Our Next Meeting
(with current abstract)


“The Wildcatters, the Regulators and the Prize: Chronicles of the Cat Canyon Oil Field, Santa Barbara County, CA.


Joe Nahama, President, PetroRock LLC


Wildcatters spend a lifetime developing the skills to find the next Prize; a large oil or gas reservoir. Regulators have a mandate to protect both the environment and public from real or potential threats. Thus, a field of play is set where a wildcatter drives towards developing a Prize, while regulators play defense, wanting all potential future threats to be mitigated. In California, the “wildcatter” of old must become the new Playmaker, and navigate the team to the prize.
PetroRock set its sights on the prize of the Sisquoc Oil Sands in the Cat Canyon Field, Santa Barbara County, CA. These Pliocene heavy oil sands were steamed cyclically from 1965 to 1997 by Texaco and produced 4 million barrels of 8 API oil. Oil prices and the regulatory environment in the late 1990’s prompted Texaco to abandon these leases.
After a cursory look at the old Texaco production, PetroRock decided to “do what it takes” to reactivate the field. That’s when we learned about the Santa Barbara County Production Plan process. Impacts to air, tiger salamanders, ground water, ambient noise, visual impacts, traffic counts, and septic tanks, among other things, had to be addressed in a County application. How would PetroRock do this?
To execute our plan, we implemented a three-step process. First, by understanding the geology and reservoir characteristics of the Sisquoc sands and compared this with questions posed to us by the Regulators. Second, we took our knowledge and met face to face with regulators and heard their concerns. This lost art of being in the “Room Where It Happens” was crucial for our project. Finally, we changed our “team” mindset and went from “Wildcatters versus Regulator” to “we’re all in this together”.
As PetroRock has found, each day does not guarantee the ball will be moved down the field. But the modern wildcatter’s knowledge can develop the playbook and keep the team on a successful quest for the prize.


Joe Nahama (jnahama@petrorock.com)
Joe grew up in Bakersfield, California and first worked in the oil industry during high school. He graduated from UCLA in 1987 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Geology and, in 1990, from the Colorado School of Mines with a Masters of Petroleum Engineering. Joe went to work for Union Pacific Resource Corp where he was a production engineer working with horizontal wells in the Austin Chalk. In 1992 he moved back home and began working as a Petroleum Engineer/Geologist at Nahama and Weagant Energy Company working with a heavy oil field in Kern County and multiple gas fields in the Sacramento Basin and Oregon. In 1994, Joe and his father, Rodney Nahama, formed their own company called Nahama Natural Gas (NNG). NNG drilled 15 wells from 1996 to 2001. Joe joined Vaquero Energy in January 2002 and PetroRock LLC in 2008. Joe holds the 1997 AAPG A.I. Leverson Award and Joe was voted 1997 Young Alumnus of Year by the Colorado School of Mines Alumni Association. He is 51 years old and is married to Beth Mensing, also a Petroleum Engineer from Colorado School of Mines. Beth and Joe are currently raising three boys. Joe is currently President of PetroRock LLC, one of four companies under the Vaquero Energy umbrella.


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