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Member Spotlight: Jay Henthorne, Jr., Petro Evaluation Services, Inc.

Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communications Coordinator, Tuesday, May 31, 2016

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:


Background information:


Jay Henthorne Jr. was born in Olive Hill, Kentucky in 1941; his father J. G. Henthorne Sr., worked as a mining engineer for General Refractories Fire Brick Company. Jay Jr. attended the University of Kentucky where his original major was chemical engineering, however, he graduated in 1964 with a B.S. in petroleum geology. Working as a roughneck the summer of his junior year in western Kentucky altered Jay’s career path, leading him to a career in the oil and gas industry that has stuck for more than 40 years.


Working for Tennit Brooks in eastern Kentucky was where Jay started out as a junior geologist, among holding other roles. The Morrow County oil boom had taken off in Ohio during that time, and brought a force of frenzied oil development that attracted people from all over the country to come take part in the oil play. Brooks invited Jay to follow him to Morrow County and work for Clark and Cardinal Oil, a partnership between Brooks and Clark oil, whose office was in Worthington, Ohio. The Morrow County, Mount Gilead oil boom would be seen as the last unrestricted oil development in the state. Jay found success in Morrow County and was a consultant on other successful jobs. In 1965 the Ohio division of oil and gas was created, which also brought new spacing regulations that effectively caused the end of the Morrow County boom.


In the fall of 1965 Jay left to work for a company that logged wells in Wooster called Birdwell Logging. Jay accepted the position as a logging engineer and was involved with setting up storage logging programs with East Ohio Gas Storage and Columbia Gas Storage during the East Canton Drilling boom. Birdwell became even busier when the Clinton drilling boom struck. Jay worked for Birdwell for nine years until he left in 1974.


To his wife’s dismay, Jay left a stable job at Birdwell to start his own company, all while having two young sons at home. In 1974 he started Petro Evaluation Services, which became fully incorporated in 1976.


Work History Overview:


Morton Salt was one of Petro Evaluation Services’ first big clients as Jay had previously done consulting work for the nationwide company. Early on Jay traveled around the country drilling and fracturing salt wells, using a salt mining solution that recrystallized salt to become edible. Fracturing the salt wells was a much different process when compared to mining salt; the mined salt was dirty and not edible.


Petro also found success when it started drilling some of its first wells back in Morrow County. Jay visited Red Armstrong of Armstrong Drilling in Wooster and they made a deal for Jay to have a rig available by the time the state permit was issued to drill a well in Harmony Township. After nailing down the logistics the two shook hands on the deal and went on their way. Jay questioned if they needed a contract and Red replied, “Aren’t you going to pay me?” to which Jay said, “Of course.” Early on many deals were simply made on a handshake. The well, Hurdle #1, was among one of Petro’s best producers.


Other wells that Petro attributes to its early on success were found around east central Lake County, Lake Erie College in Painsville, Gilmour Academy in Gates Mills, University School in Pepper Pike, and various other sites around the city of Cuyahoga Falls. Drilling wells in urban areas and college campuses was not a common practice in the mid 1970s; Petro was involved in some of the early urban drilling projects in the northeast.


The city of Cuyahoga Falls hired Petro to drill six wells on a local golf course, which was in a residential area. Knowing the importance of building a good reputation and having strong environmental practices, Jay made certain to keep the area around the well nice and used industrial mufflers to keep the noise down as they drilled throughout the night. There were some complaints from local residents in the area but Petro always attempted to make good with the local residents and got praise from local media and the parks and recreation superintendent in doing so.


Jay described the situation, “That was kind of our philosophy and it stuck, building strong community relations.”


Petro continued to grow as the company continued to drill new wells during the Clinton drilling boom. They hit many good wells and the Clinton boom moved south. “It was crazy, the wheeling and dealing at these times. It was a lot of fun and quite a ride,” recalled Jay.


