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Member Spotlight: Jack Greene

Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communications Coordinator, Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The member spotlight series features legacy OOGA members who have been a member of the Association for at least 10 years. If you would like to recommend someone to be highlighted, please contact Lyndsey Kleven lyndsey@ooga.org

Background information:

The two pieces of advice that Jack Greene’s older brother bestowed upon him when contemplating what to do after high school in the late 1960s were simple: find something energy related and live away from home.

Through the wisdom of their mother, she had convinced his brother to become a nuclear engineer, which he went on to do. Through the wisdom of his brother, Jack went on to become a petroleum engineer.

“As it turns out I had a guidance counselor at my high school and she had a son that was at Marietta College in petroleum engineering. So she had all the literature from Marietta College in petroleum engineering and she shared it with me. And it was the two criteria that my brother said to look for, it was energy and live away from home.”

A native to Melrose Massachusetts, Greene applied to Marietta College in southeastern Ohio, was accepted, and graduated with a B.S. in petroleum engineering in 1974. Throughout his schooling, he had a professor, Elmer Templeton, who was renowned within the college, the oil and gas industry and throughout Ohio. As a professor, Templeton took Greene under his wing and later they became close friends. Templeton helped to guide Greene on what he wanted to do after he graduation.

While in college, Greene met a girl from Westlake, Ohio studying biology; she had a year left of school when Greene was graduating. He decided to stick around the area if he could. The Oxford Oil Company was recruiting that year in Marietta and Greene interviewed. He was intrigued by the job and staying near Marietta for the time being, so he decided to go to work for Oxford out of Zanesville. 

“My original goal was just to work here one year and then go to make the big bucks in Texas, Oklahoma, California, or wherever. But we fell in love with the area, ended up getting married, raising our family here, and have never left.”  

Work history:

Greene started working for The Oxford Oil Company in 1974 as a petroleum engineer. He worked for the vice president of the company, Graham Robb, who would serve as Greene’s mentor throughout the years.  Bill Straker was President of Oxford, but wasn’t around the office much as he was also running National Gas at the time. 

Greene recalled his first week on the job, as being an experience he would never forget. Going into it he didn’t quite know what to expect.

“I wasn’t afraid of the mud or the work because I’d worked for Halliburton up at Wooster for a summer and had been exposed to the oil and gas industry in Ohio.”

The second day on the job Greene was running casing on a cable tool rig. Greene had to pump paraffin out of the pipe before it could be ran in the ground, and they worked in the rain and thunderstorms all night long.

“We had worked all day and all night, and we finished up about 5:00 in the morning. I remember saying to my boss, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow’ and he said, ‘no I’ll see you at 7:00 AM in the office, that’s when our day starts.’ That was my first shock, and it was a great experience. Everyone in the company worked like that. They did whatever it took to get the job done.”

Bill Straker founded the Oxford Oil Company in 1946. The company started off working with Buckeye Supply, another Straker oilfield supply business. They would buy wells, salvage equipment, and produce enough oil that they could start drilling their own wells. Graham started with the company around 1956 and had graduated from Oklahoma State. With Graham on board, Oxford did more purchasing, drilling, and acquisitions. Early on, the company was successful doing re-fracks and was very inventive on holding cost down while getting good results; at the time, fracturing was pretty new to the area. This course of activities progressed through the 1970s when Greene was hired. 

“We had our own tools and would clean out the wells and re-frack many of the old wells that we purchased. We brought them back, a lot of times almost to full capacity. And the oil went from $3-4 to $14 in the 70s, so you could really make some money on a small investment, and that’s the way the company really grew.”

Graham ran the day-to-day operations and Greene ran a lot of the fieldwork. This continued until Graham retired and Greene took over his position. By that time John Straker, Bill’s son, had purchased the company from his father and was now the president.

Greene recapped that Oxford was probably one of the first companies to drill shale formations in the 1980s, focused in Monroe and Noble Counties in the Devonian shale. He also said they were likely the first company that drilled in that area and used water to frack with. Many people thought this was not the thing to do, but Oxford found success and did a lot of hydro fracking in the area.

“It was a nice area for Oxford, gas went up to $5, and the company was making money on shale work in Devonian shale. As a result that’s where all of our acreage was that people became interested in with the Utica. At the time we didn’t really know it but we were sitting on a gold mine.”

