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OOGA Member Spotlight, Dick Poling

Posted By Lyndsey Kleven, Communications Coordinator, Monday, May 4, 2015

The member spotlight series features legacy OOGA members who have also 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:

Richard C. Poling, grew up in Hocking County on a dairy farm. His father owned the farm and the dairy business was not exactly booming in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Poling’s father shifted his focus from the dairy farm and started trading leases, eventually leading him to start pumping wells. This became Poling’s initial exposure to the oil and gas industry. Poling was an only child and spent a lot of time with his father; in his early childhood he was around the oil wells and helped pumping and hooking up wells.

Poling decided he wanted to become a surveyor and went to school at Muskingum Technical College to study drafting and surveying. He worked doing this for one year until the oil embargo of the early 1970s sent the country into a recession and Poling was out of a job.

In 1974 Poling went to work for Oxford Oil under Bill Straker, as a draftsman creating Oxford’s maps, permits and applying for permits, and he also did leasing. As Oxford Oil was picking up more business Poling began working in the office and out in the field. In 1976 Straker encouraged Poling to go back to school for Petroleum Engineering. Poling enrolled for school in Zanesville (currently Zane State College) and received his Associates Degree in Petroleum Engineering in 1977. Poling continued working for Straker at Oxford Oil fulltime while he obtained his degree and the two years after receiving it.  During that time Poling expanded his experience by added well completions to his growing list of capabilities.

In 1979 Poling left Oxford and went to work for Bremco to help take care of some of their wells. Poling left Bremco in 1980 and went into business for himself. The early 1980s was a very busy time for the industry and Poling started out by operating and drilling wells for Jerry Olds.

“He was doing a lot of consulting work, so he lined me up a lot of clients to do other oilfield work for and well completion,” Poling said. “I kept doing this until I got enough production on my own, and with him, to really make it all work.”

About R.C. Poling Co., Inc.:

R.C. Poling Company was formed in 1980 and is based out of Junction City, Ohio in Perry County. Poling started the business by doing anything that needed to be done, from buying and selling wells, drilling and producing wells, and even plugging wells. Poling and his 33-year-old son currently operate 175-200 conventional wells mostly throughout Southeastern Ohio, the business also employs an office manager.

“We’ve done a lot of drilling and completions and we’ve put together drilling deals,” Poling shared, “A lot of the local people that are in the oil and gas industry are partners with us on wells, and we purchase some older wells.”

The fluctuating oil market has a great impact on an independent oil producer’s drilling plans for the year. Poling said in good times they would drill 10 wells, and only one in poorer market conditions. When times are slower they focus on doing a lot of their own maintenance work and would consider buyouts of other companies.

“It has treated me good, it is good work, I have enjoyed it, and I have had a lot of fun,” Poling said. “I have met a lot of characters over the years. I used to say you could spend a day with the ‘old-timers,’ do a hard day’s work and have more fun than if you paid somebody for work. I could tell stories all day long about the oilfields.”

Poling thinks of R.C. Poling as a typical, small-sized, oil and gas producing company. Poling said before the shale boom, there were thousands of companies like his around. There were a few big companies like Oxford Oil and Ken Oil but the rest of the producers were mom and pop operations. Some of the producers had 20 wells, other would have upwards of 500 wells, but take out the handful of big companies and the rest were similar to R.C. Poling.  

To stay informed with what is going on in the energy industry Poling is on the board of directors of South Central Power Company, largest electric cooperative in the state of Ohio, with 110,000 members. He has also been a chairman of Commodore Bank, in Somerset for 25 years.

“You learn a lot about trends in the energy business in general. And in the banking you learn a lot about finances, investments and monetary policy and why things are done the way they are.”

OOGA Involvement:

Poling joined the Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA) in 1974 when he started working for Oxford Oil. He maintained his individual membership when he left the company and started working for himself. Poling is active on the OOGA Board of Trustees and has been since 1996.

The value Poling sees in the OOGA is volume of members and the dimension of voices this group provides. “The bigger the voice, the louder the voice, the more they pay attention to you. No one wants to listen to me, but they will listen to 3,000 of us.”

Growing up around the oil and gas industry in southeastern Ohio, Poling has known former OOGA Executive Vice President Tom Stewart since childhood.

“I can remember, when I was a kid, going out when Tom’s dad fraced one of the first wells that was hydro fraced in this part of the country, in the late 1950s,” Poling shared. “We went to that, just to see it take place. Everyone in the area came to see it, there were cars parked for miles. They were going to hydraulically fracture a well, and that just wasn’t heard of at the time. Especially with the amount of water that was needed, everyone was rather skeptical. It made a very nice well, from then on they were fracing.”

Poling credited Stewart as being a great supporter for the oil and gas industry over the years. Poling said, “Tom Stewart has been such a great advocate for the oil and gas industry because he grew up with it, he knows what it is, and he knew what the people he was working for were thinking about and how they work. He was out there to help us and protect us—he’s always been an advocate for small oil and gas producers and has done a good job over the years.”

The Association works to represent conventional and horizontal drillers, and Poling feels well represented as a conventional driller. He says that all people in the industry should bind together and support the OOGA or that other opposing groups will conquer.

Shale-development’s impact on business:

There is no shale drilling in the areas where Poling operates, and Poling only drills conventional wells. However, Poling has seen the development’s impact creating a shift in attitude among landowners. Most notably, landowners have developed a sense entitlement overvaluing their perceived worth in royalties.

Poling also attributed increased regulatory standards on the oil and gas industry as a ramification of the shale boom.

“The industry is changing, in my opinion, they keep squeezing the smaller producer out. Between government regulations, environmental regulations and liability issues, you’ll have to be a decent sized company that’s able to afford to have the staff to keep up with it all.”

Poling again recounted drilling memories from his earlier years. “I have been around fracing for over 50 years and I don’t know of one documented case where it’s ever hurt anybody or harmed anybody. In 1958 we would go watch frac jobs and the road would be blocked off for it. The farmers down in the hills hadn’t seen anything like it.”

Dealing with Anti-Development

In dealing with anti-development, Poling sees a common theme in viewpoints, with a big issue being the idea that everything can be 100 percent renewable.

“You’ve got to have energy. Solar, wind, and other renewables have not developed enough yet to fully support us. They will in their day and there is a place for them—we’re starting to see more and more people use them. What the American people want is clean, reliable, cheap energy, whether its electric, natural gas or gasoline, whatever they’ve got, and so far nothings has beat natural gas and coal fired electricity.”

Poling sees natural gas as being the key player in future energy. In an electrical shortage natural gas would be the quickest fix. He also think the future will include a lot of personal gas generation. Poling stated that many people have back up generators now that run on natural gas, and thinks we could see more fuel cells in the future.

“You can not run an industrial nation on solar power. Nothing is going to be as cheap or as efficient as coal fired generation or base load generation. People don’t realize that, and they probably won’t ever realize that until they get cold or dark.”

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