Western Pump & Dredge is hiring, but applicants must be willing to travel

Western Pump & Dredge is one Grand Valley energy business that’s hiring — mostly for work in Pennsylvania and North Dakota.

Western Pump & Dredge, founded in 1992 by Jack Hays, saw its business, along with others in northwest Colorado, slow with the drop in natural gas prices at the end of 2008.

Like other energy-related companies, Western Pump & Dredge also laid off employees, 120 in 45 days, beginning in January 2009, Hays said.

A year later, Western Pump & Dredge, 2314 Logos Drive, in Grand Junction, is up to 112 employees, including 45 hired since Nov. 1, “and we’re looking to hire 15 more,” he said.

The work, though, is mostly in drilling for oil in the Bakken formation in North Dakota and natural gas in the Marcellus shale of Pennsylvania.

Some of the hiring, about 20 percent, reflects an increase in work this year over 2009 in the Piceance Basin of northwest Colorado.

That might seem like a good increase in work in the Piceance, “but you have to remember how slow it was in 2009” in the basin, Hays said.

Now, when he hires, one critical question he asks is whether employees are willing to travel, spending about three weeks at a time working out of his satellite offices in North Dakota or western Pennsylvania.

As fortunes plummeted last year in the Piceance Basin, Hays opened the Pennsylvania office in June and the North Dakota one in November.

The irony that Hays sees is that industry skills perfected in the Piceance Basin are now being employed in gas fields such as the Marcellus in Pennsylvania that compete with Piceance Basin gas.

Western Pump & Dredge in particular honed skills in the Piceance Basin that no other company can offer, especially in working with hydraulic fracturing. He, in fact, trademarked the term FRAC Support. The company also specializes in customized services that include high-volume mud and sludge pumping, water transfer and pipeline systems, wastewater-evaporation systems, filtration, and equipment rentals.

In the other basins and formations, “They’re in the stone age when it comes to handling water, which is very good for me,” Hays said.

Western Pump & Dredge has handled 168 million barrels of water and spilled 55 barrels, he said, most in small amounts, he said.

Spills of more than five gallons have to be reported to state officials and the companies that contract for his services, he said.

Hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling techniques, which allow for multiple wells from the same well site, were used in the Piceance Basin and then transferred to the Marcellus shale and other formations around the country to tap gas fields that geologists previously thought were unreachable.

As a result of its work in the Piceance Basin, Western Pump & Dredge is probably the largest independent energy company in the Piceance Basin and maybe in the western United States, Hays said.

His outlying offices, though, are bringing 100 percent more revenue into the company than the Piceance Basin, he said.


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