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Marvin Gearhart, legend in oilfield equipment industry

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This is a 2008 article from the Fort Worth Business Press on Marvin Gearhart.

Gearhart innovations continue pushing industry forward

By Tonie Auer

Fort Worth Business Press Contributor

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Throughout his almost 60 years in the petroleum field, Marvin Gearhart evolved by applying technology to solve problems. That is his secret to success; never static, but moving forward and staying on top of where the industry is going.

“I grew up in the business,” Gearhart recalls. “My dad was a driller and a pumper. So, from a very young age I listened to my dad and another cousin and his father talk. Sunday dinners, that was all we’d talk about, the oil business. Growing up in the business, it is in your blood.”

Innovations developed by Gearhart and his partner, Harold Owen, paved the way for key technological advances such as horizontal drilling, which has helped make the Barnett Shale possible.

Today, Gearhart is the chairman of the board for Gearhart Co. He recently was honored by the Texas Alliance of Energy Producers with their Fort Worth Legends award (See sidebar, pg. xx).

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It was 1949 when Gearhart graduated from Kansas State University and went to work as a wireline logging engineer with Welex Jet Services in Fort Worth. In 1955 he and Owen formed Gearhart-Owen Industries Inc. a wireline service provider and manufacturer of logging trucks and wireline tools, which eventually had more than 14,000 employees in 27 countries worldwide.

“When I graduated from school, I had three opportunities to work. Welex (Jet Services) was an independent just getting started, so I got into wireline logging because it was interesting to me,” he says. “I stayed with it until a sales manager changed to a drilling bit company and I went with him. Then Harold Owen and I started our own business, so I got back into wireline business and stayed in it for 35 years. When I sold it, I got back in drill bit business.”


In the 1970s, Gearhart began developing an innovative series of open-hole tools and computerized analysis systems, completing the task in 1975. The result – a Direst Digital Logging system, outperformed existing analog systems used by competition and began generating significant income for Gearhart-Owen.

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The company also developed Measure While Drilling technology. MWD not only saved drilling companies time and money because it eliminated the wireline, it helped make directional drilling easier because down hole tools were able to send directional data back to the surface without disturbing drilling operations.

By the end of that decade, the company was one of the fastest growing companies on the New York Stock Exchange.

After the acquisition of Gearhart Industries in 1988 by Halliburton, Gearhart formed Rock Bit International. This company manufactured drill bits and MWD systems. He sold that business in 2005 and started his current effort, which focuses on drilling tools and systems for the Barnett Shale and horizontal drilling.

Gearhart has released a new line of digital surveying and surface monitoring tools since the company’s inception. The company’s goal is to lower costs to customers and set a new precedent for what the industry has come to expect from Gearhart: quality digital tools.

“Technology is the biggest aspect (of how the industry has changed over the years),” Gearhart says. “That is the whole thing that makes the Barnett Shale possible — the new technology. I try to apply new technology to solve problems. We were already here right in the middle of the Barnett Shale, so it came in all around us.”

Today’s industry

Observing the energy industry today, Gearhart says he never anticipated “anything like the prices and the levels they are reaching now — it just seems surreal. My main focus has always been new technology and how to drill and produce wells more efficiently and how to get them to produce more. It is only because of horizontal drilling and new fracturing techniques that makes the present boom economic and, of course, as prices go up, it drives the activity up,” he said.

His current focus, The Gearhart Cos., provides innovative downhole survey tools, drilling instrumentation, geological services, gas detection services and high quality custom built wireline trucks with a specialty in the area of oil well surveying, surface data acquisition and control, MWD tools and services and wireline trucks.

Gearhart continues to focus on developing state-of-the-art technology and has assembled a team of geoscientists and petrophysicists with more than 90 years of combined oilfield problem solving experience. The years of solving problems have resulted in numerous unique processes, papers and U.S. patents. The Gearhart Co. undertakes a number of new tool development projects both for its own interests and in collaboration with third parties who have specific downhole tool developments that the Gearhart name has always been famous for.

Gearhart doesn’t plan to retire any time soon, either, despite his long illustrious career.

“It’s not my style of living,” he said. “That is for different folks. My work is my hobby and my enjoyment. It is not like going to work for me; it is like going to have fun. If you’d rather be doing that than anything else, you might as well keep doing it.”

Gearhart lives in Fort Worth with his wife, Jan. Together they have four children and 14 grandchildren. He is a Legion of Honor Member in the Society of Petroleum Engineers and active in numerous other organizations.

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