Eagle Ford brings oil show back (video)
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CORPUS CHRISTI - The hall at the American Bank Center was a hive of activity. Men in 10-gallon straw hats clasped hands with old friends in starched shirts and sharply creased jeans.
Hundreds of people moved through the cavernous room, taking in all the latest advances in oil field technology at the 2012 South Texas Oil field Expo.
These oil shows are a place where industry insiders gather. Once, oil shows were a routine occurrence in South Texas. For years, Victoria hosted one of the largest oil shows in the state and the country. But that changed when the oil industry went bust in the 1980s. The boom ended and most people thought they would never see another oil show in this part of the state again.
Now, with the Eagle Ford Shale play thundering through the Crossroads, an oil show has come to the region again.
On Wednesday and Thursday, hundreds of people flooded into the convention center to attend the oil field show.
Mike Fox, senior operations manager for Strad Energy Services, of Canonsburg, PA., grinned at the men and women strolling by his booth, catching eyes and pulling them into conversation about their frac water storage tanks and communication hubs. Fox has been in the oil field industry for decades and has watched booms come and go, always looking for the next big thing, trying to stay just head of the curve. That's what everyone is focused on.
At these shows, they work to sell their own products, new types of drill bits, storage tanks, safety gear and other supplies. But they also spend hours catching up with their friends in the field, talking about the latest technologies and looking for ways to put their efforts together to find something new. Knowing people matters in this business, Fox said.
"It's amazing, for such a huge industry to be such a close-knit family," he said.
Fox was brought here for the same reason everyone else has come to this spot nestled on the Gulf Coast. Right now, the Eagle Ford Shale play is booming, and Fox is again following the play, preparing to settle in Victoria to run the company office there.
"It comes and goes, but this is the best activity we've ever seen in these parts, and I think it'll go for 10 to 15 years, but it always ends," he said.
The booths spread out in the main hall of the convention center, spilling over to the second floor. A workover rig jutted into the sky in the parking lot outside of the center and the lot was filled with new types of trucks and tools to update how oil field workers go about drilling wells.
David Wilson, of Stephenville, examined the sleek lines of his company's product, the Hydra-cat trailer, glancing around to see if anyone else had stopped to take a look. This is Wilson's first oil show.
"We're just trying to dip our toes in," Wilson said. "Technology is always changing in the industry. We're trying to stay ahead of it and I think we are."
For decades, floorhands have had to lift drilling pipes with their own hands as they moved them on and off the rig floor on a site. Wilson's company built this trailer that would allow one person to move the heavy pipes using a few levers and buttons instead of straining their muscles to get the job done.
That's what the show is all about for Wilson, a chance to show others in the industry what they've come up with.
After oil went bust in the 1980s, some thought the American oil industry had begun its final descent, but hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling changed that, unlocking shale plays that had been deemed impossible to drill by those in the industry for years.
Cecil Hassard, of Canada, but now lives in Corpus Christi, of Coil Solutions Inc., has seen this all before. He has been in the oil industry for years, but this is his first time representing his company at an oil show.
With the Eagle Ford booming, Hassard knows there is no better place for him to be than right here as a representative of his Canadian company in the middle of the play.
"The government wants to be self sufficient and not rely on foreign oil and gas, so the big point is for domestic production to rise up again," he said. "This is the place to be at, here in the Eagle Ford."