November 2015

Innovative thinkers

Mark Plummer: Entrepreneur and self-made man
Emily Querubin / World Oil
Mark Plummer (center) stands in front of a BOP stack with Chestnut Exploration and Production, Inc., V.P. of field operations, Jack Kodrin (left), and Chestnut Well Service’s V.P. of operations, J. W. Gotreaux (right).
Mark Plummer (center) stands in front of a BOP stack with Chestnut Exploration and Production, Inc., V.P. of field operations, Jack Kodrin (left), and Chestnut Well Service’s V.P. of operations, J. W. Gotreaux (right).

As a third-generation oil man, Mark Plummer had big plans from the very beginning. He grew up listening to stories about his grandfather, a fifth grade dropout-turned-oil driller, who put in hard labor for the greater part of his life. He was able to save enough of that hard-earned money to buy a 240-acre farm in South Texas. When his employer, Mobil, struck oil on that land, he never had to work another day of his life.

Plummer’s father followed suit, and spent much of his career working for Hughes Tool Company, which later became part of today’s oil service giant, Baker Hughes. Plummer had a deep-seated interest in math and science, so when he got the opportunity to go to college and continue the roughneck family tradition, he did so with immense fervor. He earned degrees in biology and biochemistry from the University of Texas-Pan American, and a chemical engineering degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He then went to work as an onshore and offshore engineer for Sun Oil Company.

Over the following 13 years, Plummer held various engineering positions within the company, including senior engineer. He was busy managing onshore properties and overseeing key platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, but all the while affirming that one day, he would own his own independent oil company. “I wanted to have my own company, where I could make my own decisions,” Plummer recalls.

In 1994, Plummer finally took the plunge. He used the modest $20,000 he had available to purchase an oil field in South Louisiana. “It was all the money I had,” he said. Named after the street he used to live on in Houston, Plummer established Chestnut Exploration and Production, an independent oil and natural gas company. 

He continued to scrounge and save for the next nine months, to have enough money to work on his first well. When that well began producing 25 bopd, and 300 Mcfgd, Plummer became worth more than $5 million overnight. He went from independent oil driller and gambling man, to millionaire oil tycoon almost instantly.

The entrepreneur that he is, Plummer used that money to further the success of his company. He later founded Chestnut Exploration Partners, a FINRA-registered broker dealer; Chestnut Exploration, Inc., an energy and natural resource company; and Chestnut Well Service, a well workover and completion company. Plummer’s principal business philosophy has been to pursue undervalued or neglected oil fields, and revive them using his background and know-how. Sometimes, he says, an old well just needs new technology to get it going again. Today, Chestnut retains a total of 16,000 acres of land, primarily in the Barnett shale region of Texas and in South Louisiana. The company produces approximately 65,000 bbl per year, and 750 MMcfg per year.

Plummer credits much of his success to “luck-ology,” a term he uses to describe the recipe he formulated to achieve everything he has, thus far. That recipe consists of one part scientific studies and the expertise of him and his team, and one part luck. Plummer’s belief in luck does not, however, mean that he hasn’t worked hard for his success. He says, “I believe the harder I work, the luckier I get.”

With a team of engineers and geologists behind him, Plummer has no misconceptions about the industry he is in. He advises, “Anyone looking to enter this business, or to start their own company, needs to be able to stomach the risk, regardless of funding. They need to be prepared to fail, and learn from that failure.” wo-box_blue.gif

About the Authors
Emily Querubin
World Oil
Emily Querubin
Connect with World Oil
Connect with World Oil, the upstream industry's most trusted source of forecast data, industry trends, and insights into operational and technological advances.