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Vol. 13, No. 29 Week of July 20, 2008
Providing coverage of Alaska and northern Canada's oil and gas industry

Petroleum Directory: If new technology demonstrates advantages to clients, F. Robert Bell acquires it

Clients appreciate three-dimensional digital laser scanning that provides data exceeding their expectations

Q. Where is F. Robert Bell and Associates located? More than one location?

A. We have offices in Wasilla, Prudhoe Bay, Fairbanks, Valdez and Russia. Our main office is at 801 West Fireweed Lane Anchorage, Alaska.

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. 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; Rick Wentworth LS in our Wasilla office and Lenny O’Hanley in Prudhoe Bay are also survey managers. Dave Calderone P.E. heads up our mechanical engineering department. Craig Shavlik P.E. heads up the civil engineering department.

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

A. We currently 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. We also have a Russian partner, Geolaser Inc. of Novosibirsk, for our work in Russia.

Q. What is the company’s primary business sector? What services do you offer?

A. We operate statewide and in Russia, providing services to hundreds of clients large and small; our clients are in the private sector as well as governments and not-for-profits. 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. Does your company have subsidiaries? If so, what services do they provide?

A. Our only subsidiary is CSMI-Bell J.V. Inc.

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

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

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 area. We are also staffing up at Prudhoe Bay due to increased demand for services. In addition to our contract in Russia, we are looking at other oil and gas infrastructure opportunities in Alaska and the Lower 48.

Q. Is the company changing any of its services?

A. We are providing a new service in three-dimensional digital laser scanning. This is a new technology that has strengthened our surveying capacity and is providing our clients with accurate data that often exceeds 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 for 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. On the North Slope, we’re doing a design-build project for a petroleum services company, expanding our previous work in Russia, and have taken on new civil engineering projects at Prudhoe Bay and surveying work for slope independents.

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 Pipeline Service Co. Each of these technologies reduces the amount of time needed to complete a project or to 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 Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.

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

A. Currently, it’s 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. Our biggest challenge is staffing projects with the quality people that we need to maintain the level of performance we demand for our clients and promoting company growth.

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 warming trends continue, 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 he discovered the equipment had been left with the 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 10 years and we have four employees 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 over 10 years and only three recordable accidents in the same period.

Q. Does your company or its partners or subsidiaries maintain Web sites?

A. Our Web site is www.frbcmh.com



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