Scott Sheffield

Pioneer Natural Resources

Editor's note: This profile is part of Hart Energy's 50th anniversary Hall of Fame series honoring industry pioneers of the past 50 years and the Agents of Change (ACEs) who are leading the energy sector into the future.

Scott Sheffield

Oilman. Advocate. Dealmaker. Pioneer. There is no shortage of words to describe Scott D. Sheffield or the influence he’s had on the American oil and gas industry.

Sheffield has seen more ups and downs than most during his nearly five decades in the energy sector. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in the mid-’70s—not long after the 1973 Arab oil embargo spurred the first global energy crisis—Sheffield began his career as a reservoir engineer at Amoco in Odessa, Texas. 

He later joined Midland-based Parker & Parsley Petroleum, which had acquired leases on hundreds of thousands of acres in the heart of the Permian Basin since entering the area in the early 1960s. Before the evolution of fracking technologies, these leases in a legacy West Texas resource play held essentially no value. 

“You just had just vertical wells in the Permian,” said Neal Dingmann, managing director of energy research at Truist Securities. “At that time, you didn’t know the Permian was going to be as prolific as it was.”

Sheffield became Parker & Parsley’s CEO in 1989. In 1997, the company merged with Mesa Petroleum, led by legendary oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens, to form Pioneer Natural Resources. 

Pioneer’s footprint once included assets in Alaska’s North Slope, the Hugoton Basin, the Eagle Ford Shale in South Texas and other regions. But after the advent of fracking technology, Pioneer focused on horizontal oil and gas development in and around its West Texas roots—the core of the Permian Basin.

Fracking breathed new life into the Permian and, more broadly, into the entire U.S. energy sector. When U.S. output boomed, Sheffield and other energy executives lobbied Congress and the Obama administration to lift the nation’s decades-old ban on oil and gas exports. That move has fueled billions of dollars of domestic investment in oil and gas production.

Scott Sheffield
Scott Sheffield offers his thoughts at CERAWeek in 2023. (Source: CERAWeek by S&P Global)

Sheffield is widely recognized as a master dealmaker, but he’s cemented his reputation as a bona fide oil patch tycoon. Pioneer, the belle of the Permian ball, agreed in 2023 to sell to Exxon Mobil in a deal valued at around $65 billion, including debt. 

“Over the last several years, what have people been most jealous of Pioneer? It’s that they have among the best acreage not only in the Permian, but anywhere in the U.S.,” Dingmann said.

—Chris Mathews, Senior Editor, Shale/A&D

Click here to see the rest of Hart Energy's 2023 Hall of Fame.