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'Shark' Keith Lynch Reviews Ideas Pitched by 'Sparks'

Most of us have viewed or are at least familiar with the tv series, Shark Tank. In a clever play on words, the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) Advanced Rig Technology (ART) Committee hosted three forums in 2017 called the Spark Tank. The IADC Spark Tanks are forums where new and developing technologies (“sparks”) are presented to a panel of operators and contractors (“sharks”), who provide feedback to the presenter. The purpose is to provide technology developers with insights on what is important to their prospective customers. Thirty minutes are allotted for each topic; 15 minutes for a pitch presentation then Q&A. ARCO Alumnus Keith Lynch was a ‘shark’ on August 2.

Keith chairs the Drilling Engineers Committee for IADC (formerly known as the Drilling Engineering Association, DEA, a group focused on facilitating JIPs for new drilling related technologies). He took over the role from Ben Bloys, Chevron, who is also a former ARCO colleague.

There is sometimes a vast disconnect between a good idea and a great product, and the Spark Tanks attempts to close that gap in a good-natured, productive manner,” IADC Group Vice President/Publisher Mike Killalea said of the Spark Tanks, which is his brain child.

“The Spark Tank has been fun for everybody” said Keith Lynch. “IADC sends out a meeting notice to attend the Spark Tank and see the technologies. We created an opportunity for ideas to be presented to drilling contractors and operators in a format like Shark Tank,” said Keith. “The presenters are people with an innovation or invention. They run the full spectrum, and might be entrepreneurs working in a garage, a small company looking to expand a product line, or major service companies pitching an idea. The next Spark Tank is December 6. See:

The goal is to offer an environment where new ideas are pitched that have not gotten traction elsewhere.

“Everyone thinks they have their own secret sauce to improve a product or service,” said Keith. 

The role of the “Sharks” is to assess the technologies discussed and offer advice on options to fund/promote the development and use.

The audience is a good cross-section of drilling contractors and operators. If someone in the audience likes a presentation, they can approach the presenters afterward. The role of the sharks is to offer advice, suggest whom to speak to, or how to further the technology. The sharks also point out any flaws they see. “It a classic free advice scenario where the inventor might make a connection and ultimately get an endorsement where someone pays for their technology,” said Keith.

A Wells Operations Advisor at ConocoPhillips in Houston, Keith does committee work with both the SPE and the DEC. “Like my work with SPE, the DEC efforts are meant to promote positive activity in the industry,” explained Keith. “ConocoPhillips encourages the technical staff to participate in this type- of professional organization involvment.”

Thank you to everyone who attended our reunion at the Paramount Cafe October 24. Log on to view the event pictures. Members shared the following:

Our sponsors
A special thank you to ACS, Advancial, Edge Energy, Liberty Resources and Noble Energy for making the event possible. It was great to see more than 50 former colleagues, spouses and even a son attend.

We missed Mark Pearson and his infectious laughter as he was in the UK celebrating his mother’s birthday. Liberty Resources was well represented by Stacy Strickland, Larry Griffin and Gordon Pospisil.

Steve Enger, Edge Energy, also sponsored the Denver event. He brought along his wife Cynthia and Mike and Cindy Reinart who were in town from Missouri. The two couples flew to Europe the next day to cruise the Rhine. The Reinart’s had flown in from Seattle where they visited their daughter and grand-children.

cynthia steve enger

Career and/or city changes
Sam French moved to Denver with BP L48 in early August, where the company established its new headquarters. “Funny thing,” said Sam, “my first permanent assignment with Arco was in Denver in 1984. I've come full circle.” Sam is in the West Business Unit, focused on Mancos Shale Gas development in the San Juan Basin. He is also BP's subject matter expert on refracturing horizontal shale wells, helping all business units implement refracs in their assets.

Tom Walker has his own business in petroleum engineering consulting. Tom founded Orchard Petroleum Engineering Solutions, PLLC in early 2016. OPE is a professional production engineering consulting company. He and Sam also serve on an SPE committee together.

Jay Stratton is in Denver working for Jagged Peak Energy since mid August. Michelle and four of their daughters are in Oklahoma which “after seven years feels like home to the girls.” With grandchildren in Kansas City and Grapevine, Jay was all smiles when he said that he will be competing for Michelle’s attention.

Tom LaHouse relocated from Houston to Denver. He closed on a house in the Denver area in early October, fulfilling a long standing desire to live near the Rockies. He therefore had the opportunity to meet fellow alumni on the 24th.

Dan DeLapp and his wife Shirley are still driving the backroads of America and loving it, but two grandsons in Colorado have them traveling less. They moved to Fort Collins in July 2015 and love being grandparents.

Joanne Cech also drove from Fort Collins where she is working for the City and enjoying how well run it is.

Pat and Sylvie McGuire are back in the U.S. living in Colorado Springs. Pat is an SPE Distinguished lecturer, he is working at International Reservoirs Technology Inc and is available for consulting.

