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Rich Downey

Rich Downey had no reason to leave. He was at a wildly successful company in our sector. On any given day, they’re worth more than the combined value of several of our larger peers.

His prior employer also produces nearly 350,000 barrels of oil per day oil. Which all begs one question: Why change?

“Well, I wasn’t looking. I could have stayed and been comfortable for the rest of my career. Case closed,” said Rich, who is WPX’s new Vice President of Drilling & Completions.

“But I got a call from Clay (WPX President & COO). I wound up having four productive discussions with he and Rick (WPX Chairman & CEO).

“WPX’s situation is similar to where my prior company was at seven or eight years ago – being in a position to make a big run.

“We can do the same thing here, given our clear strategy and our strong assets. We just have to execute.”

“I’m here because I want to be a part of a company with this kind of potential. Sure, it’s going to take a lot of work, but as each team succeeds, WPX succeeds,” Rich said. 


Growth potential aside, there are other strengths Rich observes about WPX’s ability to execute. Here’s what he mentioned, in no particular order:

  • the diversity of our portfolio, with oil-focused properties in multiple basins.
  • having technical disciplines and teams centralized in one city.
  • a commitment to trying new things and deploying best practices.
  • a company that’s large enough to fund growth, but not so big that it’s bureaucratic.
  • a place where getting the culture right is really important to everyone.

“Just think about what we can offer. For starters, Tulsa is a great place to live. It’s among the most affordable cities in the nation,” Rich said.

“And if you’re an engineer, you can gain experience across different assets without ever having to physically uproot yourself or your family. Maybe you change floors, but you don’t have to change your address. That’s a huge luxury.”


Rich started right after Labor Day last year. In his first 15 days, he met with asset team VPs, traveled to the field, and started getting to know his staff and learning how departments are organized at WPX.

 “I’m a good listener. I want to hear what people have to say. That comes from my service company background,” Rich said, referring to his 22 years with Schlumberger before working for a producer.

A person familiar with his transition here who reports up through Drilling & Completions at WPX said this about Rich:

“He’s able to hone in on a vision. He’s team-oriented. He’s good at prioritizing. He’s strong interpersonally. He’s bringing in new thinking.”

When asked about his management style, Rich explained:

“I want to put the right people in the right jobs and trust them with the responsibilities. There’s nothing more valuable than the experience people have and how we can leverage it.

 “The last thing I want is to have someone get locked into a position where they can’t grow. I like rotations where people can benefit from a wider exposure across each discipline.”


During the interview for this story, three other common themes were evident in Rich’s remarks.

  1. Everyone has to own safety.

    “It's not one department’s job. Safety is owned by every single individual in operations.”

  2. It’s all about the big picture.

    “Let’s not save a dime to lose a dollar. We should analyze how one decision affects things downstream.”

  3. Don’t try something just for trying’s sake.

    “There’s no reason to throw darts at a wall. There should be value-driven rationale behind everything we try.”


“There’s nothing more valuable than the experience people have and how we can leverage it." 


WPX: A Total Transformation

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