About PetroRock

PetroRock was created as a high growth vehicle through the consolidation of assets from several related companies to focus resources and concentrate on the undeveloped properties. The bulk of PetroRock’s holdings is in Santa Barbara County with some production in Kern and Ventura counties. Since its formation, PetroRock has built its oil production from 100 BOPD in 2008 to 1,200 BOPD today, primarily through the redevelopment of abandoned Texaco leases in the Cat Canyon Oil Field, Santa Barbara County. The company has established several key relationships to help its growth, including securing a line of credit with the Bank of Oklahoma. PetroRock’s leases are operated by Vaquero Energy.


Meet the Management Team

Kenneth Hunter, III

Chariman of the Board

Ken is a 3rd generation oil man with over 37 years’ experience in the oil and gas business. He obtained a degree in accounting from USC in 1969 and worked in public accounting as a CPA for four years followed by serving as Treasurer of Hilliard Oil & Gas in 1979. Following Hilliard, Ken joined the family business which has been active in the California oil industry since 1931. Ken has served as President of Vaquero Energy since forming it in 2001. Companies that Ken founded and included under the Vaquero Energy umbrella are Hunter Edison Oil Development, Vaquero Partners I, PetroRock LLC, and Mustang Energy Resources. Through his entities, Ken owns leases in California, Wyoming, Colorado, and Texas (Permian). In 2006, Ken was named the California Independent Petroleum Association’s (CIPA) oil man of the year. He has also served as former Chairman of the Board for the California Independent Producers Association (CIPA, 2015-2016) and former President of The National Stripper Well Association (NSWA, 2014). In Central California, Ken owns and manages a championship public golf course and large real estate projects.

Joe Nahama


Joe has worked in the industry for 31 years with degrees in Geology from UCLA (‘87), Petroleum Engineering from Colorado School of Mines (‘90), and a course Certificate in Finance from the Harvard Business School, HBX (’17). Upon graduation from Mines, Joe worked for Union Pacific Resources as a production engineer in the South Texas Austin Chalk horizontal play. In 1992, Joe moved to Bakersfield, CA and worked as a production engineer/geologist at Nahama & Weagant Energy Co (NWEC). NWEC was a public company co-founded by Joe’s father, Rodney Nahama with operations in San Joaquin Basin CA, the Sacramento Basin, CA and Mist Field, Oregon. In 1993, Joe and his father started Nahama Natural Gas Co focusing on California exploration where he worked until joining Vaquero Energy in 2002. While at Vaquero, Joe planned drilling programs in the Edison Oil Field and helped acquire PDP leases in the South Belridge Oil Field. In 2007, Ken Hunter and Joe identified existing potential in Cat Canyon Oil Field and acquired leases. This lead to the formation of PetroRock in 2008. PetroRock successfully navigated the permitting process in Santa Barbara County with unanimous votes from the Planning Commission for drilling projects to move forward. Joe has focused on PetroRock since its inception, has been involved in all the wells drilled in Cat Canyon and became President in 2014. Honors include Colorado School of Mines Young Alumnus award (1997) and AAPG Leverson Award (1998).

Seth Hunter

Vice-President Operations

Seth is a 4th generation oil man and has worked in the industry for 17 years. Upon graduation from Oregon State University, Seth worked for Sperry Sun Drilling Services (Halliburton) in Bakersfield, CA. He spent most of his time with Sperry in the LA Basin, East Lost Hills Deep Prospects, and in Piceance, CO where he successfully ran the regions first electromagnetic (EM) survey tools. In 2002, he transitioned into production with Aera Energy, a joint venture of Shell and Exxon, as an operator in the Ventura Avenue Field and subsequently with Greka Energy in Cat Canyon and the Santa Maria Valley. He has been employed by Vaquero Energy since 2005 and has been managing its’ drilling and production operations since 2007 in CA, TX, CO, and WY. He prides himself on constructing a cohesive and efficient operations staff that prove success from project to project. Since joining the team, Seth has pushed the importance of production technology and automation. Today, in the operations that Seth oversees, the level of data acquisition exceeds equivalent-sized companies capabilities translating into superior efficiency.

Erik Vasquez

Land & Business Development Manager

Erik manages Vaquero Energy’s land department. His duties include land, leasing, permitting, acquisitions and divestitures. He began his career in the Silicon Valley specializing in mergers and acquisitions before joining an early stage startup company which went on to become one of the most successful IPO’s in 1999. After completing his MBA abroad, he transitioned into private equity, working for a venture capital firm in dual roles as both analyst and business development manager. Upon returning to the U.S. Erik worked for a diversified investment company as Director of Acquisitions. Erik holds degrees in Finance & Accounting from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, an MBA from Bath University in the U.K and is a Certified Professional Landman. He has been with Vaquero Energy since 2008.

