Monday, January 18, 2016

The Allure of Sub $2.00 a Gallon Fuel

Americans are jumping on cheap fill ups and both spending and putting the savings in their pockets. The unfortunate consequences, however, are beginning to be felt. A concoction of events has served to mire the economies of both the United States and China; two of the world's largest economies, in an economic tailspin. Meanwhile, while demand is down, more oil than ever is flooding the market. Two recent, significant events have further depressed the price of oil. Iran is coming back on the market after years of sanctions and several long term offshore projects are due to come on line. I stand behind my belief that Saudi Arabia and the members of OPEC had directional drilling in the United States in mind when they refused to cut production as the world's economies slowed. It remains to be seen how long OPEC can hold out with oil at nearly $20 a barrel. Here in the South Texas oil patch the effect has been devastating. Thousands have been laid off and machinery is stacked all over. So many other industries are affected that it is hard to count. There are (or were) caterers, house cleaners, porta potty folks, welders, office staff, rail workers, truck drivers, laborers, security companies, office staff - I can go on for a long time. All of those have a symbiotic relationship with professions and jobs that have little or nothing to do with the petroleum business. We also have leadership that sees petroleum and coal products as dirty fuel and seemingly could care less what affect their policy has on those who make a living working and producing it. Meanwhile, the average American rejoices as he or she sticks that fuel nozzle in their tank. I believe the effects on the rest of our economy will be profound as the "oil recession" makes its way through it. The economies of Houston, Dallas and San Antonio are already seeing depressed home sales and a significant uptick in foreclosures. Working near the well head gives you a unique perspective on things. Every time I get more and more news of layoffs, bankruptcies and cutbacks I am left to wonder when it will finally settle down. Remember that I said this. We will not see $100 plus a barrel of oil again in my lifetime. I have had the privilege of witnessing a historic event as I chronicled the boom in South Texas. Fortunately it made me slow down, enjoy and take in everything. So often in life we miss out on experiences going on right in front of us. Though I doubt I will be so privileged again, I sincerely hope I am. I would love to see the craziness of a few years ago again.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Biding our Time

Well, we didn't win the Wednesday draw for Powerball. Neither did anyone else and the total has reached mythological proportions; almost a billion dollars. I'm bad at math, but I think a thousand million is a billion? My father had advised me to contact an uncle of mine for advice should I ever win the lottery. Whatever the advice is, I would hope that I remain the same person I am now. It would be my desire to pay off all my debts, set up a foundation for philanthropic purposes and ensure that sufficient funds are set aside to allow my family a comfortable life in retirement.

Back to reality. We are setting, waiting on the call for a gate. Though most, if not all, of our expenditures were necessary, it has been an expensive week for us. We both needed an eye exam and glasses and three blowouts (two recently) demanded that we replace the tires on the 5ver. At least almost everything we needed to accomplish is done.

Unfortunately, oil has hit even lower lows which has stymied any upswing in activity in the patch. By my reckoning, this will be the third year in a row without a significant uptick in activity from first quarter funding. All this means we might be sitting for a while, something I am loath to endure. I keep a positive attitude knowing that we will eventually be offered a gate. Lots of our colleagues in the oil and gas industry will not be that lucky. Reliable sources say that our primary customer has just 5 rigs and 5 frack crews working in South Texas. That adds up to a few gates, especially when you consider not all of them require guards.

That leaves us with time to enjoy a few of the simpler pleasures. We both like getting out and about and we share similar hobbies (except I don't crochet). I derive great pleasure from flying my drones. Unlike some of my fellow operators, I enjoy keeping them in sight and the mere challenge of controlling them. No complicated, GPS coordinated photographic missions for me. The fragile nature of these awesome machines (plus the fact that the majority are made cheaply in China) makes for a steep learning curve. Luckily parts are readily available and most repairs are pretty straight forward. FWIW, if you are contemplating succumbing to you or your kids desire to own one; you'll save yourself a lot of heartache if you do your research first by ascertaining the availability of parts. The last time we bought a drone, we called the manufacturer in the store to ensure they supported the product. Note this. If you fly you will eventually crash and parts will fail. Part of the hobby is repairing them. I recommend the following makes that support their product and or have ample parts available: Traxxas, Syma and World Tech Toys. All are available on Amazon. Here's hoping you join me in this enjoyable hobby.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

New Year, New Challenges

We were released about a week into the New Year. We had suffered a blowout on the 5ver heading to the gate, so we were aprehensive about coming off the gate. I made sure all the tires were inflated to the correct pressure and that, combined with the cool weather, led me to believe we would be okay. Six miles outside of Jourdanton, about halfway to the RV park where we planned to rest, one of the tires blew out. I was following Missy in our car and it sounded like a cannon shot while debris rained down on me. Fortune was on our side as we had a fellow gate guard that was nearby loan us a spare. (Our spare was used for the first blowout) We finally arrived at the RV park tired and frustrated; then the front jack motor wouldn't work. We couldn't disconnect from the truck till we got the jacks at least planted. That left the cramped space between the truck and trailer to troubleshoot the problem. After manually planting the jacks our friendly RV repairman helped us locate and fix a loose ground. Such is the life of the fulltimer and it does no good to whine about it. Things have to look up and we still have a few days to relax before returning to work.b