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How one old-school scientist found the biggest oil field this year

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SAN ANTONIO – The dirty dishes were waiting for Steve Keenan on a cool weekend morning in March. He had just finished breakfast – two eggs over easy, severely toasted bread, and crisp bacon – while his wife sat nearby, reading the Sunday paper. It was only 9 a.m. The phone rang.

Keenan didn’t recognize the number, but answered anyway, fearful something had gone wrong with a drilling rig or fracking crew that he oversaw as part of his job at the Houston oil company EOG Resources. A raspy voice barked out a name he didn’t recognize: Steve Farris, chairman and chief executive of Apache Corp.

“How did you get this number?” Keenan asked.

Farris didn’t answer. Instead, he got right to his point: Apache urgently needed to find oil and Keenan knew how to do it. Quit your job, Farris told him, come work for Apache and make the next big discovery. At the very least, Farris pleaded, come to Houston to talk about it.

Keenan was unconvinced.

“You’re being unrealistic,” Keenan responded. “Thinking I could just come there and find a big field. Do you know how long it takes to do that?”

Missing out

The year was 2014, and the oil boom was on. All around, exploration and production companies – including EOG – were cashing in. Apache wasn’t.

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Written by David Hunn

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