Look ahead to 2013 and when Eclipse Resources bought out Oxford Oil, which allowed Eclipse to hold its position in the shale play. Oxford was sold as a unit, including all of its conventional assets.

Greene agreed to stay for at least a year and help with the transition from Oxford to Eclipse. Greene recalls the transition going really well under the new leadership of Tim Altier. With Altier’s knowledge and background Greene felt comfortable walking away from the company, and felt it was in good hands. 

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do after Eclipse purchased us. I felt like I was a bit young to retire, but yet I wasn’t sure with the new company. They didn’t really have anyone who could help with the conventional side that I was so familiar with.”

Following his year of assisting in the company transition, Greene decided to retire and left the company in June 2014. Reflecting on his time in the oil and gas industry, Greene has found it to be incomparable to anything he’s experienced.

“Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and proclaiming, ‘wow, what a ride!’”

He commended the changeover and how it all took place, and will be forever appreciative of his time working for the Oxford Oil Company and Eclipse Resources.

“Really I only had two bosses my whole life, John and Graham, which is great. I did not realize that until we were bought out. I did not realize how nice I had it, answering to one person. When you work 40 years for someone, you become part of the family, and I think everyone in the company felt the same way. I don’t think there’s anything better than to work for a small family owned company.”

Shale-development’s impact on business:

Greene admits to being one of the biggest skeptics on the Utica and its potential returns. Having drilled 125 Rose Run wells through the Utica, and not having much show from the Utica, Greene needed to be convinced—and he has since been convinced!

“The Utica is definitely is a game changer and a formation to be reckoned with. It also takes more than the traditional, conventional, drilling industry in Ohio can support. It takes bigger companies.”

The investments needed for conventional wells that Oxford was drilling was roughly $250,000 and any project in the Utica today starts at five million looking at upwards of 10 million. Green says this changed everything: dramatically increasing lease costs, transformed royalty owners, and who could be in the business. It has also crowded a lot of the small operators out.

“Nobody 10 years ago would have ever fathomed that this industry and pipeline companies would be spending the billions and billions of dollars that its taken to put some structure in place to move this product. And that’s been exciting to see.”

When unconventional drilling began taking over, Straker saw that Oxford could not stay the way it was operating and he made the decision to sell the company. He also made the decision to sell the company as a unit, and held out until he found a company that was willing to buy the whole thing. Everyone wanted Oxford’s Utica assets, but no one really wanted the conventional along with the Utica. 

“Eclipse agreed to buy it as a unit, of course they could do whatever they wanted after that, but to its credit, they put a lot of money into the conventional stuff and they’re running the conventional. Both sides get a lot of credit for holding that together and retaining jobs for all the Oxford employees. Oxford was an old family company with many older employees. A third of the employees probably had over 20-30 years with Oxford. The way it was done, jobs were retained and expanded, which is good for the Zanesville economy and the oilfield.”

The acquisition went particularly well in this instance, but Greene still has his concerns with the shale play. What continues to hurt the oil and gas industry and worries Greene is the currently regulatory process. 

“There’s no differential between conventional and unconventional as far as the law makers and division of oil and gas goes any more. Always before there was a recognized industry, and we have two industries now, but the rules are being made for the more expensive industry.” 

OOGA Involvement:

Greene has been a member of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) since starting in the business in the late 1970s and says the experience has been invaluable. Oxford Oil always had a presence and been involved with the Association. Over the years Greene has been able to meet a lot of members he would not have normally met outside of the Association.

Greene was on the OOGA Technical Committee throughout the 1980s. He recalled working with the committee and sitting down with the division of oil and gas to work on issues. Some of the issues that were hammered out between the two groups were plugging for cable tool wells, cementing, and water issues. Greene said, “Everyone worked together, which was a great way to work, because there was compromise. Unfortunately it seems like you don’t have much of that any more.”

He also credited the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP) for building familiarity of the industry throughout the state. The educational aspect of the industry is greatly important and it starts at the right place, education children and teachers.

“The Association helps its members to keep in touch with what’s going on in the industry. Even though I am retired now, I will continue to be a member of the Association so I can keep up with the industry. I’ve put 40 years in, you want to make sure its left in good hands.” 

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