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Shale drilling frenzy paying off for TMK-IPSCO in Brookfield

Thursday, March 8, 2012

By Karl Henkel


Few local companies have benefited from the shale drilling frenzy more than TMK-IPSCO in Brookfield.

The premium pipe-threading company, which will celebrate its second anniversary at its location just off state Route 82 on March 22, is adding employees by the day and churning out pipe for oil and gas wells by the miles.

TMK-IPSCO, employers of 71 — 69 of those local, according to plant manager Ernie Sexton — have more than 25,148 45-foot steel pipes ready for shipment to well sites or storage facilities.

If stretched end-to-end, or fitted like they’re intended, those pipes could stretch 214 miles, nearly enough to connect the company’s Brookfield facility to Detroit.

All have been sold for future use. “There’s no stock,” Sexton said.

The plant now churns out about 500 pipes a day — enough for slightly less than two Utica wells — and uses two separate shop lines and is enough to keep one line running 24 hours a day.

Most pipes are equipped for use in the Marcellus Shale, but the plant has taken on orders for the Bakken Shale in Williston, N.D.

“We’re getting some business trying to help fill their orders,” Sexton said. “It’s a win-win for all of us.”

The other line runs a single shift because TMK hasn’t yet hired enough qualified machinists to fill the other two shifts.

About $17 million in investments will allow TMK to hire up to 120 employees, some of which will fill additional shifts and others that will work on the company’s soon-to-be-debuted line for ancillary pipes.

Those pipes, at varying lengths, are used to fill in gaps or spaces shorter than 45 feet.

All of those threaded pipes originate in raw from Koppel Tubulars Corp., another TMK company, in Koppel, Pa. They come in varying weights, the heaviest being 23 pounds per foot, and are used as production casing, the innermost and longest line of pipes used in a Utica Shale well.

Roughly 12,000 feet of pipe, generally at 51/2-inch diameter, will be used in an average well. About 7,000 feet of that is used for vertical piping and can be reused by a drilling company if necessary.

The remaining 5,000 is for the horizontal leg.

The pipe’s construction, which uses six specifically designed TMK thread templates, can withstand pressures of 110,000 pounds per square inch.

To compare, a company such as Chesapeake Energy Corp., a major driller in the Utica Shale, will inject chemical-laced fracking fluid at pressures of about 7,000 psi.

The pipe-threading is simple but tedious. The raw pipe is tested, threaded, equipped with couplings at one end so that the pipes can be strung together, and then capped, tested again and held on site or shipped to well sites.