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Oilfield Service Companies

Supporting oil and gas exploration and development in Alaska


Aerial view of MagTec Alaska’s Deadhorse facilities.

Photo courtesy of MagTec Alaska

The oil and gas industry is big business in Alaska with oil companies like Buccaneer, Furie and Linc Energy joining the ranks of BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell. Because oil throughput in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline is declining, these newcomers are exploring at an aggressive rate to work toward development and production in order to help fill the pipeline.

Keeping up with all these companies are the many support services businesses that operate in Alaska’s oil fields, from Cook Inlet to the North Slope and the Arctic. From the mechanics who keep the equipment running to the caterers and housekeepers who service the camps, it takes a wide range of oilfield support service companies to ensure things are kept running smoothly. Here’s a closer look at three.


Environmental Support Services

Pacific Environmental Corporation began providing oil spill response services to Alaska oil companies more than 20 years ago. During that time, they have seen their role as emergency oil spill response personnel evolve to take on a more proactive role.

“It’s been several years since we’ve had a major event on the North Slope,” says Matt Melton, Alaska area manager for PENCO. “We’ve worked on a lot of oil spills over the years, but an increased attitude towards safer and cleaner work practices by our clients have required us to become versed in not just oil spill clean-up, but oil spill prevention as well.”

Prevention requires a lot of monitoring and a thorough understanding of spill prevention countermeasures and controls. For PENCO field hands, this means being aware of everything that is happening on the pad. “The day is spent making the rounds, identifying any contamination, no matter how small, finding the source and ensuring it is brought to the attention of the client so the problem can be corrected,” says Melton. “This includes making sure there are containments under vehicles and that those containments don’t show any signs of discharge from vehicles.”

It’s up to the PENCO spill technician to be able to identify what kind of fluid has been discharged, the source and how to effectively clean it up. “By identifying the source, it allows the client to keep small problems from turning into big problems,” says Melton. “This proactive approach means better maintained equipment and safer operations.”

Maintaining the integrity of spill containment areas, monitoring fluid and fuel transfers as well as general oil field housekeeping tasks are all part of the job. “Our clients depend on the expertise and experience of our personnel out in the field to make sure all of their operations are safe and environmentally compliant,” says Melton. “We are trained in response, but being able to work around a pad and have an eye for things that aren’t right is a critical component to what we do.”

Performing seasonal project specific work in addition to being available to respond to an oil spill of any size on a moment’s notice requires a large pool of on-call personnel to draw from. “Every time we send personnel to a worksite, it’s like a job interview,” explains Melton. “They not only have to work well in the environment they are in, but to be asked back, they have to be safe workers.”

This high standard combined with an outstanding safety record is what keeps PENCO working for some of Alaska’s biggest oil companies, according to Melton. “We are going on over three years without a loss-time incident. Our guys have raised the bar and that’s been key to our success on the North Slope and in Cook Inlet as well,” he adds.


Cook Inlet Support Services

Another company with a solid foothold in Cook Inlet is Offshore Systems Kenai. Created in 1986 in response to strong customer demand for a full-service logistical support base for the offshore oil and gas operations in Cook Inlet, OSK began providing stevedoring and logistical support to companies exploring and developing in the area. Operations grew to include heavy equipment operation, warehouse and office space, potable water, fueling services, outside staging areas as well as a heliport and hangar.

OSK is a member of the Ocean Marine Services group of companies which were built to provide shore-based terminal and marine support and logistics solutions to the oil and gas explorers and producers in Alaska. Offshore Systems Inc., OSK’s partner in Dutch Harbor, was founded in 1982 to support oil exploration activities in the Bering and Chukchi Seas. According to OSI, they served as a support terminal, providing warehouse, storage, stevedoring services and fuel for the oil companies and their service providers exploring the Outer Continental Shelf. In the mid to late 1980s, oil exploration activity in the OCS tapered off and OSI shifted its focus to supporting the North Pacific and Bering Sea fishing fleet. However, with Shell’s recent offshore drilling program in the OCS recommencing, OSI has shifted its focus again to supporting the oil and gas industry in the Arctic.

Due to its status as the closest ice-free deep-water port to the Arctic, OSI is at the forefront of maritime support options for exploratory activities in the OCS. “With the recent interest in Arctic exploration, OSI has ramped up its oilfield support services by providing terminal and logistical support services to the companies working in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas,” says Rick Wilson, business manager for OSI. “As we look for development in that area to increase, OSI has increased its capabilities not just in Dutch Harbor, but in neighboring Adak where we have joined forces with the Aleut Corp. to provide logistics support for offshore drilling operations in the Arctic at the former Adak military base.”

OSI’s facility in Dutch Harbor/Unalaska is the largest private terminal in the area with 1,500 feet of dock space that includes five docks, 120,000 square feet of warehouse storage, 20 acres of outside storage/staging area, cold storage and 75,000 barrels of fuel storage capacity, according to Rick Wilson. “In 2010 we completed construction of a custom built berthing for Shell’s Arctic class drill rig, the Kulluk, that includes a secure storage and staging area,” he adds.

Back in Cook Inlet, however, OSK has enjoyed the lion’s share of the market as the sole provider of dockside and stevedoring services for companies operating in Cook Inlet. That will change, however, when ASRC Energy Services completes its $9.4 million expansion and upgrade to its Rig Tenders Dock marine facility in Nikiski, expected to be operational in the summer of 2013.

