Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communications Coordinator,
Wednesday, September 02, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, September 09, 2015
The member spotlight features legacy OOGA members who have been a member of the Association for at least ten years. If you would like to recommend someone to be highlighted, please contact Lyndsey Kleven email@example.com
James “Jim” Diddle’s career in the oil and gas industry has spanned over 45 years of his life. Prior to working in the oilfield he served in the United States Army where he completed a tour of duty in the Vietnam War. Prior to completing this tour of duty in Vietnam, Jim had completed military police school, airborne school (para trooper training) and had earned the honor of becoming a Green Beret. Several members of Jim’s family has a military background and after completing two years at Ohio University Jim felt the call to serve his country and enlisted in the US Army.
Upon returning from serving his country he was home two days and the third day he went to work in the oilfield. The Army had a profound effect on Jim and he believes everyone should have to serve in the armed forces for a period of time to gain the qualities necessary to become disciplined and a responsible adult and likewise be held accountable for his/her actions.
“The Army taught you that you have to get up, you have to go to work, and you don’t get to rely on your parents.”
Jim grew up with his grandpa Roy Edward Proffitt since his parents divorced when he was very young. After Jim was home approximately over a year from serving his country, his grandfather suggested to him that he return to Ohio University to finish what he had started.
Roy was a very business oriented man, and seemingly passed this trait along to his grandson Jim. His grandfather’s business sense became apparent to Jim when he recounted a story of Roy receiving his very first Christmas gift.
“As a kid, my grandfather’s first Christmas present was a pair of roller skates. He traded the skates for shotgun shells. He could use that to hunt and sell the ducks. He said he made his money so many times over by selling those skates. I asked him why he got rid of the skates that he wanted more than anything and he said there wasn’t anything he wanted more than being successful.”
When Jim came home from the service he had no house, no money and a wife and son to provide for. Jim moved in with his mother for almost a year. Roy had oil and gas wells in Logan and Perry Counties and moved Jim and his family to Logan in order for Jim to attend OU full time, and tend to the oil and gas wells in his spare time. Going to school full time, tending 28 completed oil wells, and helping on the five cable tool rigs Roy had running in the area; this led to long, busy days and working on very little or no sleep. Jim drove the trucks, dressed tools, ran the casing on the cable tool rigs and would also have to study in the meantime. All of this hard work paid off as Jim earned a 3.87 GPA and made the Dean’s list the last two years he attended OU after serving in the US Army.
After graduating from Ohio University Jim and his family moved back to Racine, Ohio and Roy offered Jim a job for $100 a week to take care of Syracuse Home Utilities and Interstate Utility Company replacing lines that were suffering a 54% line loss. Jim evaluated the project and decided the line replacement projects were tough and high risk and went back the next day to negotiate the pay to $150 a week plus transportation. Because of the rigorous work ethic that Jim possesses he expected the same out of the crew working with him, many of the existing employees sought employment elsewhere so Jim had to hire new men. He changed the whole business model and the entire business for the better.
“I took those companies and straightened them up. In two years I had them down from 54% to 3% line loss and we were servicing 1,100 customers.”
Roy Proffitt was also a Pennzoil distributor and had 13 gasoline stations. He sold all 13 of them to Jim for $150,000, and helped Jim with financing but charged 10% interest. “There was a big gasoline shortage that year and the most gasoline you were allowed to get was $3.00 at a time. At the time Roy figured I’d never make it and he’d get all of them back. After I did make it, he claims he always knew I’d succeed. I was very lucky, I’ll admit that.”
Jim started in the oil and gas field in 1971 and started JD Drilling Company in 1975. JD Drilling Company was later incorporated in 1984 and currently holds 50,000 acres held by production in Meigs County, has roughly 300 miles of pipeline and has permitted and drilled a thousand wells as an independent oil and gas producer.
“We do it all, everything from beginning to end. We lease the ground, drill, complete the wells, lay lines and hook them up to our lines that eventually run through one of two of our compressor stations that feed directly into Columbia’s line E-18. Our office also completes the monthly task of disbursing the monies to the appropriate royalty owners, overrides, and working interest.”
