Rob Holbrook, Rapad Drilling: Relationships, open-mindedness key to long career in oil and gas

If Rob Holbrook, VP at Rapad Drilling, were to list the key factors behind his three-decade career in oil and gas, curiosity would probably be at the top. 

He loved math and science growing up and wanted to be an engineer, but he had no connection to the oil and gas industry and never thought of it as a viable career. It wasn’t until he graduated from high school in 1988 and took on summer jobs working for an operator on the Gulf Coast that he truly developed an interest in the industry. 

Those summer jobs kick-started his love for the oilfield and a curiosity about what an oilfield life and career would be like. This curiosity led him to a petroleum engineering degree, followed by a full-time job roughnecking on land rigs. That job then led him to realize how much he needed to learn about how rigs operate, so he took on another job, and another, and another. Now, Mr Holbrook could not imagine being anywhere else. 

“The ups and downs are a part of life here, of course, but no matter what some people say, this industry isn’t going anywhere anytime soon,” he said. “If you can work hard, be open minded, think outside the box and learn to be an asset wherever you end up, you will make it in this industry.” 

Mr Holbrook grew up on a dairy farm in Magee, Miss., hunting and fishing and playing football and baseball. Although he enrolled in Mississippi College, a small institution 50 miles from his hometown, in 1988 on a baseball scholarship, he had his sights on becoming an engineer. Eventually he transferred to Mississippi State University and began a double major in petroleum and chemical engineering. 

Around the same time, he took on a summer job at UnoCal (now a subsidiary of Chevron), working in Southern Louisiana and in Houston. He came to love life in the field – it reminded him of his time on the farm. So, heading into his senior year, he decided to drop the double major and focus just on petroleum engineering. “I realized that I would need to be one or the other, and the extra degree wasn’t going to help me much,” he said.

Upon graduation in spring 1993, Mr Holbrook had a few job offers lined up, but he chose to work for Chelsey Pruet Drilling, a drilling contractor based out of Jackson. It was a local company, with its headquarters just about an hour north of his hometown, and he liked that it was a “strong, family-owned company with a great reputation.” 

The company initially sent Mr Holbrook to the field, wanting him work the first year as a roughneck on a land rig before coming into the office. Having grown up on a farm, he figured he would like working outdoors on the rig, and as it turned out, he loved the job.

After that first year, he asked to stay in the field and spent another year working motors and derricks, then two more years as a driller and a toolpusher: “One year turned into four, and I loved every minute of it,” he said. 

In 1997, Chelsey Pruet Drilling sold its rigs to Nabors Industries, and Mr Holbrook began working for Nabors as Drilling Superintendent for the Mississippi/Alabama region. 

In 2001, the Pruet family etablished new company, Rapad Drilling. Mr Holbrook joined Rapad the same year. 

He currently serves as Vice President at the company, which has built up its fleet to nine land rigs, including two 2,000-hp, super spec AC rigs, as of early 2024. 

Long-term relationships also define Mr Holbrook’s time with IADC. He first became active with IADC in the early 1990s, but he didn’t he agree to take on a leadership role until the early 2000s. In 2003, he became Chairman of the then-Mississippi Chapter, succeeding then-Chapter Chair Rod Freeman. 

The two have worked together in leadership roles with the chapter for much of the past 20 years, primarily organizing social events like luncheons and an annual golf tournament.

In 2023, recognizing that there are now fewer drilling contractors working in the region, the Mississippi Chapter merged with the Lafayette Chapter to form the Gulf Coast Chapter. Mr Freeman took over as Chair of the new chapter, and Mr Holbrook took over as one of two Vice Chairs, serving alongside David Cothren.  

The group is still considering how to proceed for the future, but Mr Holbrook said the aim will continue to focus on providing a forum for members to network and exchange ideas and best practices.

“Right now, the focus is on continuing to do what we’ve been doing, and we’ll see what else we can do beyond that,” he said.  DC 

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