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PIOGA – Member Spotlight

The aim of science is to build true and accurate knowledge about how the world works. For one PIOGA member, targeting scientific truths has been a focus in his life. Dan Billman, has made it a life and career goal to inform the public on the truths of the oil and gas industry, spreading knowledge where he can.

“If I can, in any way, help educate the public and provide a better understanding of science, then I have succeeded,” Billman said. “If people were a little more science-minded they might better understand the oil and gas industry”

Recently, Dan Billman, President of Billman Geologic and PIOGA Board Member, took time out of his busy schedule to meet virtually for an interview. Sporting his favorite gray t-shirt and a friendly smile; Billman sitting in a chair dedicated to his alma mater, West Virginia University, took time to dig into his life and career achievements.

Growing up in Huron, Ohio, Billman has always looked at the world with a scientific lens. ‘I have always been a science- minded individual. Even as a child – always questioning – how does the world work? Why is this rock where it is? Why is this river flowing here? That has always been my look at the world,” Billman said.

True to his nature, Billman received his undergraduate in Geology from the University of Toledo (Ohio) and his masters in Geology from West Virginia University. After graduating, in 1989, Billman landed his first geology job in the oil and gas industry with Mark Resources in Pittsburgh. After his time at Mark Resources, he worked as a development geologist for Eastern States Exploration Company until 1993.

In 1993, Billman started his consulting firm, Billman Geologic. Billman was in his twenty’s when he started his consulting firm and didn’t foresee his business being his lifetime career.

“I was still in my 20’s and thought, ‘I’ll just consult for a while’, here we are almost 30-years later, and I still haven’t found a real job yet,” Billman joked. “I guess this is my real job.”

At the start of his consulting career, Billman did a lot of field work. He worked mainly with conventional operators and a majority were smaller ‘mom and pop’ oil and gas companies.

“A couple of things changed over time,” Billman explained. “I started very strictly as a consultant. The client had a project and I completed it – that was standard consulting practice. As years went by, I started developing and selling my own oil and gas prospects – selling them to companies that might not have had their own geologic staff.”

The Marcellus Shale boom in the 2000’s, changed the geological game for Billman and his consulting business. From a predominately vertical (conventional) industry to an unconventional shale well. The Marcellus, in every aspect, was a game changer of the oil and gas industry.

During this transformative time, Billman was unsure if there was a place for him in the industry as a geologist. Billman, faced with adversity, took the change in stride, and created a new geological consulting playbook. “As a geologist, I started looking at different rock types, drilling techniques – everything was different. My client-base changed, no longer was I working with the ‘mom and pop’ smaller companies. I was now working with larger national and international companies and start-ups,” Billman explained.

“As a geologist, you are not charged with getting the well drilled but the aspects of that process – and that is where geology matters. What rocks are you drilling through and how are you drilling them?”

Billman summarized the transition by the old saying “It was a little bit of teaching an old dog new tricks.” “Prior, I was not someone who was involved in horizontal drilling. I was not involved with large-scale hydraulic fracture treatments. It took some time to learn what this new industry meant for a geologist. It was a time of learning – it was a time of wondering if there was a place for me in this industry.”

The Marcellus boom deemed to be a turning point for Billman Geologic, as new oil and gas companies started coming and investing in the Appalachian basin, Billman found himself back in the game.

“Once the new to the basin companies started chasing the Marcellus Shale, my business took off. I was working with a lot of larger companies and start-ups.”

Billman Geologic has now been a successful endeavor for 30-years and served as a joint venture for Billman and his wife, Pam. Pam Billman, also a geologist, started with the firm about 15 years ago.

Billman’s consulting firm now does a lot of work for financial planners, accountants, lawyers and land-owners. “A lot of the job now is working with those who might have a land-owner client. We work a lot with property, mineral rights valuations, geologic storage, and saltwater disposal. There is still work with the traditional oil and gas companies, but the work has grown outside of the industry as well.”