The original Rig Tenders Dock was built in the late 1960s to support the expanding oil and gas industry in Cook Inlet. ASRC acquired the facility in 1997 and began developing it by installing a module fabrication and assembly yard.

According to ASRC, the new dock facing will feature additional bumpers for vessel tie up, an upgraded ramp to accommodate landing craft vessels, fuel and potable water services and as well as crane operations and stevedoring services.

How does OSK feel about someone new entering the Cook Inlet market? “Competition can only make us better,” says OSK Vice President Kelly McNeil. “We’ve spent decades building our relationships with our clients and with exploration and production on the increase, I foresee those partnerships continuing well into the future.”

Bob Pratt PENCO Northslope Operations Manager (left) giving safety recognition awards to Travis Busse (center) and Trevor Herman (right). Busse and Herman work on the Exxon project and are spill technicians for PENCO.

Photo courtesy of PENCO


Equipment and Project Support Services

In the five years since MagTec Alaska began offering oil field support services to the North Slope, they have seen a significant increase in their business operations, according to Roger Wilson, MagTec North Slope operations manager. “Our commitment to customer service has allowed us to advance in the market,” he explains.

As a full-service company that provides equipment rental and project support to companies operating in the Cook Inlet and North Slope oil fields, MagTec has found its niche by taking a proactive approach to customer service. “Full-service project support means providing top quality equipment to the job site complete with personnel capable of servicing and maintaining the equipment onsite. This cradle-to-grave approach to service ensures our customers are able to complete their projects efficiently and with the best equipment available,” explains Roger Wilson.

Beyond the traditional oil field equipment rentals such as portable heaters, generators, light plants, man lifts and zoom booms, MagTec provides a wide range of specialized portable buildings and fit-for-purpose job site buildings and equipment. MagTec has increased the variety of specialty equipment available to their clients as an incentive to work with MagTec according to Roger Wilson. “We work with our clients to identify their specific needs. Whether it is an outdoor building complete with toilet facilities or a 2 megawatt generator to support power requirements on a drill site, we can make it happen,” he adds.

Growth for MagTec took a significant upswing as business development and operations on the North Slope increased. Supporting projects at Point Thomson and other prominent locations, MagTec built a presence in Deadhorse that includes a new shop on a 6.5 acre pad, an increased equipment line that includes new heaters, new generators, a fleet of new heavy duty Ford pickup trucks, and a new full-service man camp.

The new man camp is a 58-man single status camp with office suites and a 100-person dining room. “Our camps division is independently operated by MagTec,” explains Roger Wilson. “We have our own catering and housekeeping staff which allows us to ensure quality while controlling costs for our clients.”

The primary purpose of the camp is to support Shell’s Beaufort Sea operation during their presence, according to Roger Wilson. “The rest of the year it is rented out for winter drilling operations,” he adds.

New drilling operations across the North Slope have meant an increase in equipment needs. “People need specialty equipment for their individualized projects. We help locate, transport and maintain that equipment onsite for our clients in the harshest conditions Alaska has to offer,” says Roger Wilson.

Additional drilling operations on the North Slope have meant keeping up with an increased demand. “With drilling rigs exploring—between Repsol, Pioneer and Linc Energy—that generates a need for massive amounts of equipment,” says Roger Wilson. “And when you have things that make smoke, they are going to break—especially operating in Arctic conditions,” he adds.

When that equipment requires servicing or repair, MagTec’s experienced staff is available on site in Deadhorse and across the North Slope to provide fast response, enabling companies to get back to their operations quickly, safely and efficiently, according to Roger Wilson, who added: “We have a full-time field mechanic who is stationed in Oliktok who services MagTec equipment on lease for the drilling programs in progress on the ice.”

Understanding what oil companies are looking for has allowed MagTec to enjoy steady, increased growth. “It’s a tighter market with companies keeping an eye on the most cost effective and all inclusive services,” says Roger Wilson. “They want things packaged up. They don’t want to just rent equipment; they also want a full-service contract with a provider.” An integral part of this package is an outstanding safety program and commitment to safety developed the last few seasons by MagTec, including BBS Process, JSA Process, Journey Management Process, SSE Process and Stop Work Authority Process to mention a few. MagTec is very proud of the advances made and the management of their process to promote a safety culture that sets the standard for “safe behavior” in the industry.

A Barrow high school graduate, with more than 37 years of experience working on the North Slope, Roger Wilson’s familiarity with logistics in the Arctic has made him a valuable asset in providing unique and specialized service to MagTec’s clients. By expanding their logistics and expediting services to include coordinators and field expeditors, MagTec has expanded this North Slope division to include work with government and research contracts.

While a large percentage of operations happen on the North Slope, MagTec also has a significant presence on the Kenai Peninsula supporting Cook Inlet drilling operations. “Our company originally began in Kenai,” Roger Wilson says. “And we have not forgotten the value of the projects in the area as well as the potential for future growth in oil and gas development in Cook Inlet. We are pleased to be increasing our business lines on the North Slope, but we have never forgotten our loyalty to our Kenai client base.”A

Paula Cottrell is an Alaskan author.

  This originally appeared in the April 2013 print edition of Alaska Business Monthly magazine.
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