The Nahabedian family’s legacy in the California oil business was nearly brief and inglorious one. It began with William Wallace Stabler’s venture from the Pennsylvania Dutch countryside to pursue life as a cowboy in the still Wild West, which soon led him to the Los Angeles basin in the early days of the oil boom.
He immediately took to the oil patch, first as a mule skinner, loading pipe in LA and hauling it to Santa Paula, CA, then the epicenter of the oil and gas industry. Young Bill took an interest in a well in lieu of payment for a load of pipe and soon was out of the pipe hauling business and wildcatting himself.
Bill soon expanded his focus to Huntington Beach and the San Joaquin Valley, site of the Lakeview Gusher, a blow-out that had flowed nine-million barrels of oil into a man-made lake over 18 months a decade earlier. In April of 1923, Stabler’s Globe Petroleum Company drilled Encyclopedia Well #3, reaching a total depth of 5,052 feet, the deepest producing oil well in the world at the time, flowing at rates in excess of 4,000 barrels per day. Globe’s Huntington Beach rigs soon dotted the surfside like wildflowers.
It was not long thereafter that Bill’s daughter, Katherine met Aramis Nahabedian, a hard-nosed entrepreneur in the rubbish business of East Los Angeles. Aramis took an immediate interest in his father in-law’s oil business. What he lacked in technical knowledge of the oil business he more than made up for with a tremendous business acumen he learned on the mean streets of Los Angeles. Without an education in geology, Aramis instead adopted the strategy of “closeology.” Go where oil had been found, acquire adjacent land, and drill. The best place to find oil is where it has already been found.
Bill lived out his days in a cabin near Fort Tejon, hunting and prospecting. Over his life, he was responsible for locating more than two hundred million barrels of oil. Over the next few decades, Aramis would befriend and employ many of the men who would one day become premiere oil finders in the state of California. Some of them continue to work with the family to this very day.
Oil now flowed in the Nahabedian family blood. Aramis and Katherine’s son, Mark Nahabedian, embarked as the third generation in the oil industry with a more scientific approach. He graduated from UCLA with a degree in geology and went to work prospecting across the San Joaquin, Sacramento and Salinas basins. His finds alone would prove to be enough of a legacy for the family, with discoveries at Landslide, Panama Lane, Hastings Ranch, Denverton Creek and many more. Mark Nahabedian also discovered Pastoria Creek Oilfield in 1988, the last major discovery on the Tejon Ranch that his grandfather previously had pioneered. Mark’s discoveries alone account for some two hundred million barrels of equivalent oil.
For Mark’s sons Armen, Vahagn and Mark Jr., the oil patch was the backdrop of childhood. Recycled maps and well logs were Christmas wrapping paper and trips to oilfields were common at a very early age. Mark educated Armen and his brothers in all aspects of the family business as soon as they learned to read and write.
After high school, Armen enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served in Operation Iraqi Freedom as an infantryman and translator for his platoon. He witnessed firsthand the sacrifices that our servicemen have made for both Middle East democracy and the oil that supports the economy in the region. When he returned from the war, Armen officially entered the family business, The Nahabedian Exploration Group.
Borrowing from his grandfather, Armen also employed the strategy of closeology, embarking on his first lease as an offset to the famous Belridge Oil Field, where he drilled and completed his first discovery well, which was mapped and interpreted by his father. With the momentum of success, Armen rose quickly through the family business, becoming an operations manager then expanding his duties into land acquisition, business development and finance.
Today, Armen is the CEO of Citadel Exploration Inc, poised to begin re-exploring in the San Joaquin
The company’s mantra remains that of his grandfather: The best place to find oil, is where it has already been found.