Expo a chance to size up energy fields

Attendees get up to speed, also seize opportunity to grab up freebies

With his contracting business slow and not paying the bills in Montrose, Jim Valdez thought he’d head to Grand Junction Friday with his wife, Tammie, to ask about job opportunities at the annual Energy Forum & Expo.

“The bigger corporations say there’s stuff out there, but the smaller businesses say there’s nothing,” Valdez said.

If nothing else, the Valdezes and others attending Friday’s expo got the chance to hear what’s going on in traditional and alternative energy fields and have their pick of no end of pens, water bottles, cloth grocery bags and other handouts.

Lamar Smith is vice president with Pure Automation, which provides automated equipment to the oil and gas field. He stopped by the event to look at what new products might be out there and “see which way the future’s moving, so we can move with it,” he said.

That might include looking at working with alternative energy fields as well, he said. Currently Pure Automation’s oil and gas work is all out of state, with local energy companies seeming to do such work in-house since the drilling slowdown of 2008–09, he said.

Fred Pittenger, chief executive officer of Simplicity Solar in Grand Junction, has found the expo to be a source of potential customers.

“We get a few prospects out of this show” each year, Pittenger said.

While his company has been in a growth mode, natural gas development has remained in something of a holding pattern locally since recovering somewhat from the slowdown. Fruita resident John Ruthstrom, technical sales specialist for Oilfield Services at Univar, said he expects local drilling activity to continue the way it is for a few more years, until the nation’s manufacturing sector rebounds, driving up natural gas demand and prices.

He said his company has job opportunities available, “but you need to be able to pick up and move” because they are in current hotbed drilling areas such as northeastern Colorado and North Dakota, where lucrative oil production is picking up.

Dale Larsen, account manager with Calfrac Well Services Corp. in Denver, said his company hired some people locally and sent them to work temporarily in North Dakota and other areas, with the expectation that local work may become available for them later. With western Colorado drilling activity holding at a relatively modest but steady pace for now, the company knows the cyclical nature of area energy development means things could pick up later, and it wants to maintain a presence here.

“We consider this one of our foundational districts,” he said.


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