Carrie Laudon, with Geophysical Insights is also available for consulting in her field of expertise, the geosciences.

Larry Chorn was in Academia at Colorado School of Mines, at Encana and is now with a smaller company.

Long-term residents
Robert Schutzius is still at Anadarko where he is the Reserves Manager for the Wattenberg Field; Alan Wilson is at Encana, and William O’Brien is with Nitec LLC, where he works on enhanced oil recovery. Tom Tracey continues to work for BTA Oil Producers in Denver, focused on the Williston, Powder River, and Delaware Basins. Scott Wilson has been with Ryder Scott in Denver since 2000.

John MinierHerb Vogel Pat McGuire

Herb Vogel and Watty Strickland are two ARCO alumni working at SM Energy with Jay Ottoson; Herb attended the happy hour; Watty was on business in the Permian Basin.

Since 2014, Neyeska Mut has been President of Cynosure Energy, a joint venture between her holding company, Cynosure Enterprises, and a private equity investment group. Cynosure acts as the operator for various investment funds working interests in Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado. Her son has recently left Chevron to join Cynosure as project manager, freeing Steve and Nyeska to spend more time together as they transition to retirement.

Until that time, Steve Mut is consulting with Nycon Energy on Unconventional Oil Integrated Projects and Strategy.

In other News
John and Cindy Minier were returning from a visit with John’s son, daughter-in-law and 10 month old daughter in Moab where they met for hiking and visiting. After the happy hour, they returned to their home in Estes Park.

Terri Skinner retired from Marathon and came along to catch up with friends; Dallas and Phyllis Spear, both formerly with ARCO, are also retired.

Melanie Westergaard retired from Denali Energy and has spent her time traveling, volunteering and serving on the Board of Directors at CSM Alumni Foundation.

We were sorry to miss Ben Ball and Chris Garlasco, both of whom continue consulting for PRA.

We re-connected with some members including Ben and Alice Chao who live in Denver and will be married 50 years in 2018. Congratulations.

Kim Touysinhthiphonexay is a new member who shares that she has been out of the oil and gas business for about 15 years and now works as principal analyst and data scientist for Acxiom Corporation, mostly in the area of digital marketing data analytics. She is an artist, painting watercolors and also large-scale murals and props.

Paul Shattuck is retired and living in Montana City, Montana with his wife Colleen. They live in Wimberley, Texas during the winter.

Steve Keisling last worked for ARCO in 1993. During that tenure, he worked in Lafayette and Bakersfield. Since then he has moved out of the oil and gas industry.

Kenneth Bland did not attend the event as he had knee surgery. We hope it went well!  

James HowardJames Howard passed away September 11, 2017 in Dallas Texas. James began his career with ARCO Oil and Gas in 1978. He later worked in accounting and finance in the telecommunications industry for MCI/WorldCom/Verizon. He retired in 2014.

Steve Phillips shares that “James was one of the kindest and nicest people I ever met.  We worked together a great deal during our ARCO careers.  He was always a hard worker and got along with everyone.  I honestly do not even remember him getting angry with anyone.  I was so happy when he and Marcia got together.  James and I were in each other’s weddings within weeks of each other.  James was a special guy, and this world is a lesser place without him,” said Steve.

Art Hughes recalls how James used to own a Pontiac Fiero sports car and Art, Steve and James loved the jalapeno chicken fried steak sandwiches from what Art recalls was “a sweaty, hole-in-the wall restaurant in eastern downtown Dallas, long since converted to some Yuppie gourmet place”. 

“More important,” said Art, “James was a true believer in American Conservatism”.

Click here to share your story about James Howard.

Ken Thompson kindly sat down for an interview before the ARCO Alumni happy hour in Anchorage as part of our tribute to Marlan Downey. Click to watch the video interview. Below, Marlan’s colleagues and friends share what made Marlan so special. Please share your own memory of Marlan by clicking to add a comment.

Mary Sculley Crop Marlan was my favorite “boss” in my whole life,” shares Mary Sculley. “When Marlan joined ARCO International we were all intrigued by his quiet demeanor and slow conversational style. He would listen, ask questions rarely, and then point out a ‘missed’ connection that would send everyone back to the drawing boards,” recalls Mary, HR, ARCO 1989-1996.

In an attempt to pull all the teams together in the International headquarters office, Marlan started the Chili Cook Off which became a competition between driller, geologists, finance, etc.

Phoebe Wood Crop Recalls Phoebe Wood who worked with Marlan on the finance side at ARCO, “Marlan Downey possessed a graciousness and humanness that complemented a towering intellect and business acumen.  So many of us (as well as ARCO) benefited from being able to observe and emulate him,” said Phoebe.   

