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With the festive season upon us this is an ideal time to settle down in front of the fire with a quality book. I don’t mean the latest Stephen King novel – great that it is.

Money is Portable Power and Books are Portable Knowledge


At times these works can read like fiction capturing the history, challenges, geopolitics and revolutions which our sector is known for. Understanding the broader picture can help us connect the wells being drilled today to the wider narrative; ultimately a benefit to everyone.

Here are 7 book choices to add to your reading list in 2019:

Spills and Spin the Inside Story of BP Tim Bergin

This account penned post Macondo looks at the long history of BP and the path that lead to the terrible events of April 2010. Bergin had unique access to key management including former CEO’s Lord Browne and Tony Hayward which allowed him to piece together this account of an oil giant’s journey. Interestingly, today more of BP is held in the US than in Britain and it remains one of the largest producers in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Frackers Gregory Zuckerman

Greg Zuckermans’ The Frackers is a highly readable account of the shale revolution which gripped and continues to hold sway over large parts of the US. The ‘accidental-innovation’ by Drilling Engineer Nicholas Steinsberger and his team at Mitchell Energy to reduce the amount of gels and chemicals in the frack fluid to produce ‘slick water’ fracturing; went on to revolutionise his company’s and the industry’s fortunes. The rapid growth and even steeper decline of operators like Chesapeake Energy is a pointed reminder of the challenge of over leveraging.

Essential reading for all those stateside.

The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power Daniel Yergin

Rightly on many engineers’ and geologists’ reading list Yergin Vice Chairman of IHSMarkit delivers a comprehensive account of the industry from 1850 to 1990. The book’s title comes from a quote by Winston Churchill who in the lead-up to the First World War argued for conversion of the British warships from coal to oil while understanding that he was forever tying British fortunes to Petroleum.

The Prize has been called the “definitive” history of the oil industry, even a “bible” in part due to its size making it a must read for all those in the oilfield. Also note the follow-up title by the same author, The Quest.

(Can’t make it through the 800 odd pages then the 8-part PBS documentary series is well worth watching.)

The Seven Sisters: Great Oil Companies and the world they made Anthony Sampson

Sampson looks in detail at the evolution from Rockefeller and Standard Oil moving onto its breakup which spawned the ‘seven sisters’- Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now BP), SoCal Gulf Oil and Texaco (now all part of Chevron), Esso and Mobil (now part of ExxonMobil) and Royal Dutch Shell. It is interesting to look back at how these companies effectively operated as a well organised cartel exerting considerable power before that influence shifted to OPEC.

The Oil Road: Journeys from the Caspian Sea to the City of London James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello

An often-forgotten region but regarded by many as the cradle of the industry this book delves into the political and economic intrigue of oil development in the Caucuses and subsequent impacts along the pipeline route to major European capitals.

Hess: The Last Oil Baron By Tina Davis

Hess is a fascinating story which blends entrepreneurship and oil; shining a light on the the process of building a global corporation from scratch. The story revolves around the life of Leon Hess the founder who started selling fuel oil from a single second hand delivery truck. The book suggests that Hess has largely been successful in balancing the handover of the company to Leon’s son John Hess while running it as a publicly traded firm. The recent success the company has had is a sign of a business well placed to emerge from the downturn in a strong position. (British readers may want to skip the chapter on baseball !)

Untapped: The Scramble for Africa’s Oil John Ghazvinian

Considered by many oil company departments to be one of the last frontier regions left to explore. Prior to $100 barrel oil, many held the view that it was not worth venturing the risk with easier reserves available in the Middle East. John Ghazvinian’s book is a fascinating account which draws on extensive interviews with local people and politicians from key African producers. With exploration in Africa growing this volume would make a good starting point for those working on the continent.

At the PESGB Christmas party a number of young professionals and recent graduates asked for a short reading list. There is considerable value to the community in sharing favourite books please use the comments to add your suggestions. 


Frommer’s Grand Grand Canyon National Park Guide

As Geoscientists we are deciphering the pages of earth history; making the Grand Canyon the natural equivalent of The Great Library of Alexandria. Spending a night down there changed my perspective on the industry and market oscillations in a fundamental way.DSC00875.JPG

If you prefer your content in podcast form then watch this space in 2019….

Wishing all the explorers a peaceful holiday and prosperous New Year.

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