Neal Buck – a modest, mild-mannered man – is known for being one of the brains behind the evolution of WPX into a stand-alone business.
CEO Ralph Hill says of Neal: “He is certainly one of the smartest guys in the room. We are lucky to have him as part of the executive leadership team at WPX.”
If you asked a young Neal where his future career would play out, he probably would have said, “Something with computers.”
Like many engineering graduates, Neal intended to pursue technical and computer model design when he began his career.
“I did not set out to work in energy – the energy industry found me, and I’m so glad it did,” says Neal, 56, a native of Stillwater, Okla.
Neal graduated from his hometown’s Oklahoma State University with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in industrial engineering and management. In graduate school, Neal enjoyed working on computer simulator models for the military.
“After graduation, I went to work for Cities Service Co. in Tulsa writing risk analysis and economics software models,” he says.
And the energy industry was waiting for him. In 1982, Cities was acquired by Occidental Petroleum, where he continued writing IT software for a few years, when he switched to Planning and Analysis.
“I was all set to move to Houston – as many of us in the energy industry have been at some point – when the opportunity to work at Williams came in 1996,” he says. “My family loved Tulsa, so it was an easy decision to stay.”
At Williams, Neal eventually became vice president of commercial operations and gas management. Neal says that core group of E&P professionals has a long history of collaborating together.
“We were relatively small, about 25 people or so in early 1996. And we set out to grow E&P to become a core business,” he says.
“I believe that being a small, tightly focused group has produced a lot of loyalty.”
Now in his role at WPX, Neal is responsible for acquisitions and divestitures, land, reserves and production reporting, measurement, and information technology.
Neal and his team have been instrumental in WPX’s key acquisitions— most recently the natural gas play in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale, and in the oil-rich Bakken Shale in North Dakota.
They also helmed the sale of more than $300 million of assets in the Barnett shale, further strengthening WPX’s balance sheet.
And since WPX spun off from its parent Williams in late 2011, Neal has led the IT department in the tremendous task of recreating data centers, creating applications and migrating data over to WPX.
Neal is motivated by the passion and commitment of the employees of WPX, and he admires their work – not only at the office, but out in the community.
Along with his wife, Lora, he serves on the board of Tulsa’s Emergency Infant Services, where he is treasurer.
“At WPX, we focus on our people’s talent. We want our employees to be successful. I’ve been incredibly impressed with the employee base we have here,” he says.
Another passion of Neal’s is art history. Neal and his wife also serve on the advisory board of OSU’s Doel Reed Center for the Arts, named after the late founder of the university’s art department.