Thinking pink in the oil field

Firm hopes unusual rig helps boost cancer fight

Mike Cole of Rogue Pressure Services on his pink Rig.

You’d have to see it to believe it.

A hot pink snubbing rig sits in Loma. It belongs to Rogue Pressure Services, and the company intends to donate to breast cancer research a portion of the money it receives from each job it does with the equipment.

The tagline for the rig is, “Under pressure to find a cure,” but with the recent slowdown of available work in the region’s energy industry, the company is feeling pressure to stay busy.

“The economy is just horrible right now,” said Chris Tiller, owner and field operations manager for Rogue.

Snubbing rigs are a type of well intervention that forces pipe into a well under pressure. They are put in place after drilling is completed.

The pink rig rolled into the area in January but has not been used since then, Tiller said. The rig cost his company $1.5 million and was ordered roughly a year ago, when the energy industry was in a boom cycle.

The industry has since suffered layoffs and a drastic reduction in the number of active wells in the area. Energy experts are predicting for 2009 a $2.5 billion reduction in investment in the industry from 2008 levels, and the number of rigs in the Piceance Basin has fallen 60 percent.

“When it was ordered, everything was looking good,” said Mike Cole, operations manager for Rogue. “It showed up right about the time everything went to crud.”

Rogue plans to donate money to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, a global nonprofit organization that funds research toward finding a cure for breast cancer.

Claudia Curry Hill, executive director of the foundation’s Aspen office, said she has loved the idea since she was approached about it.

“I wish they could put it up and get it running,” she said.

Tiller said he had the idea for the rig in 2007 when he saw T-shirts that said, “Real men wear pink,” in support of breast cancer research.

Maybe real men would work on a pink rig, too, he said.

“I wrestled with the idea for a while,” Tiller said. “I didn’t know if the oil field, which is typically a masculine community, would be receptive to something like this.”

Tiller said his company had lined up work for the pink rig with a company that would donate money to the organization in addition to the funds Rogue would donate.

That work fell through, he said, but his company still plans to donate to the foundation when the rig is put to work.

Cole said the pink rig, made in Canada, has a number of innovations that make it a more efficient unit, including being more compact and speedy.

“It’s like comparing an old Volkswagen to a Ferrari,” Cole said. “The speed is incomparable.”

Tiller said his company is launching a national campaign to get some attention drawn to the rig, beyond what attention a pink snubbing rig draws to itself, to put the equipment to work.

Regardless of a person’s feelings toward the energy industry, Tiller said, supporting breast cancer research is nonpolitical.

“Everyone has a mom, a sister, a daughter or whatever,” he said. “This is a genuinely good cause.”


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