Chad Walker

Environmental Supervisor

Chad joined Vaquero Energy in 2015 as the Environmental Manager. He is responsible for managing regulatory compliance and technical permitting matters, as well as driving environmental due diligence for all Vaquero Energy operations in California and Texas. Chad specializes in merging his technical experience, regulatory knowledge, and relationship management skills to ensure compliance and growth within an ever-changing and complex regulatory landscape. He is well acquainted and works well with federal, state and county regulatory agencies such as CARB, DOGGR, SWRQCB and local air pollution control districts. He has over ten years of combined experience in both the upstream and downstream segments of the oil and gas industry, including roles in engineering, project management, business development and regulatory compliance. Chad received his B.S. degree in Industrial Engineering from California Polytechnic University in San Luis Obispo, CA and his M.B.A. from California State University Bakersfield.

Stephen Cunningham

Petroleum Engineer

Stephen is a Petroleum Engineer with eight years of industry experience including field-level operations, production engineering, drilling and completions engineering, and reserve evaluation. He joined Vaquero Energy and the Cat Canyon asset team in 2014. He was an integral part of the team that was instrumental in taking production from 600 BOPD to 1200 BOPD. Stephen has been an active member of The Society of Petroleum Engineers since 2010 and held the role of Vice President of the student chapter while at the university. He looks to innovation as a catapult to realizing higher recovery factors and is actively engaged with oilfield service providers and consultants to maximize those recoveries. Mr. Cunningham is fluent in Spanish, having spent most of his childhood in South America. He holds a B.S. degree in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Wyoming and a course Certificate of Completion in Finance from the Harvard Business School, HBX.

Cary Nikkel

Chief Financial Officer

Cary has worked in the industry for 36 years and holds a BA in Accounting from Fresno Pacific University and is a CPA. Upon graduating Cary worked at the national accounting firm of Fox and Company from 1982-1985. Cary worked as Controller of Gary Drilling Company from 1985 until the company was sold in 2000. He stayed on with the Family that sold Gary Drilling and served as Chief Financial Officer from 2000-2002. He has been employed by Vaquero Energy since 2002 as its Chief Financial Officer. Cary is a founding member of the Petroleum Accountants Society of California, serves as a Trustee of Fresno Pacific University, is a Director for the Vaughn Water Company and is active in several charitable organizations.

Francisco Munoz, Jr.

Production Supervisor

Francisco (Pancho) was born and raised in Santa Maria, California. He has worked in the Santa Maria Valley, Richfield East Dome Unit, Zaca, Casmailia, and Cat Canyon Oil Fields for 18 years. Pancho attended Allan Hancock College, then transitioned into the oil fields of Northern Santa Barbara County, CA with Greka Energy. Pancho broke in as a roustabout and later moved up the ranks into a Production Foreman role. As a Production Foreman, Pancho was responsible for numerous production facilities, construction, and maintenance, along with all of their associated employees. In 2014, Pancho was recruited into the Vaquero Energy team as the Production Supervisor in Cat Canyon where he oversees day to day cyclic TEOR operations. He is an integral part of the operation in the complex, ultra-heavy oil extraction process.

Jessica Hanna

Sr. Exploitation Engineer

Jessica is a Petroleum Engineer with 12 years of industry experience including production engineering, subsurface characterization, acquisitions & divestitures and reserves evaluations. She joined Vaquero Energy in 2019. She has experience working for E&P companies ranging from small cap to large cap in Calgary, Alberta, Canada and California. She looks to non-stochastic analytical methods to improve oilfield recovery and improving efficiencies in field operations to maximize cashflow. Ms. Hanna is fluent in French, having spent her childhood in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. She holds a B.S. degree in Petroleum Engineering from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Amy Maldonado

Manager of Geology

Amy joined Vaquero Energy in 2019 as Manager of Geology. Prior to joining Vaquero, she worked for several years in various development, operations, and exploration roles for Sentinel Peak Resources (previously Freeport McMoRan Oil & Gas, previously Plains Exploration and Production) in onshore California and Gulf of Mexico assets. Prior to joining Plains Exploration, she worked for Schlumberger Consulting Services as a Reservoir Geologist primarily assigned to exploration and development projects in the Williston and DJs basins. Her first industry role was for Exxon Mobil Development Company as a geoscience intern focusing on a development project in offshore West Africa. Born and raised in northern California, she completed her undergraduate degree at California State University, Chico. She earned an MSc in Geology from University of Nevada, Reno and a graduate certificate in Geographical Information Systems from University of Denver.