When Jim was 37 years old he had drilled over 1,000 wells. In his early 30’s he put together several deals and things really started to take off. JD drilled 187 wells one year and 254 wells the next year. The majority of the wells were 4,000’ deep.
“At that time we were going so fast, the only thing they were changing out was the cement trucks. The men were taking showers in the street. I sold them the diesel fuel and I even bought a truck just to deliver it to the rigs. I leased three rigs at that time to aid my three rigs in order to make it all happen.
Times were not always easy and sometimes he thought about leaving the oil and gas business. Those moments were usually short lived and then he would move onto the next big project.
“Every well I drilled and every contract well I drilled, with the exception of about 50 of them, I always kept a part in each. I would buy an eighth or a sixteenth to show my investments were worthwhile.”
Grandfather Roy always used cable rigs, and it was Jim’s lifetime ambition to acquire a 36L Bucyrus Erie rig. Instead he bought three rigs as his business grew, including a Model 360 Challenger Drilling rig which he bought in Texas, SS 40 Speed Star, and a Model 2500 Failing rig. He also has three service rigs, air compressor packages, boosters and several dozers, backhoes, ditchers among other pieces of equipment of his own.
True to his business sense, Jim saw a need to enter the injection well business and currently owns 3 working injection wells and is now accepting water. The business is true to name as it is operating as JD Injection Specialists, LLC. Jim drilled the first injection well in the state of Ohio in 1981. He now has 8 including the 3 he is accepting water from outside sources.
“I started thinking about the injection business. When I applied for a permit for an injection well it was declined, because no one had ever applied for one. I designed and drilled the first injection well.
With the current state of the industry, JD Drilling Company didn’t drill any new wells this year; because they were busy working on all of the old ones they maintain, which is a never-ending process. All together JD Drilling Company employs 35-40 people through his various businesses. His rolodex of companies include: JD Drilling Company, Jim’s Production Company, DHF Drilling Company, C&D Drilling Co., Inc., Twin Oaks Store, LLC (a convenience store on St Rt. 7) and his newest adventure JD Injection Specialists, LLC which is currently accepting water.
The family lineage with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) spans from Roy Proffitt’s days with the Association, to Diddle’s present day involvement. Roy Proffitt was one of the original inductees into the Oil and Gas Hall of Fame. Following in his grandfather’s footsteps yet again, Jim was also inducted into the OOGA Hall of Fame in 2011.
Due to an injury Jim has had numerous operations on his arm and shoulder. Prior to one of his final surgeries, Jim received the news of his nomination.
“Tom Stewart had called me at my house, and I knew my arm surgery was coming up so I wasn’t in a good mood. I answered and said, no I can’t drill any wells Tom. Tom began laughing and told me I was being inducted into the oil and gas hall of fame. I called to cancel my appointment at the Mayo Clinic so that I could attend the ceremony.”
The nurse wasn’t able to cancel the surgery—much to Jim’s relief as the pain in his arm intensified. Although he was not able to attend the ceremony, he is so proud to have been given this honor from the Association.
Overall Business Perspective:
“I remember back when I was just getting started. One day we were leaving a friend’s parking lot and some of his equipment was in there being stored. Back in those days I was just getting my feet on the floor and it was a lot of equipment to see. I made a joke and I told my other friend, ‘I’m going to smoke you, Grandpa Roy, and my friend’s yard we just pulled out of looking at his equipment.’ My friend said, ‘How do you figure?’ I said ‘well I have 20 years to steal everything that all of you know about business and add to it.’”
When Jim started in the business he was roughly 20 years younger than all of the older guys in the industry. When he attended business meetings he would always go to see the top guy.
Diddle now has nine companies, all different names. He also has had some loyal workers that trusted him and are still with him today. He says he’s worked with a lot of good people and has always remained loyal to his employees and has invested in his employees through blood, sweat and tears.
“It’s all kind of evolved from nothing to something. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs. It has all been very rewarding and at the same time very punishing.”