Throughout the 1980s Petro drilled many wells with Leo Altier.  Perry County was an area Petro and the Altier brothers found success. Petro also drilled numerous well with many of the conventional producers still involved with the Association today, include Jerry Olds, David Hill, and Dick Poling.


Petro expanded its drilling operations outside of Ohio into Pennsylvania and Michigan for a period of time. It was during this time Jay asked his son Jason to join the company—having a background in geology and environmental science from the University of Pennsylvania.   


Finding the most success in Ohio and Pennsylvania, Petro opened an office in Pennsylvania in 2005 with Jason heading up much of this operation. Petro drilled a 12,458 foot well in Pennsylvania, completing it and eventually selling it. Samples from the well and the footage was donated to the Ohio Geological Survey, Petro found it important to donate this information to help Ohio because the logs that the state had did not contain this type of information. The Pennsylvania office remained open for five years and was used primarily for leasing until the downturn started.


Drilling projects that Petro focused on across Pennsylvania were in the Trenton Black River and Knox formations. The company’s Utica and Marcellus leases helped offset some projects that were less successful than anticipated. The company had a good acreage position on the boarder of Ohio and Pennsylvania before people knew what the Marcellus was. The wells and experience gained in the Trenton and Knox put them on the forefront of the shale.


Petro tried to morph as times got tough opening different entities over the years; with Petro Evaluation Services, Inc. remaining the overarching business that has been operating in Ohio for 40 years. In the 1970s Petro opened Environmental Brine and learned how to operate the disposal process. Petro Energy Services was opened for a period of time to serve mid-stream companies.  Petro Evaluation served as the leasing arm of all the Petro companies. Jay attributes Petro’s success to keeping ahead of the curve and not growing too rapidly. Petro has actively owned, managed or been involved in almost every aspect of oil and gas production in Ohio.


Today Petro operates with seven full time employees, ranging from office employees to a few pumpers working in the field. From the beginning Petro has drilled and operated its own wells, and has approximately 80 wells still in operation today.


Changes in the industry:


Recently, while giving a presentation to a group of college students Jay was asked how many booms he’s been through, and was able to quickly respond, “four.”


“When I got out of college all the geologist were facing a downtime. I remember four of these downtimes, the industry grows, falls, grows and falls, and it will be back though.”


The greatest positive change Jay has seen in the industry over time has been the advancements in technology. Technological drilling techniques and the ability to get answers quickly from computers has shaped the industry to a new level it’s at today.


With the new technology bringing new drilling techniques—like horizontal drilling—it has also brought stricter regulations. Jay thinks working in the industry is not going to get any easier and it is important to get and stay ahead of the curve. Some of the rules being applied to horizontal drilling get carried over to older wells where they shouldn’t apply—which new inspectors don’t often realize.


Jay’s outlook for the industry remains strong. He feels it is important for someone such as himself, who has been in the industry for years, to give back. He does this by supporting his preferred colleges and occasionally speaking at them.

“There’s going to be a lot of severing of minerals that we can do. Natural gas is the main stay energy of the future. We’re going to need geologist to steer us away from trouble, and geology in that sense is going to be absolutely critical.”

History with the OOGA:

Jay has been a member of the Ohio Oil and Gas Association since the mid 1960s when he started working for Birdwell. In 1987 he was elected to the Board of Trustees where he held the position through 1995. Jay also had involvement with the PAC committee over the years.

Jay feels the educational side of the Association, Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP) has been a great thing for the industry, stressing the importance of educating our teachers and students on the oil and gas industry.

Jay described Petro as going about the industry “the old fashion way” and enjoying things. He touted the work that the Association has done to make Ohio a good state to do work in.

 “Ohio is really a ring leader in state development, in terms of being pro oil and gas. And that’s in large part to Tom Stewart and a couple of his forbearers.”

Jay’s positive outlook and closing thoughts on the industry, “Drill baby, drill. It has been fun, and it still is.” 


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