In Play: Launching into the Shale Business


Bart Sweazea is a jack-of-all-oil-trades and he’s bringing his multipronged skill set to the Bakken. In his early 20s, Sweazea began working in Texas as an oil and gas broker. “I would spend all of my time in the geologist’s office,” he says, “then I started to go chase my own leases.” After spending a few years putting small deals and drilling programs together, Sweazea endured a head-on automobile collision that changed his career path away from oil lease deal making and drilling programs to drilling mud solids control. “After I recovered, I had a friend who offered me a job in the field helping run a solids control company and I wanted to learn all I could about drilling horizontal shale wells, so I took it.”

Solids control allows a drilling operator to drill a well faster while avoiding stoppage time for drill cuttings and mud weight removal. “Once you get to a certain depth you can’t go fast and you are just putting your cuttings back in the hole,” Sweazea says. “You have to get those cuttings out in order to drill fast.”

The solids control business was the right choice for Sweazea. In total, he worked on, or participated in, 425 wells in the Barnett Shale of Texas. “We got them down to a science. I was working on some of the best rigs, drilling wells in 14 to 16 days,” he says. After 8 years of success, Sweazea decided to start his own independent oil and gas company to participate in the shale oil production industry, specifically the Bakken shale. His experience in the field provided knowledge of the shale drilling process, and the launch of Pangean Energy.

Former connections and investors with an early lease presence in the Bakken helped the company land its first acreage in the Williston Basin and by this fall, the company expects to have drilled it's first well. 

Sweazea has put together a team of geologists, engineers and drilling specialists from his connections in North Dakota and Texas. He hopes to utilize some of the solids control equipment and strategies he previously used in Texas to drill wells faster. “I’m hoping I can turn some of the drilling contractors up there on to some equipment that will improve drilling times,” he says. “We are going to go out there and see if we can hit some of the biggest wells.”

All laterals are expected to be at least two miles, and according to Sweazea, the drilling team is planning to emphasize high-volume fracking in each well. And, Sweazea plans to drill more than just a few wells. Pangean Energy has already formed a joint venture with another Texas-based exploration, production and enhanced oil recovery firm that Sweazea says will help solidify the role of Pangean Energy in the Bakken. “We decided that we were going to launch the company into shale plays because, in my experience, I know they have an exceptionally good chance of making a productive well,” he says. Of all Barnett shale wells he was a part of, Sweazea says he didn’t miss on one. “It taught me that the best place to drill an oil well is in the middle of an oil field,” he says with a laugh.

“I can’t think of a happier time since I’ve been in the oil business. The success rate in the Bakken is phenomenal. It is a good time to be in the oil business if you know how to drill a shale well.”