Hard Rock Exploration, Inc. an Independent Oil and Gas Development Company Hard Rock Exploration, Inc. (“Hard Rock”), founded in 2003, is an independent oil and gas development company located in Charleston, West Virginia. With a dedicated team of 15 full-time employees, Hard Rock has rapidly expanded from drilling five wells in 2003 to over 385 wells from 2004 through 2013. Our main prospects, Amber Bank and Blue Jacket, span approximately 65,000 acres across 6 counties in southwestern West Virginia and Virginia.

Hard Rock has a 95% completion success rate. The purchase of firm transportation pipeline capacity through three major sales points enables Hard Rock to efficiently move their natural gas volumes to market, leading peers in the ability to market gas year round, and limiting shut in consequences. Low drilling and equipment costs, innovative drilling techniques, use of the latest technology, aggressive land acquisitions, environmental awareness, and a highly skilled management team are just a few factors leading to the continued success of Hard Rock.

We strive to lower equipment and drilling costs. Hard Rock is the 6th largest regional buyer of tubular and well equipment, and receives the best pricing from its suppliers. Hard Rock has excelled in driving drilling and equipment costs down by as much as 35-50% below the reported industry averages.

Hard Rock's two core prospects are located in the Appalachian Basin, with many of the wells targeting the Lower Huron section of the Devonian Shale, a rich organic rock proven to produce high energy content natural gas. These wells produce high quality gas resulting in sales premiums between 14% and 24% over normal pipeline quality gas. The proximity of Hard Rock's Prospects to major east coast markets generates further realization of premiums above spot prices. Through negotiated fixed priced, fixed quantity sales contracts, Hard Rock hedges much of its gas to aid in stabalizing prices in a volatile energy market. The Appalachian Basin is known for long-life wells that can have a production life of over 75 years.

Hard Rock has refined its horizontal drilling techniques in the Appalachian Basin and has sharpened their skill in efficiently drilling horizontal wells that allow them to lower risk and duplicate successful results. A highly skilled management team combined with the latest drilling technology has proven to be a recipe for success, lowering the risk of operational hazards and maximizing production.

Appalachian Basin natural gas results in higher premiums than other regions of the country.

Hard Rock is one of the first operators in the Appalachian region to deploy and refine deviated and horizontal drilling technology.


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Jim Stephens


James Stephens is the President, member of the Board of Directors and a founder of Hard Rock. Jim oversees every aspect of Hard Rock’s business and drilling operations, from permitting to production. Prior to joining Hard Rock, he served for six years as a Regional Technical Manager and Senior Drilling Engineer for Columbia Natural Resources, with responsibility for supervising the permitting, drilling and operation of approximately 600 wells, including a highly successful deep well in Buchanan County, Virginia. Prior to that, he worked for Ashland Exploration, where he became the Head of Production with responsibility for drilling approximately 600 wells in five years. Jim has extensive experience in drilling and production throughout the Appalachian Basin. He graduated from the University of Kentucky with a B.S. Degree in Geophysics and a minor in Engineering.

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Monica R. Francisco

Executive Vice President

Monica has served as Executive Vice President of Hard Rock since October 2007. She oversees Hard Rock’s business development, gas marketing and land department, which manages Hard Rock’s oil and gas properties and exploration rights. She is also a member of Hard Rock’s Board of Directors. Monica has more than ten years of experience in the oil, gas, coal and mineral industries. Prior to joining Hard Rock, she was Vice President-Land for Daugherty Petroleum, Inc., the wholly-owned operating subsidiary of NGAS Resources, Inc. (Nasdaq: NGAS), a publicly traded exploration and production company headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky. Prior to joining Daugherty Petroleum, she worked for Evan Energy Company, procuring oil and gas leases and right-of-ways, and conducting title examinations. Monica is a past member of the Board of Directors of the Appalachian Association of Professional Landmen and a member of the American Association of Professional Landmen. She received a Bachelor's Degree in Business and Marketing from Lincoln Memorial University.

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Richard Lathey

Production Manager

Richard Lathey has served since 2007 as Hard Rock's Manager of Production, with responsibility for infrastructure development and production operations. Rick has extensive experience in production and drilling throughout Appalachia. Prior to joining Hard Rock, he worked at EQT Corp. (formerly, Equitable Production Company) as a Senior Production Specialist, where he participated on a team to evaluate, test and implement EQT’s Automation Project. He also supported the EQT’s Production Engineering Group, which was responsible for drilling and operating 12,000 wells in the Appalachian Basin, and conducted reviews with EQT’s Well Operations Group to identify and implement production enhancement projects. Prior to joining EQT, Rick worked in various sectors of the oil and gas industry, including Drilling and Production operations for Grace Automation and Ashland Exploration. He attended West Virginia State College and studied Industrial Mechanics.

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Marc Scholl

Petroleum Engineer

Marc Scholl joined Hard Rock in June 2006 as the Petroleum Engineer, with responsibility for various aspects of Hard Rock’s drilling and completion operations. Prior to joining Hard Rock, Marc worked as the District Technical Supervisor for BJ Services Company, where he focused on new technology products and measurement systems. He designed and implemented a truck-mounted hydraulic pressure scale system for specialty propellants and developed various tracking, calibration, and accuracy equipment. He has authored two regional engineering articles and provided engineering support for stimulation and cement slurry design. His career at BJ Services began as a Field Engineer in coil tubing, cement and stimulation service lines, where he developed expertise in district cement and fluids technology. Marc holds a B.S. Degree in Petroleum and Natural Gas Engineering from West Virginia University.

William 'Bill' Riske

Counsel and National Marketing Director

Bill Riske is responsible for promoting Hard Rock Exploration and the investor-partner drilling programs. He is a licensed attorney in West Virginia, Arizona, and Washington D.C., and provides legal consulting services as needed. Bill has over 30 years’ experience in real estate law and investment consultation, as well as an extensive background in commercial real property sales. He formerly owned a real estate management and consulting company in Florida, and has served as a deputy county attorney in Arizona — specializing in real property law and litigation. Since moving to West Virginia, he has been active in the natural gas industry as both a consultant and real estate lawyer. Bill holds both electrical engineering and juris doctor degrees.