John H. Campbell III

CEO and Co-Founder, Percussion Petroleum LLC, Houston
6 FortyUnder40 feat. John Campbell

“You are never too good for any job,” cautions John Campbell, who today is the CEO and co-founder of Percussion Petroleum LLC. But the summer before he started college, he needed to hose down in the yard after every shift when his father got him a job in the cleanup crew at a Smith drillbit factory. Smith Bits, owned by Schlumberger, produced quantities of graphite that stuck to Campbell’s clothes.

What was the takeaway? “I learned that hard work and a good attitude overcomes most challenges that you face professionally, and that showing up and caring is a great way to get ahead of others.”

Cable tools and a name: Now a long way from the days of graphite haze, Campbell, with co-founders Lupe Carrillo and Brian Zwart, started Percussion Petroleum in 2016 “with the intent to chase more conventional rock unconventionally.” They chose the name because “percussion drilling was the original type of cable tools used historically, and by Edwin Drake in 1859.”

Percussion Petroleum operates in the Yeso conventional rock formation in the Permian Basin. Campbell says that operators have only recently begun to drill horizontally there, and “with the recent advances in completion and drilling technology, we are seeing two to three times historical type curves for wells that only cost $3 million to $4 million to drill and complete.”

Progress: “Right now, midway through our capital program, we are at about 9,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day. … We focused on Ark-La-Tex and Permian because that’s what we know best and where we have the strongest relationships. We fell in love with the [Permian] Northwest Shelf for the same reason people love the Permian—stacked pay. One thing it also provided was high-value yet low-risk inventory that was perfectly matched for a new, slightly risk-averse team.”

Percussion is backed by Carnelian Energy Capital. Campbell says there are about 15 employees out in the field and about 30 people in the office. “We have a direct organizational chart, but run our company in groups [where] you will find me and all my partners working in the middle. All decisions, even strategic ones, are discussed at the co-founder level.”