Shale Plays Boost Track Trencher Market

May 2012, Vol. 67 No. 5
A Tesmec trencher on a shale project in the Northeast.

Oil and gas shale production plays in several regions of the United States are having significant economic impact on the areas of activity and organizations that provide the equipment and services involved in tapping these rich sources of natural gas and oil.

Major energy shale fields include Eagle Ford in south Texas, Bakken in North Dakota, Montana and Southern Canada, and perhaps best-known, the Marcellus, reported to be the largest energy shale play in the eastern United States.

While most everyone agrees the U.S. needs to achieve energy independence, activities to help achieve that goal often create issues for residents with areas affected by drilling and related activities, along with national and even international environmental concerns. That has been true of techniques used for extracting oil and gas from shale, especially the controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

Multiple types of equipment and the personnel to transport and operate it is required not only for energy production, but to build and expand roads, install water lines, provide a myriad of services and to construct pipeline infrastructure to gather and transport gas and oil.

Earlier this year, the Associated Equipment Distributors (AED) surveyed equipment distributors serving the Marcellus play and as-yet largely undeveloped Utica shale area. Fourteen of 15 dealers participating in the survey reported revenues they could attribute directly or indirectly to energy activity producing $356 million, an average of $25.4 million per company. From information gathered in the survey, it was estimated energy shale supports more than 570 jobs among the dealerships. Eighty-seven percent of respondents said continued growth in energy shale production would permit expansion of their businesses and hiring of construction workers.

AED represents dealerships providing a wide variety of types of equipment. For the underground construction industry, Tesmec and Vermeer, two leading manufacturers of large track trenchers, say energy shale production is significantly impacting their companies and dealers.

Bryan Blankenship, Tesmec USA national sales manager, says shale plays in North America have had significant impact on Tesmec’s business both in terms of new machine sales and monthly rentals.

Chris Lynch, Vermeer strategic business manager, specialty excavation group, said contractors doing energy shale work are purchasing, leasing and taking out short term rentals of large trenchers and horizontal directional drills they usually wind up buying.