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Grandson of "The Judge," Robert A. Hefner, petroleum geologist Robert Alexander Hefner III achieved renown as "the Father of Deep Natural Gas." Hefner, the son of Robert A. Hefner Jr. and Louise Currie Gunter, was born in Washington, D.C., in 1935. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1957 and initially worked for Phillips Petroleum Company. By 1959 he launched his own natural gas exploration firm, the Glover-Hefner-Kennedy (GHK) Company, holding the position of managing partner-owner. Over the next decade he pioneered the technology necessary for gas exploration below fifteen thousand feet, incorporating computers in his operations. In 1969 the GHK's Number One Green well, drilled to a depth of 24,454 feet in Beckham County, blew in at the highest pressure ever recorded. Subsequently, Hefner volunteered his expertise before congressional committees and regulatory commissions, persuading the lawmakers and regulators to deregulate natural gas prices in order to allow profitable exploration and recovery of deep natural gas. A drilling boom in the Anadarko Basin of western Oklahoma resulted. In appreciation for his services, in 1972 Elk City renamed its municipal airport Robert A. Hefner III Airport.

During the 1980s GHK Company benefitted from a joint venture with Mobil Oil Corporation in drilling hundreds of deep gas wells. In 1997 Hefner opened the Arkoma Basin to deep drilling by proving that significant deep gas reserves lay under the Potato Hills region of Latimer and Pushmataha counties. Over the course of his career Hefner founded the University of Oklahoma Energy Center and has been the founding director of Bradshaw Foundation, an institution that promotes the exploration and preservation of ancient rock and cave paintings around the world.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Kenny A. Franks, The Oklahoma Petroleum Industry (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980). "Robert A. Hefner III," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Paul F. Lambert, et al., Historic Oklahoma: An Illustrated History (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 2000).

Thomas L. Hedglen

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