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Vol. 12, No. 29 Week of July 22, 2007
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

PETROLEUM DIRECTORY: F. Robert Bell introduces new three-dimensional digital laser scanning to company clients

Longtime Alaska engineering and surveying firm, F. Robert Bell and Associates, tackles new projects anywhere, any time with latest technology

Q: When was the company founded, who founded it, and what was its original name?

A: The company was founded in 1974 by Bob Bell and John H. Herring as Bell Herring and Associates. John retired in 1980 and we became F. Robert Bell and Associates.

Q: Where is F. Robert Bell and Associates located?

A: Our main office is 801 West Fireweed Lane Anchorage, AlaskA: We also have offices in Wasilla, Prudhoe Bay, Fairbanks, and Valdez.

Q: Who heads up your company and who is on its senior management team?

A: Bob Bell P.E., P.L.S., is president and CEO. Gordon Brinker P.L.S., is Bell’s chief of surveys, in charge of Bell’s survey activities. Dave Calderone P.E., heads up our mechanical engineering department. And Craig Shavlik heads up the civil engineering department.

Q: Describe any partnership arrangements and when they became effective.

A: We have a joint venture with Chugach Corp. to provide surveying services to Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.; the Joint Venture is called CSMI-Bell J.V. Inc.

Q: What is the company’s primary business sector?

A: We operate statewide, providing services to hundreds of clients large and small; clients in the private sector, in governments and not-for-profits. We also work internationally and just completed a project in Korea and one in Russia. We provide civil and mechanical engineering services as well as land and construction surveying.

Q: Who are the company’s main clients?

A: Our largest clients are the oil companies and government.

Q: How many employees does your company have? How many in each of its locations?

A: We peak each summer at about 120 total employees. We have about 30 in Anchorage, three in Wasilla, 25 in Prudhoe Bay and 50 to 60 on Alyeska Pipeline projects (through CMSI/Bell, J.V.).

Q: Does your company have subsidiaries?

A: The only subsidiary is CSMI-Bell J.V. Inc.

Q: Describe your essential equipment in general terms. Purchases planned?

A: Most of our equipment is state-of-the-art survey equipment and computer workstations. We purchase equipment as client projects call for it, or if new technology demonstrates a clear advantage for our clients and the new technology can be readily applied to a project to save time, money or manpower.

Q: Is your company expanding any of its operations and/or locations?

A: We are expanding our Wasilla office to keep up with residential and commercial growth in the Mat-Su Valley. We are also staffing up at Prudhoe Bay due to increased demand for services. We recently hired two more civil engineers in our Anchorage office.

Q: Is the company changing any of its services?

A: We are now providing a new service in three-dimensional digital laser scanning. This is a new technology that will strengthen our surveying capacity and provide our clients with accurate data that often will exceed their expectations. We are also expanding into providing water and wastewater certification and inspection services in the Mat-Su area.

Q: What is your company’s main strength, i.e., its edge over the competition?

A: We have a very professional staff that has been with the firm for many years. Most of our management people have been here 15 to 30 years. We also buy and train on the latest technology in engineering and surveying. We have clients who have used our services consistently for many years.

Q: What new markets, clients and/or projects did your company attract in the last year?

A: ENI oil company on their Prudhoe Bay project, Marsh Creek with their hanger project in Deadhorse, State of Alaska Department of Transportation on the Hug a Bolder Bend project, Dean Architects, Rohde and Associates, Architects, and a basket of land development and land surveying work out in the Mat-Su area.

Q: Has the company invested in any new technology in the last two years?

A: We have invested in the 3-D digital laser scanner, the latest GPS equipment, and are in the process of installing a Virtual Reference System for Alyeska. Each of these technologies will reduce the amount of time needed to complete a project or increase the quantity and/or quality of the data provided to the client.

Q: What is the most challenging job the company has undertaken?

A: Taking over the surveying for the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.

Q: What are the biggest obstacles to completing work the company undertakes?

A: Currently it is finding good professional staff to keep up with the work.

Q: What do you see as your company’s biggest challenge in the next five years?

A: If the gas pipeline project starts up it will be an exciting challenge to gear up for that work.

Q: What do you see as future trends or opportunities for your company from, say, political events or long-term weather fluctuations?

A: Once again the gas pipeline. Also, there is a lot of work at Prudhoe Bay for the next few years. If the warming Arctic weather continues, a lot of facilities built on permafrost will have to be replaced or modified. That could be a big issue for Alaska.

Q: What is the most humorous story from your company’s years in business in Alaska?

A: We did a two-year project in Ulsan, Korea. At the end of the first year our project manager, who was Canadian, left our survey equipment in “storage.” Before we remobilized to Korea for the second year the manager quit. Our new manager arrived in Korea and no one knew where the equipment was located.

After considerable investigation the new manager learned the equipment had been left with a bartender in a Canadian gay sports bar in downtown Ulsan. The manager went to the bar and contacted the bartender who demanded he prove the equipment was ours. After considerable discussion he managed to “prove” it was our equipment with a $20 bill. He then gathered up the $20,000 worth of equipment and fled back to our office.

Q: Does your company have an anniversary or other landmark event coming up?

A: 2009 will be our 35th year in business.

Q: What is the average length of time employees work for the company? Are you hiring for any positions?

A: Most of our employees have been here more than a decade, and we have four who’ve been with us more than 25 years. We are looking for both civil engineers and surveyors.

Q: What is your company’s safety record?

A: We have not had a lost time accident in more than 10 years and only five recordable accidents in the same period.

Q: Do your company or its partners or subsidiaries maintain Web sites?

A: Our Web site is By all means, check us out.

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