A recent story in the Houston Chronicle had some fun with the “secret and amusing world of oil and natural gas lease names.” Yet from one point of view they aren’t merely fun, they are intriguing. Asking about them in detail suggests some odd connections.
Lord of the Rings and other Myths
EOG Resources is the source of the most amusing lease names.
McMullen County, which is about a one and a half hour drive inland from Corpus Christi, is home to a set of EOG leases with Lord of the Rings themed names. These names include Frodo, Gandalf, Gollum, and Shire. EOG also has Arthurian named leases: Excalibur, Lancelot, and Galahad.
Meanwhile in Karnes County, which is directly southeast of San Antonio, EOG has named leases after Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili, each a legendary basketball player with the San Antonio Spurs. Ginobili is the winner of a rare trifecta: a EuroLeague title, an NBA championship, and an Olympic gold medal. It is no mystery why one would want one’s lease associated with that record. EOG also has a Karnes County lease named after the Spurs’ coach, Gregg Popovich.
EOG’s invocation of basketball inspired another oil company to follow suit, though drawing inspiration from a rival team. The Houston based 1776 Energy Operators has named a lease Hakeem Olujawom, after the celebrated Houston Rockets center.
Thinking of these names, it is startling to discover the regularity of comparisons between the oil and gas business and basketball in the scholarly literature on the former. For example, in 2016 Gary Sernovitz, the managing director of an oil & gas oriented private equity firm, wrote about how oil & gas had suddenly shifted from the pursuit of gas to “oil and natural gas liquids.” Sernovitz said that his first reaction, as an investor, was that this was akin to “Michael Jordan deciding that the world would be better off if he played baseball: we were going to see EOG, too, come back to its gifts.” Jordan’s brief sabbatical in baseball in the early 1990s lasted only a year, before he returned to basketball and the Chicago Bulls.
Other Athletic Endeavors
Other athletic endeavors, too, are honored by lease names. Birch Resources, a Houston based company, has a way with the names of its Permian Basin leases. It names them after college mascots, such as Mike the Tiger (LSU’s mascot) and Big Jay (a nod to the University of Kansas) as well as after professional wrestlers (Andre the Giant and Jake the Snake).
Perhaps it is an hommage to Michael Jordan’s sabbatical as a baseball player that one of the oil majors, Chevron, has named some of its leases after renowned baseball stadiums. In the Permian Basin it has the Astrodome, Camden, and Wrigley. The Astrodome continues our Texan theme, it is named for the trend-setting domed stadium created in the 1970s for major league baseball’s Astros. Camden Yards (or “Oriole Park at Camden Yards”) is the home of Baltimore, Maryland’s MLB franchise. And Wrigley Field, on the north side of Chicago, has been the home of the Cubs since 1914, though it wasn’t given its current name, an early example of corporate sponsorship involving the gum company, until 1927.
This brings us to another odd connection between the lease names, the sports that inspire them, and the oil & gas industry. In the same year in which the Cubs’ stadium became “Wrigley Field,” 1927, the Schlumberger brothers added a new technology, “electric well logging,” to the search for petroleum.
Names can be fascinating things.