planning another presentation of the course in June.