George King began his engineering career as soon as he could walk and take things apart. Saturday was trash day in Okmulgee, Okla.—his hometown south of Tulsa. “I would get up early and roam the alleys, looking for toasters, alarm clocks, fans, anything. I’d bring it back home, tear it apart and put it back together again.

King, who is currently distinguished engineering advisor at Apache Corp., believes he inherited his interest in science from his mother, who held an advanced degree in biology, and his knack for problem solving from her father, an Italian immigrant, coal miner and natural mechanic. Among the work King, 65, has done over the years is finding the solution for oil-saturated chalk “that flowed like toothpaste” from Valhall Field in the North Sea in the 1980s, finding solutions for effective workovers in the 1990s, and establishing reliability factors and causes of deepwater sand-control failures in the 2000s.

He got his start with a summer job in Amoco’s production-research center in 1971 while working on a bachelor’s in chemical engineering at Oklahoma State University. While still with Amoco, he received his master’s in petroleum engineering from the University of Tulsa. Upon Amoco’s merger with BP Plc, he worked there until 2008 and joined Apache in 2009.

Awards include Engineer of the Year by the Houston-region Texas Society of Professional Engineers in 2012, SPE Distinguished Lecturer in 1985, the Amoco Vice President’s Award for Technology in 1997 and the SPE Production Operations Award in 2004.

Oil and Gas Investor visited with King recently on problem solving—past and present.

Investor George, what’s captivating you these days?

King This is one that confronts the whole industry and that’s kind of how I pick my problems—maximum-impact problems. One I’m working on now is trying to optimize production from the multifracture horizontal wells the industry is placing in the shales, of course, but some of the other low-permeability formations that, up to this time, have not been productive. We’ve been having some very nice success in those but we feel it can be optimized. They’re yielding their secrets a small bit at a time.

Investor Formations even more challenging than, say, the Eagle Ford?

King In the Wolfcamp, we have used a couple of different technologies that are starting to work. One is recycling the produced water. Almost 100% of our frack water is produced [saline] water. We’ve been able