Not a morning person

“Knowing that he was not a morning person endeared him to us, just as knowing that his disagreement with you would come with a smile and a head shake and excessive politeness. His commitment to caring about an individual was on display every year when he hand wrote personal letters to us.  I will miss hearing from him,” -- With deepest sympathy, and enduring admiration , Phoebe Wood  ARCO 1976-2000.

His commitment to caring about an individual was on display every year when he hand wrote personal letters to us. I will miss hearing from him. - Phoebe Wood, ARCO 1976-2000

Marlan’s wife Marea helped get Marlan out the door early every day. She would fix his coffee, hand it to him with his briefcase and coat, raise the garage door, hand him his keys and kiss him goodbye. One day, Marea forgot to raise the garage door and Marlan backed right through it,” said Mary. This was a story retold many times.

Technical Expertise

David Nicklin Crop

Marlan was my mentor, my confidant, my hero and my friend.  –David Nicklin

Whether talking to someone for a story or at an ARCO Alumni event, the over-riding theme is that people recognize ARCO was second to none when it came to technical expertise. And as Ken Thompson shared, the upside of ARCO being acquired was that this talent dispersed around the globe to support companies large and small.

Talking to former associates, it is evident that Marlan played a huge role developing ARCO’s technical expertise. “It certainly has been my experience that the technical talent at ARCO was pretty unparalleled,” said David Nicklin.

Marlan set out to form a bridge where technical expertise superseded the regional territorial business units. His mission was to strengthen the technical staff.

First Impressions: Marlan’s first appearance on the ARCO scene was at the Management summit in Ojai California around 1990.  David recalls showing up at the meeting with a big chunk of core from a well ARCO had just drilled in Indonesia.  “It was all the excuse Marlan needed to get away from the clamor and go somewhere quiet to see the core and talk geology.  It proved to me that the reputation that preceded him was correct: he was fundamentally a rock guy and always open to discussing the technical fundamentals,” remembers David.

Marlan was fundamentally a rock guy and always open to discussing the technical fundamentals. -David Nicklin, ARCO 1981-1999

Well, kids

Galen Treadgold Crop

Galen Treadgold found that Marlan was the most approachable senior manager he ever had the good fortune to work for.  “Marlan seemed to always anticipate the next problem with a technical argument that may have taken us weeks to recognize.  When we headed in the wrong direction he'd gently push back with "that all sounds fine as long as we're not constraining solutions to those that obey the laws of physics..."  He was the only one that could call a room full of 40 and 50 year old geoscientists "kids" and we'd feel very comfortable with the classification.  He will be greatly missed by this kid.,” said Galen Treadgold, ARCO 1985 -2000.

Mary Sculley also recalls Marlan sitting in a meeting, listening respectfully, allowing multiple questions and answers and then saying, “well, kid, your team did a good job, but I have only one question.”

Putting your money where your mouth is:  David left Arco at the end of 1999 to form his own company.  Marlan agreed to be an Advisor to the Management Committee and an investor.  David was aware that Marlan had made similar offers to others as well.  “It was the person he was,” said David  “The most important advice he gave me and my colleagues was this: “Kids, if you want to be successful in this business, you have to be committed, you have to put your money where your mouth is, and ALWAYS pay the investors back first!”  This advice has helped structure every deal I have done since and I don’t regret a single cent of my own investments, because Marlan was right there with us, walking the talk,” said David.  

Frank Kryza and Marlan loved to talk about books and writing. “Marlan was an able critic of first drafts and, with hindsight, I cannot think of any subject that he couldn't discuss without teaching me something. And he was a lot more fun than an encyclopedia,” remembers Frank, ARCO 1982-1998.

Marlan was an able critic of first drafts and, with hindsight, I cannot think of any subject that he couldn't discuss without teaching me something. And he was a lot more fun than an encyclopedia. - Frank Kryza, ARCO 1982-1998

“Throughout all the years of knowing Marlan, I can think of no one who, after meeting him, did not feel immediately uplifted.  It was as if suddenly, the rest of your day was brighter and any problems you faced were suddenly smaller and more manageable.  His smile and his warmth were infectious, his intellectual depth reassuring.  He just made the world seem like a whole lot better place.  Knowing him was one of the greatest privileges of my life.” –David Nicklin, ARCO 1981-1999. 

Jamie Robertson Crop

“Marlan was a brilliant blend of technical and exploration talent. He showed me that one could be a hands-on explorationist and a generator of innovative technical advancements at the same time. One did not have to be one or the other in an oil company; one could be both. Marlan also taught the value of prediction over mere technical description in exploration. He emphasized that properly utilized technology should lead to predictable outcomes, not just be intellectually interesting. The warmth and good humor of his interactions with people were legendary. He was a friend and mentor, and I will miss him greatly.” – Jamie Robertson, ARCO 1975-2000.

Read Marlan’s Obituary.

aapgIf you are an AAPG member, the slate of candidates has been announced and includes a former ARCO employee. Visit the website and vote by May 15.