Spreading Knowledge and Encouraging Science Mindfulness

Billman has dedicated a lot of his time to promoting the oil and gas industry, providing geology education, and serving as a vehicle of facts for the oil and gas industry.

Billman joined PIOGA in 2004 – he now sits on the PIOGA Board and is a strong advocate for the industry.

“All of us interact everyday with non-oil and gas folks – whether it be your neighbor or its just someone you run into at the grocery store,” Billman said. “We (those in the industry) need to remind people that there is not a secret handshake – that we do not have a secret code at the gasoline pump to get a discount. All of the things happening in the world, in regard to oil and gas, impact me (those in the industry) just like they do everyone else. We need to let the populace know we are not evil – we are trying to do the right things. The public needs to understand we are trying to find and produce the oil and gas that we need as a nation.”

Adding to his work with PIOGA, Billman serves as an advisory board member with the Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Billman’s involvement with the museum started with family trips to the museum when his daughter was young (now 26 years old) and grew to his current role as a member on the advisory board. Billman has built a strong relationship with the museum and has been able to advocate for the oil and gas industry, as well as educating the public.

“My involvement with the museum started over 20 years ago. My wife and I would take our daughter there on a regular basis. We became friends with the paleontologists and my wife, and I did some joint work with them. We put together a flyer on ‘What is the Marcellus Shale?’ – aiming to educate the public on the facts of unconventional drilling in southwestern PA. We would help with various research projects and would serve as a working geologist source of information.”

Billman’s dedication to his science and his proclivity to assist in research percolated up the ladder of the museum system and eventually he was asked to be on the advisory board of the natural history museum.

“My involvement with the museum has been in part because of my science-minded nature – I enjoy learning about natural history and helping to provide education to the public.”

Billman’s role at the museum has allowed for him to advocate for the oil and gas industry and science mindfulness.

“There is a lot of misinformation out there about our industry – what we do, what we produce, how we do it. If people were more science-minded, in general, they might understand better what we do as oil and gas professionals, geologists, engineers, etc. If the public understood better ‘what does a rock look like that holds natural gas,’ then they may be a little less skeptical of the process,” Billman said. “If I can, in any way, help with the better understanding of science – then maybe as an industry we will have less blowback as we try to do what we do.”

Billman’s aim is to be a means to an end of an educational divide. A simple equation – helping the public make informed decisions and be science-minded equates to the world being a better place. Billman strongly believes this is what the Carnegie Museum system is aiming to do, and he wants to be part of the equation.

Beyond the museum, Billman has been an advocate of the sciences through various presentations at schools, civic organizations, and educational groups. “I have presented on geology at elementary schools, high schools, and colleges. There is a focus on the oil and gas industry and the different jobs within the industry – from geology to the trades.”

A Science Based Life

Outside of his business and work engagements, Billman still lives a life full of science and nature. From golfing, fishing and bird watching to attending seminars on southern hemisphere dinosaurs (which he and Pam had done the night before the interview), Billman’s happiness revolves around his love of science.

“I enjoy doing things in nature and learning about the earth,” Billman said.

As for his time left working – Billman is unsure of his future career plans. “I am at a point in my career where I could cash in my chips and retire but then I realize I am not ready for that. So, I don’t know what the future holds,” Billman said. “You would like to think as an individual you can make a difference. There is a saying that ‘when you go on a hike you don’t leave the woods any worse than you found them.’ Well, maybe I didn’t make the industry any worse but maybe a little better than I found it.”

Prior to ending the virtual meeting, Billman closed his interview with his parting thoughts on the industry and the future of oil and gas.

“As we move to electrification of the world, we need natural gas …. It’s that simple. Natural gas is a low emission, reliable and affordable energy source to make electricity. I am not anti solar or wind – but reality is the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine. You need a reliable energy source- to allow for a stable grid. Natural gas is not going anywhere, we will need natural gas for quite some time. As much as there are pressures on our industry, I do not see our industry going way. We need that reliability, we need affordability.”


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