William J. (Bill) Barrett has covered a lot of ground in a storied half-century as a geologist and an entrepreneur. His vision, risk-taking and successes have earned him awards beginning with the Outstanding Explorer Award from Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists in 1989 and the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States’ top honor, the Wildcatter of the Year (1993), to his peers in the AAPG presenting him their Explorer of the Year Award (2003). That recognition and respect stems from his leadership in the growth and success of several exploration and production companies that found and developed ten giant or near giant size oil and gas fields and a number of smaller fields throughout the Rockies.
The legendary oil and gas finder embarked on the ultimate exploration program on January 9, 1929, when he was born to Myrtle Anna (Huss) Barrett, a loving mother, teacher and woman of faith, and William Valentine Barrett, a hard working farmer and devoted father. Bill’s parents raised 10 sons and daughters. Bill married Louise Kuhn on October 5, 1950. Shortly thereafter, he was drafted and spent two years in the Army in Fort Hood. He received his Bachelor’s degree in 1956 and Master’s in 1958, both in Geology and both from Kansas State University. His first post-graduate employment was with El Paso Natural Gas Company in Salt Lake City, Utah as a stratigrapher in their research lab. A transfer to Farmington, New Mexico led to a new job with Pan American (later Amoco) in Casper, Wyoming, before finally settling down in Denver, Colorado. In 1967, Bill accepted a job with a Denver independent, Wolf Exploration, as their chief geologist. Here he achieved two major discoveries, one a 200 million-plus barrel Hilite Oil field in Powder River Basin of Wyoming as well as the multi-trillion cubic foot (TCF) Madden Gas Field in the Wind River Basin, also in Wyoming. When Wolf went to Houston, Bill and Landman Chuck Shear partnered to go out on their own in 1970 to form B&C Exploration, which later merged with Rainbow Resources, Inc.
Bill then funded a new private sole proprietorship, Aeon Energy, a precursor to the privately held Barrett Energy Company, which went public in 1983.Barrett Resources quickly became one of Colorado’s largest independent oil and gas companies. A merger with Plains Petroleum created the sixth largest natural gas operator/producer in the giant Hugoton Gas Field in southwest Kansas. Williams Companies purchased Barrett Resources Corporation for $2.8 billion, receiving 2.1 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves, plus an additional several trillion cubic feet of probable/possible natural gas reserves, which they are continuing to develop to this day. In 2002, Bill was coaxed out of retirement by his sons Fred and Terry to form Bill Barrett Corporation, which went public in 2004. In 2007, Bill retired for the third and final time at age 78.
Bill is a member of the advisory Council to the Kansas State University Geology Department and a member of their President’s Club. He also received the Distinguished Service Award from the College of Arts and Sciences at KSU in 1992. Bill is a member of the Enhancement Committee for the Colorado School of Mines Geology Department where he was awarded an honorary doctorate in Engineering in 2004. Also that year, Bill was named to the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States Hall of Fame and then received the Lifetime Achievement Award from Southwestern Utah Energy Producers Association 2006. His achievements are not limited to the petroleum industry. He was awarded Father of the Year in 2006 by the Father’s Day Council benefiting the American Diabetes Association. His list of achievements, memberships, charitable activities are too numerous to list and continue to grow.
The AAPG Foundation is pleased to have benefited from Bill’s expertise during his term on the Board of Trustees and the Financial Campaign Committee (2006-2011). He was recognized as a member of the AAPG Foundation Legacy Society in 2011. He has been an AAPG member since 1961 and a Trustee Associate since 2002. Bill and some fellow investors are currently wildcatting in the Alberta Basin of Canada.