Why Zelienople's Deep Well Services is sticking to its Appalachian roots




The natural gas boom brought with it a boom of sorts in out-of-state license plates as operators tapped into the expertise of employees from energy hubs such as Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

Zelienople oil well company Deep Well Services is changing that.

One of the things the company prides itself on is its local affiliation. Sixty percent of its 91 employees are from Appalachia — meaning Pennsylvania or West Virginia.

“We’re locally based. A lot of people — companies — operate out of here, but they’re from other parts of the country or the world,” Deep Well’s President Mark Marmo said.

"That’s a key point for us,“ added John Sabo, the company’s chief operating officer.

And the company is on the hunt for more workers as its jobs and profits expand. The company anticipates a profit increase of 258 percent for the 2014 fiscal year and total revenue of approximately $25 million, Mr. Marmo said. The private company’s revenue grew from $7.2 million in 2012 to $14.2 million last year. 

 

“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the Marcellus or the Utica,” Mr. Marmo said. “It’s given us the opportunity to grow.”

Grow it has. The company purchased a 35-foot red and yellow, standalone snubbing unit just last month, adding to the three others it already had.

Deep Well prepares wells to produce oil and natural gas after they have been fracked, Mr. Marmo explained, and snubbing is a type of underground intervention used on such wells.

Operating a snubbing unit is a highly skilled and dangerous job, Mr. Marmo said. “It takes up to six years of work to achieve the highest level of an operator and even more years beyond that to reach a supervisor level,” he said.

“We’re a small company. We know everybody. We spend all of our time with these guys and to have somebody in an accident … it’s just not acceptable,” Mr. Marmo said.

For every 30 employees, Deep Well has one safety person, trained in things such as well control management, emergency response and incident response investigation management.

The company’s culture values communication and transparency, according to health, safety, quality and environmental manager Aaron Berarducci.

“One person’s expertise and their experiences are going to be completely different than another guy’s, but they’re equally very talented people. We’re very open to the fact that everyone wants to learn from everybody, and we have to communicate and be transparent to learn those things and understand that,” he said.

Deep Well has worked with a number of companies, including Exxon Mobil, Hess Oil, Seneca Resources, Talisman Energy and Rice Energy. Though the majority of the company’s projects are local, it is certified to work in states such as Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Mississippi and Colorado.

"We just left today for our first job ever in New York,“ Mr. Marmo said.

Deep Well Services opened in 2008 in Charleston, West Virginia, under the leadership of Johnny McCallister, Deep Well’s chief operating officer of service rigs, and board member Tracy Weekley. It worked mainly on gas storage wells.

“We were successful at that and then the Marcellus started and we just moved into that because it’s the same process that we’ve always done, just at a much higher rate,” Mr. Marmo said.

Madasyn Czebiniak: mczebiniak@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1269. Twitter: @PG_Czebiniak

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