Finding oil in the Bakken oil play has been compared to hitting a bull’s-eye from 1,000 yards away. You have to drill 10,000 feet below the surface and at some point turn the bit 90 degrees, steering it to a horizontal plane until it hits an oil-bearing formation somewhere between 10 and 20 feet thick.
At each drilling rig, an onsite geologist analyzes a steady stream of information that comes back from special instruments located 40 to 50 feet behind the drill bit. He then advises the drilling crew where to steer the bit in an effort to stay in the pay zone and maximize the well’s production.
When you consider that the average Bakken well costs somewhere between $7 million and $9 million to drill, it goes without saying that errors can be costly.
“If you’re drilling in the Middle Bakken area and you get out of the target window, the shale is sticky and hard, and you can stick the bit in there,” said Casey Anderson, president of Billings-based Brara Geo, a business that provides geologic and hydrocarbon analysis for oil and gas wells.
Getting the bit stuck in the well bore can easily be a $500,000 mistake. And if the geologist messes up more than once, he ends up getting fired.
“If we don’t do a good job, it could add substantially to the cost of the well,” Anderson said, adding that his firm has never been fired.
Anderson, a Billings native, said this is a good location for his company because it’s close to good oil and gas-producing areas such as the Bakken.
The company has grown to nine employees and Anderson expects the oil and gas industry to remain strong for years to come.
Describe how you got where you are in your work today: Hard work, dedication, humility and sacrifice. I basically lived in a fifth-wheel down by the river for a year in my mid-20s to save money and make this possible. It turned out to be a very humbling and rewarding decision. There was obviously more to it than that but that was the key ingredient in making it through my first year of business.
What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Properly managing growth (personnel/financing).
What did you learn from that challenge? No matter how big or small it will always be an issue. You must be diligent in your decision making and not let greed or others’ wants and needs deter you from staying the course of properly managing your business.
What’s the best business advice you have received? Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.
Who gave you that advice? Charlie Hoefle.
Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: Be a part of building a new community center that gives the youth somewhere to go and something to do that is healthy and productive. I want to help build character, teamwork and leadership skills that are invaluable.
Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Relationships. To me business is all about relationships with the two main focus points being loyalty and trust. If you can be a person of integrity and gain people’s trust and be loyal to your associates, win or lose fiscally, you know you represented yourself well and if another opportunity presents itself you or your business will again be considered.
Which living person do you most admire? My wife. She is the backbone to everything I do and am, and I would not be here if it were not for her continuing love and support.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Having employees. Being able to provide others with work and provide a stable employment environment in which they can provide for themselves and their families is very rewarding.
I’m happiest when I’m… Fly-fishing.