Arkoma Stack in southeastern Oklahoma expected to take off by one energy executive

This map provided by Antioch Energy identifies the Arkoma Stack in southeast Oklahoma.

If you haven’t heard of the Arkoma Stack yet, one local oil and gas executive predicts you will.

Nathaniel Harding, co-founder and president of Antioch Energy, told several hundred members and guests of the Rotary Club of Oklahoma City this week that the eastern Oklahoma play already has gotten some national exposure and that he expects more to come.

“The Arkoma Basin has been a prolific producer of oil and gas in the past 100 years, with about a billion barrels of oil equivalent produced out of it during that time,” Harding said.

Lately, producers working in that part of Oklahoma have targeted shale in the area, and Harding said that certainly is the case for Antioch, which has concentrated its efforts to acquire leases there.

Antioch has 23,000 net acres in the play, particularly in Hughes County, with an opportunity to drill as many as 500 wells, he said.

The exploration company is obtaining seismic surveys of its holdings as it continues to focus its acquisitions in areas it sees as geological sweet spots, Harding said.

For Antioch, Harding said it poses the same types of challenges it overcame as it worked on wells in Oklahoma’s STACK and SCOOP plays in northwestern, west central and south central Oklahoma.

He added he likes its economics, because he said the targeted formations are relatively shallow.

“Compared to other plays in North America, this has some of the best economics, and there’s room to improve this,” he said. “So we may have the next great play in our own backyard.

“And it’s no coincidence it’s happening in Oklahoma, led by Oklahoma companies.”

Generational growth

Harding said Antioch’s roots extend back to the early 1950s, when his dad’s dad and brother formed Harding Brothers Oil Co. in Dallas.

“These were a couple of guys who really had no business in oil and gas — just ask them,” Harding said.

“They really started on a hope and a dream and on realizing a better life for their families,” he continued. “They were self-educated. And they used pluck, motivation, determination and an education that came through their boot straps to build an enduring company.”

He said his father, Charles Harding, also got into the oil and gas business, ultimately forming Harding & Shelton in 1983 with John Shelton. They had a lot to learn, too, he added.

Harding reminded Rotarians that the people who settled Oklahoma City overnight in 1889 had the same type of spirit, and said Harding & Shelton’s leaders, like many of their contemporaries, exhibited a similar constitution as they survived the 1980s oil bust, a depressed economy, a blighted downtown marred further by the Oklahoma City bombing, and a rebirth of the community.

“A lot of you in this room, never-say-die leaders, kept that light on in our darkest hour,” Harding said. “What that taught the next generation of leaders has formed our industry and changed our city for the better.”

Harding observed that same type of attitude also revolutionized the nation’s oil and gas industry through the boom generated by shale fields that emerged in Texas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and in Oklahoma.

The Sooner State, Harding said, has more than its fair share of shale innovators, including Harding & Shelton, which began drilling horizontal wells in 2009 to prove an emerging play in Oklahoma.

“Just ask OPEC how resilient and how innovative our industry has become in Oklahoma,” he said.

Once Harding & Shelton had proved the value of its holdings, it sold those for a significant profit and began working on its next project, he said.

“That set us up for what came next, and that’s no coincidence,” he said.

He founded Antioch Energy in 2013 with Kevin Dunnington, Antioch’s CEO, and said the company’s leadership team mixes executives with oil and gas experience at publicly traded companies with others who were self-employed entrepreneurs.

He said that mix, along with financial backing from Outfitter Energy Capital LLC, enables Antioch to be big enough to reach its goals, and nimble enough to adapt when necessary.

Harding said many historians associate the ancient city of Antioch as a place of renewal and rebirth, while others identify it with struggle and victory.

He said the word’s English translations are “independent,” “maverick,” and his personal favorite, “stubborn.”

“I think Antioch embodies exactly the type of temperament,” he said.

“I have a bold prediction: I expect to see another billion-barrel discovery in Oklahoma this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if it were by a company led by somebody in their 30s or 40s.”