Pa. drilling activity has slowed; industry officials remain optimistic

November 2, 2012
Shale Play

LYCOMING COUNTY, Pa. - The natural gas industry may well have reached its peak in Lycoming County in 2010 and 2011, but there's no reason to believe that the best economic times are over.

Gas drillers and others connected business-wise to the industry claim they are staying somewhat busy these days.

And some companies are doing better than ever.

Tracy Heiser, a partner with Heiser Supply Co., South Williamsport, said business is good - really good.

"Our business has tripled in the last three months," she said.

The business manufactures certain supplies for the gas industry.

Heiser explained that the business was launched as the result of favorable market conditions tied to the gas industry.

As for a slowdown in the industry, Heiser said she hasn't seen it.

"I can't say that. We just started last year. Things started out slow," she said.

While Heiser employs just three people, she sees the small business growing.

"We can only get bigger," she said.

Wayne Martin, business manager of Express Energy, which provides services to gas drillers, conceded that things have slowed down for his company.

"Last year was our banner year," he said.

The company, which employs about 100 people, has been in Montgomery for the past four years.

"Our well testing is busy. The casing department is a little slow right now," he said. "We just opened up a shop in Ohio to pick up work there. We are hoping things pick up in the spring."

Martin said the gas industry is a cyclical one.

Anadarko has 85 employees in Williamsport and is staying busy, according to company spokeswoman Mary Wolf.

The company leases five rigs, including a sputter rig.

"We have fewer rigs this year," Wolf said. "But the reason is efficiency. There is always a learning curve. What used to take us 30 to 45 days, now only takes us 20 days, so we have fewer rigs."

She called activity staying at a "steady pace."

"We are busy," she said.

The company is also doing road restoration work and working on conservation projects.

Charles Campbell, director of special projects, Glenn O. Hawbaker, Inc. said the gas industry is keeping his company busy.

"We do all forms of civil construction," he said. "We build roads, impoundments. We clear right-of-ways. We do a lot of road repairs."

Hawbaker operates a site in Montoursville which has expanded.

Is the company's gas industry activity as heavy as ever?

"Perhaps a little less than 2010 and 2011," Campbell said.

But he said he's very optimistic.

"I think the gas industry as we are seeing it today will be with us another 50 years in this part of the state," he said. "It's the least expensive gas to market we have in this country. The opportunity is enormous, and that's just normal domestic use. As we develop it further, it can only get better."

Dennis Holt of Sooner Pipe remains optimistic, despite a drop in overall drilling activity.

"We haven't laid off anybody," he said. "It's just a little slower than normal. You still see companies coming in here. I think things are going to pick up."

Sooner Pipe, which opened a facility near the Williamsport Regional Airport in 2010, is a tubular dispatcher and logistics service provider for the oil and gas industry.

Stallion Oil Field Services opened an office in Cogan Station four years ago.

"We're doing okay," said Justin Campbell. "I mean, we are still here."

And while there's been a slowdown in operations, it hasn't been anything drastic, he said.

The company has maintained its employee base of about 90 to 100 workers.

Brian Gerber, inside sales representative, National Oil Well Varco, Montoursville, conceded things are not as busy for his company these days.

"It always has its ups and downs," he said. "It's cyclical."

Last year, the company opened a store in Pittston, but in August closed one in Troy.

"Things were slowing down up there," he said.

He said the company, which is headquartered in Houston, has no plans to close the Montoursville site.

"I see things picking up in the near future," he said.



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