In the past couple of years, it’s been a challenge to find a good deal on premium or new drill pipe to supply the horizontal directional drilling industry.
In addition to the demand for oil, the demand for pipe went crazy during 2006, 2007 and through some of 2008. Since the end of 2008, the drill pipe market has loosened up a little due to the stacking of oil rigs. Thankfully, the HDD industry is still going strong because of the strength of natural gas and utility/communication jobs. The oilfields going into a lull only opens up the drill pipe market for HDD drillers. However, sometimes it requires a sales team to come up with around 7,000 ft of pipe on the spot. Consulting a potential customer requires a plethora of experience, ranging from a background of oilfield/HDD drilling, welding, machining, computer skills and many types of engineering. Today, with the convenience of good communication and a network of people, a driller can receive a quote immediately with pictures and inspection reports via e-mail.
As with any sales position, it’s essential to be in the right place at the right time and having a contact who will deliver. Whether you’re a veteran of 30 years or you’ve just sprung a new marketing strategy, the provider must always follow up and follow through. Keeping in touch with old contacts and taking chances on new ones continues to play a major role in the business life of the pipe dealer.
It’s a shame that the best contact might be bought out by another company which in turn, leaves the alternative of shaking the bushes. Lately, in the “buyer’s market,” one may find themselves at an auction but don’t be surprised by the obnoxious amount of oilfield equipment you may have to sort through. In the “seller’s market,” the dealer has the upper hand because he/she gets paid before the pipe leaves the yard; on the other hand, the driller’s check comes in the mail after the job’s done. The risk of operator error and/or failure, due to inspection oversight, is too risky for most companies. In this business, speculation could be your best friend while assuming things would be your worst enemy.
When a potential customer calls, (hopefully end-user), a certain set of information must be relayed. It’s essential that the transfer of information has something to do with what kind of job the pipe will used on. (i.e. water, oil-transmission, utility/fiber-optic, drill and leave). Other helpful things to consider are specifics such as deadlines, lengths and radii of bores, sizes of rig, river crossings, pipe rehabilitation and rock drilling.
Sometimes it’s better to go with a good used pipe with hard banding or maybe some borderline junk; it depends on the application. Sometimes it’s better to go with a whole new string and pay the extra 40 percent. This is where it would be handy to reach back and use some of those engineering skills learned in the classroom or rough necking in the field.
If push comes to shove, there are plenty of consultants/engineers out there. But sometimes in the HDD business, flying by the seat of your pants is all you can do. There’s really no exact science to any one hole because every bore is another opportunity to learn something new. In the past 15 years, the idea of a flush joint (no bottle neck tool joint) has been introduced and those who can afford it, rave about the performance. When the term “industry specific” is used, these gentlemen in the HDD field have stories to tell. It’s very interesting to keep up with the drillers and hear how the latest gizmo or technique was used on a crossing. It is the pipe salesperson’s job to keep up with how to build what’s needed, find something already built or gather some more opinions.
Sales are one thing but, the service cannot be overlooked. It’s imperative, in an industry where everyone fights iron, to have an avenue of different services. The burden of handling the driller’s pipe straight out of the ground is a whole different animal but somebody must do it. Dealing with driller’s used pipe is a plus because the salesperson and their team don’t mind getting a little dirty. Selling used drill pipe requires a solid foundation of trust. In order to build trust, people in this business can attest that it’s done by solid customer service.
In the ups and downs of the typical business cycle, there’s a major benefit to being diverse. Through consulting about a specific job or doing the various services on pipe such as cleaning/water blasting, non-destructive or destructive testing, shopping connections, culling the good from the bad, we can prove that the tiny details will be addressed as well as the large ones.
In lieu of all the factors and determining points to purchasing drill pipe, it’s wise of those who are hunting for a string to heed the advice of those who have been there before. Buyers need to check out their supplier or distributor thoroughly before placing that order. Talk to your dealer and help him understand your project and in turn, you’ll be able to see where he stands by the feedback he can give you. Good old word of mouth and years of relations are hard to beat but there’s always other options: you better know who you’re dealing with.
In order to buy and sell drill pipe, it benefits the dealer to have a strong understanding of the HDD and oilfield industry. The development of any new experience comes from the workers on the rigs. Our society needs plenty of help in the area of communication, clean water access, oil and gas transmission amongst others. So as a team, the oilfield and HDD industries are better off seeking more council and expecting less hassle.
Jerry Nugent is vice president of Holly Pipe Corp., which is based in LaFayette, La.