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With new $3 million facility, Powell ‘lifts’ oil in the West

Start-up Summit ESP has 15 skilled workers already in place

Powell is on the western front of an enterprising initiative, national in scope, to revolutionize one of the fastest growing segments of the multibillion-dollar North American oil production business.

It’s the story of a new kid on the block — Summit ESP — taking on the big boys for a piece of the North American artificial lift market that industry analysts estimate at more than $1 billion annually and growing exponentially.

In Powell, it means good paying jobs and a $3 million state-of-the-art physical plant. Summit ESP (which stands for electric submersible pump) has been operating for a few months at 260 South Panther Boulevard in the Homestead Industrial Park in southeast Powell. The company welcomed customers and the public at a grand opening Thursday, Dec. 13.

The Powell site for Summit ESP is one of the start-up company’s three locations in the U.S. to service the North American artificial lift market. By section of the country, the company headquarters and principal engineering and manufacturing site is in Tulsa, Okla., serving the Mid-continent area; and the other full service center is in Midland-Odessa, Texas in the vast Permian Basin.

The Powell center will provide artificial lift technologies and services to oil-producing areas in the western United States.

Location was the primary driver in choosing where to place a western service center, said Ed Ewart, who manages the Powell operation as area director — Western USA. The Powell location is at the center of Big Horn Basin oil activity and in relative proximity to the emerging Niobrara play in southeastern Wyoming and the developing oil production in the Four Corners area of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and New Mexico, as well as the gigantic production of the Bakken Shale in North Dakota and eastern Montana.

“We’ll service them all out of here,” said Ewart of the new 31,500-square foot facility on five acres in the Powell industrial park. “There is not another facility in the Rocky Mountains as nice as this and with the experienced employee force and equipment we have,” he said.

“We’re here for the long haul. We’re here to stay,” he declared.

Ewart is a veteran of 30 years in the ESP industry. He started on the ground floor as a spooler and worked his way up. For the last 15 years, he has been in management with Baker Hughes at Cody. Ewart lives in Lovell and commutes to Powell.

Summit ESP is on the production side of the oil industry, not the drilling, completion or fracking of oil wells.

“After the drilling is completed, we provide the artificial lift to get fluid to the surface,” Ewart explained.

Ewart said there is plenty of growth potential in the artificial lift market. It has been estimated that upwards of 90 percent of all wells ultimately will require some sort of artificial lift.

The new company already is providing good-paying jobs in Powell. Ewart has a work force of 15 in place, a mix of local hires and employees brought in from outside. The emphasis has been on hiring skilled field service technicians and machinists.

“Our company focuses on getting the right people with experience,” he said.

The average wage paid by Summit ESP is between $70,000 and $75,000 a year with a good benefits package.

“We are only half-staffed now,” Ewart said. “We’re looking for shop people and probably will have to go outside. When we get more work, our long-range plan is for 32 people. We have plenty of room to expand.”

Summit ESP wants to be part of the community, Ewart said. “Our contractors on this facility have been local. We’ve joined the chamber. We were a purchaser at the Junior Livestock Sale in support of kids. We will be active in the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) in the Big Horn Basin.”

Though Summit ESP is a brand new start-up, it already has surpassed some ESP companies in revenues. The Powell center has been providing service and equipment since July.

“We started out with a modest business plan and have blown that away. We’ve seen growth of 50 percent month on month,” Ewart said.

Each of Summit’s three operations centers is designed with capacity sufficient to generate $50 million in annual revenue.

Summit is going head to head with some major players like Baker Hughes, Schlumberger and Weatherford for a share of the ESP market. What will win the day for Summit is its single-purpose focus on ESP and its customer service, Ewart said.

“We don’t have layers of overhead. Here, it’s the shop, me and our CEO, John Kenner, in Tulsa,” Ewart described.

“Our install work and superior service is going to win out,” he added.

The Powell operations center is truly full service.

“We will build components here, test them, service them, tear them down. If a part fails, the customer wants to know why it fails. Because we can do everything here, we will know everything about our components. That gives us the opportunity to increase the run life. That’s key for customers,” Ewart said.

In less than six months in business, Summit ESP has already applied for six new patents.

“That says how focused we are on making the products better,” Ewart said.

The architect behind the new independent company is its CEO, John Kenner, who established the company in 2011. He is a former president of Baker Hughes Centrilift. His mission is to create a company that concentrates entirely on providing advanced engineering-focused technologies to operators of electrical submersible pumps.

Kenner was in Powell last week, but had to return to Tulsa prior to the Thursday grand opening. He left Baker Hughes to form the new company with a business plan to focus on the on-shore industry in North America, while other major players have directed a lot of their resources to the oil fields of the Mideast.

Summit ESP is employee-owned. Key managers, including Ewart, have ownership positions, and employees have the option to buy into the company.

“It does a few things for employees,” Ewart pointed out. “It gives them the opportunity to better themselves and it also gives them further incentive to do a great job in their relationship with customers.”

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