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Vol. 12, No. 14 Week of April 08, 2007
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

PETROLEUM DIRECTORY: Colville, from 1950s pioneer to well-known provisioner in the Prudhoe region

Long tenure in challenging part of the world credited to Colville’s seasoned staff and dedication to customer needs

Q. Where is Colville located? More than one location?

A. We’re in two locations at Prudhoe Bay, near the Deadhorse Airport. Fuel and solid waste services are at the Colville pad and our Brooks Range Supply complex contains the Napa Industrial Supply store, the Prudhoe Bay General Store, and the U.S. Post Office.

Q. What year was the company founded, who founded it, and what was its original name?

A. Colville was formed in 1953 by one of Alaska’s pioneer bush pilots, Bud Helmericks, as the Arctic Tern Fish & Freight Co. As industrial development arrived in the far north, first with the Distant Early Warning Line and then oil exploration and development, the company moved into oil field services. The company incorporated and began utility operations in 1981. Fuel services commenced in 1985; then in 2000, it acquired Brooks Range Supply and expanded into industrial supply.

Q. Who heads up Colville and who is on its senior management team

A. Mark Helmericks, son of the founder, is president and CEO. Doug Clinton, a retired colonel and former North Slope pilot and rolligon operator is vice president; Rick Hofreiter is North Slope operations manager; and Becky Gay, recently a project manager for AIDEA and the Alaska Energy Authority, is special assistant to the president for business development.

Another long-time staff member on the management team is Marketing Director Craig Welch, who has a solid background in North Slope supply and valuable customer knowledge based on his many years as general manager of Brooks Range Supply.

Rounding out the team are Colville operations managers Gary Cooper and Lyle Winter, Brooks Range Supply operations managers Mike Kunkel and Rob Peterson, and Joe and Debbie Bernard, managers of the Prudhoe Bay General Store.

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

A. Colville and Brooks Range Supply are honored to have long-standing relationships with nearly every company doing business within the North Slope industrial area.

Q. What is Colville’s primary business sector? What services does the company offer?

A. There are four full-service companies operating as primary business units that provide direct support to the oil industry, the local community and the ever-increasing seasonal tourist: Fuel and industrial gas – Colville, Inc.; Solid waste – Colville Solid Waste Services; Industrial supply – Brooks Range Supply; Community, general store, retail – Prudhoe Bay General Store and Post Office.

Q. Who are the company’s main clients?

A. Colville’s diversified client base consists of the oil, aviation and trucking industries, Prudhoe Bay service companies, North Slope communities, and locals and visitors.

Q. How many employees does your company have?

A. Colville has 87 employees across all business units.

Q. Does your company have subsidiaries?

A. Brooks Range Supply, Inc. is a wholly owned subsidiary of Colville, Inc.

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

A. Colville has essential equipment customized for each business unit, including a fleet of fuel trucks and special ramp-fueling rigs for quick airline refueling; tractor and tanker trucks for fuel support services along the Dalton Highway; a bulk fuel tank farm and gas station; solid waste compactor trucks, hook-truck loaders, 150 large roll-on/roll-off “bear-proof” industrial dumpsters, and the flatbeds to haul them all over the field, including to exploration sites over ice roads.

Other equipment includes a fleet of expeditor-sized trucks for immediate response to customer needs; loaders and graders; and forklifts and other warehouse equipment in both Prudhoe locations. Planned equipment purchases include an expanded fleet of tankers and tractors.

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

A. Although Colville has always prided itself on being a North Slope company, owned and operated by residents of the region, recent high levels of oil industry activity prompted opening an office in Anchorage.

Q. Is the company changing any of its services?

A. Colville is investing in expanding e-commerce and electronic sales and purchase capabilities, upgraded biofuel and waste reduction and recycling capabilities, and expanded on-site fuel storage and management capacity.

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

A. Our people, with their years of experience and enthusiasm for good customer service, are our main strength. Colville has been careful to grow prudently in a way that offers people long-term jobs with good prospects for future growth. In return, both the company and our customers are rewarded with some of the best talents in the business.

Q. Any new developments for the company in 2006?

A. The company outgrew its original bank and moved to Northrim Bank. This allowed access to expansion capital and enhanced e-commerce opportunities to better serve our customers.

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

A. Enhanced e-commerce and biofuels capability are the most notable.

Q. What is the most challenging job you have undertaken?

A. Finding and delivering fuel to North Slope customers during the recent shutdown of half the field was our most recent challenge. Not only was it sudden and unanticipated, it came during the busy fuel season and required an immense logistics response from our employees to keep our customers, including the oil industry, supplied with fuel. We are very proud of our employees for reshuffling their schedules so Colville could go the extra distance it took to respond what could have been a slope-wide fuel emergency. This was a big example of Colville’s “going the extra mile” for its customers.

Q. What are the biggest obstacles to completing work Colville undertakes?

A. This past season there has been a persistent shortage of bed space in Prudhoe. Our camp has been completely filled and the local residence camps have also been filled to capacity. We have, on occasion, had people sleeping on the sofa in the TV room, and have had to bypass project opportunities because of lack of bed space.

Q. What do you see as your company’s biggest challenge in the next five years? Regulations? Government policy?

A. Keeping a steady stream of fuel available to customers. Managing solid waste streams from a booming industry. Keeping trained, skilled and safe workers on staff are goals and challenges of the company.

We have a good working relationship with most of the regulatory agencies. Historically we have found them to provide a good balance between protecting the interests of the public while promoting responsible industrial development.

Q. What do you see as future trends or opportunities for your company from events such as long-term weather fluctuations, resource development, etc.?

A. The offshore developments in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas are extremely interesting and potentially much larger than the on-shore oil developments. Colville will be operating offshore this coming summer with a boat specifically designed for arctic waters.

Q. What is the most humorous story from Colville’s years in the business?

A. In the early years of the fuel business, village customers would often pay in every form of currency besides cash. Colville fuel delivery drivers would return with a bag – literally, a large bag – containing Post Office money orders, triple counter-signed payroll and corporate checks, permanent fund dividends, skin masks, smoked fish, fur mittens, carved ivory, and even a baleen boat. It was good fun, except perhaps for the accountants who had to tally up the details.

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

A. Nothing special besides looking forward to another half-century of Alaska service.

Q. What is the average length of time an employee works for the company? Are you hiring for any positions?

A. Most of our people have worked with us for 10 years or more. With our stable workforce, we’re not looking for additional employees at this time.

Q. What is your company’s safety record?

A. Good. Colville requires continuous staff training for workplace safety and offers incentives, including a shared safety bonus, for accident-free operations.

Q. Does Colville or its partners or subsidiaries maintain websites?

A. www.colvilleinc.com and www.brooksrangesupply.com.



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