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Technology Unlocks Petroleum Potential

Chevron - Ludlow, California
A Chevron gas station at 25635 Crucero Road in Ludlow, California, near I-40 and Route 66.
Photo by Tony Webster

BYU alum Chris Bexfield has worked ten years for one of the United States’ top hydrocarbon producers—combining business, technology, and geology.

Chevron employed Bexfield in 2007 after he had worked three years for Anadarko Petroleum. His geological knowledge has influenced Chevron’s business outcomes across the globe, including in Brazil, Southeast Asia, Greenland, and the North West Shelf of Australia.

“I didn’t want to work in a lab,” Bexfield said. “I wanted to be making large business decisions, and geology is a field where you’re able to direct business decisions.”

But a career in geology was not Bexfield’s original plan.

Bexfield was studying microbiology at BYU but discovered the subject was not for him. To fulfill a core requirement, he took Geology 101 from Dr. R. Paul Nixon, who had previously worked for Mobil. Intrigued, Bexfield asked Dr. Nixon about opportunities in the oil industry. Dr. Nixon advised Bexfield to take more geology classes to see if it was right for him.

Bexfield took Dr. Nixon’s advice and graduated in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in geology.

“He put me on the path to go into geology, and I haven’t looked back,” Bexfield said.

Bexfield continued his graduate education at BYU. During that time, the petroleum company Anadarko was recruiting at BYU’s campus and offered Bexfield a three-month-long internship, his entry into the industry. Bexfield graduated with his master’s degree in geology in 2004 and began his internship that same summer. Because of his effort, Anadarko offered Bexfield a full-time position as a petroleum geologist developing a domestic resource in northern Louisiana.

Bexfield’s goal was to work with high-impact international projects, and while Anadarko could provide that opportunity, he searched for a company with a larger international portfolio. He interviewed with several companies, got multiple offers, and decided to work for Chevron.

Even though Bexfield made a career move with the ambition of working an international assignment, Chevron hired Bexfield to work with domestic assets at first, assigning him to the Permian and Delaware basins as part of a reservoir management team.

“It was a good experience because it helped me to develop more of my abilities and expanded my understanding of corporate strategy,” Bexfield said. “The approaches I would build on for the rest of my career actually started with the work I did in the Permian and Delaware basins.”

He worked on that assignment for three years then finally got the opportunity he had been waiting for: Chevron moved him to the technology company (Energy Technology Company). From his workstation in Houston, his projects have delved into basins in Brazil, Southeast Asia, Greenland, and the North West Shelf of Australia.

For three years, Bexfield lived with his family in Perth, Australia, doing basin analysis and prospect maturation for basins in Australia and Indonesia. Chevron then brought him back to Houston and put him on the Global Exploration and New Ventures team, which oversees and introduces exploration strategies within the company. Bexfield currently works with this team to evaluate whether Chevron should enter new countries, basins, or lease acquisitions based on geologic technical success and positive business drivers.

Bexfield said he and his team members constantly stay up to date on the latest technology to maximize resource potential. Progression in technology, he said, has allowed oil companies to harvest more from basins in which production was once declining.

“You take the Permian Basin for instance; it was a ‘brownfield’ by definition where the production had declined,” Bexfield said. “Many companies had left the Permian Basin altogether. Now you see such a resurgence out in West Texas and New Mexico where you have companies now trying to get back into those basins.”

Bexfield said BYU’s Department of Geological Sciences gave him a great foundation for his career as an exploration geologist. BYU geology students have the opportunity to see the science up close; the geology is in BYU’s “own backyard.” This sets BYU apart from other college programs, according to Bexfield. He has encountered other BYU alumni who also attribute their success to BYU’s geology curriculum and its top-notch educators.

“I would not have changed my educational choice of going to BYU if I had to,” Bexfield said. “I am glad that I had that experience and worked with the professors that are in the Geology Department.”