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Montana's State Fair Highlights Agriculture -- And Oil Drilling Equipment

Thursday, August 16, 2012 - 06:16 PM

"Bonnie" and "Clyde" were guests at Energy Day at MontanaFair. Photo by Jackie Yamanaka

(Billings, Montana – YPR) – MontanaFair, the region’s largest fair, celebrates the state’s agricultural tradition with people competing to win the purple Best of Show ribbon for wool, pigs, and apple pie. But this year, MontanaFair is also celebrating the importance of the region’s energy industry – oil, gas and coal.

Eastern Montana and Western North Dakota are home to one of the country’s most active oil fields, the Bakken.

The energy exhibits are being held in a building between the mechanical bull ride and the Montana State University Extension Service agricultural and garden demonstration plots.

Event organizer Dana Pulis says Energy Day wants to celebrate Montana’s agricultural heritage and recognize another key industry. “We’re doing business with some of the biggest corporations in energy development while we’re wearing jeans, while we’re in a 100-year-old barn, and while we’re enjoying ice cream and hot apple pie.” Pulis says.

Sanjel's "Blender" (photo by Jackie Yamanaka)

Several companies brought working oil field equipment for public display. Alan Olson of Sanjel Corporation brought what’s known as “the blender.” This 73-foot long truck mixes the hydraulic fracturing – or fracking - fluid and sand. Olson says once MontanaFair is over, this unit is headed for Texas.

Schlumberger brought this horsepower pumping unit. Photo by Jackie Yamanaka.

A horsepower unit injects the fluid into the wells.

Photo by Jackie Yamanaka.

Texas license plates are common in Billings because of the Bakken oil boom. When Olson is asked if Montana is the new Texas: "When you go down and look at our operations in Texas, all of our equipment down there has Montana license plates," he says. "So Texas is the new Montana."

Photo by Jackie Yamanaka

This oil field services truck by Cliffhanger, LLC heats up water. “This is a spectacular piece of equipment, says Olson. “We’ve got to heat up water in the wintertime. You can’t frack or cement with ice cubes.”

Russ Burch of Nabors Well Services. Photo by Jackie Yamanaka

Sanjel and Nabors Well Services, the world’s largest on-shore drilling company, are among those also looking at fairgoers as potential employees.

“We’re looking for truck drivers,” says Russ Burch of Billings. The human resources district manager oversees hiring for Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. “I need to hire about 40 of them [truck drivers] to work rotations for us in North Dakota.”

The catch, he says, is they need to be experienced in winter driving -- and willing to put on chains in below-zero temperatures with strong winds.

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