For years, Ben Webster criss-crossed Southern Illinois as a land surveyor before purchasing his first oil production company in 1999. This spring, he hit paydirt--for the second time--when he tapped a reservoir estimated to hold 1.5 million barrels of oil.

By Jeffrey Tomich

KINMUNDY, Ill. - Count Ben Webster as either the luckiest oilman in Southern Illinois or the shrewdest. Maybe both.
Webster got into the oil business as a hobby a decade ago when oil was $14 a barrel. In 2002, his company, Deep Rock Energy, made the state's biggest oil strike in a half-century when he drilled the Warren No. 1 well from the outskirts of Stephen A. Forbes State Park. This spring, he celebrated another big find, tapping a reservoir estimated to hold 1.5 million barrels of oil as the price of crude climbed to a record $140 a barrel.
"We've been blessed with a lot of success," the soft-spoken Webster said at Deep Rock's headquarters outside of Kinmundy.