Meet the CEO: George Yates

The head of HEYCO Energy on new markets and second chances.

A third-generation oilman, HEYCO Energy Group CEO George Yates, 68, credits technological advancements in drilling for creating opportunities previously unimaginable. His early exploration days began in the late 1960s in the western part of the Permian Basin called the Delaware Basin, during a down period. Today HEYCO is positioned in 1.4 million acres in Northern Spain and in England’s hot unconventional gas play, the Bowlen Shale. To capitalize on the “revolutionary industrial conversion” happening in energy, Yates is playing a role in transitioning diesel-fueled rigs to natural gas-run rigs and developing mobile LNG (liquefied natural gas) for next-generation engines, he says, whether “trucks, trains, or boats.” 

First Job: 
At age 12, my father gave me the job of cleaning tanks with kerosene in the hot sun in the oil patch. I gained a respect for working people that has never left me. It was tough, tough work. 

“Disciplines combining science and technology have turned the Permian Basin into the hottest spot on earth.”

Lessons Learned: 
I was an entrepreneur from an early age. To teach me a lesson, my dad offered me either 60 cents per hour or 30 cents plus an override from a well, but only if the well produced. I chose the working interest, and was later told by a driller that this well was a “lease saver” that had no chance of success.

New Markets: 
Since the Barnett Shale’s performance, we asked ourselves, “Where could we succeed, given our experience and advances in technology?” Europe was an obvious place. 

Second Chances: 
Disciplines combining science and technology have turned the Permian Basin into the hottest spot on earth. With horizontal drilling, multi-stage hydraulic fracturing, and understanding petro-physics to mine source rock, a Basin that looked tired 10 or even 25 years ago has become a wonderful opportunity. 

Strengths: 
My strength is self-knowledge— knowing what my strengths and weaknesses are. I am more of a big picture guy, trying to understand how the world works, our role in it, and boil that down into a strategy that takes advantage of those trends. 

Weakness: 
The weakness comes with the strength. I have people who can spend days in the weeds executing strategy. 

Independent Streak: 
Like everyone one else in this business, we stand on many shoulders. In my lifetime, I’ve seen the industry turn a natural gas shortage into a surplus in 18 months. Prices would be much more expensive, and many places that are growing would be in recession. The world owes the independents a debt of gratitude. 

Outlook: 
I see oil prices restrained by our ability to produce. I see markets growing if we can avoid disaster, including financial meltdowns and war, which stifles growth. If we can have reasonable policy—not even good policy—then the world will grow. 

Family: 
I’ve been married for 39 years, with two daughters and four grandchildren. 

After Hours: 
I love to fly fish. I measure my success each year in how many days I spend on the river. Lately, given the opportunities, I have been quantitatively unsuccessful.  

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