Synergies with Oilfield Rental

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I was most intrigued by a small news story that a lot of people probably didn't notice: Canadian Equipment Rental Fund, or CERF, which owns 4-Way Equipment Rental and a couple of other companies in the booming oil-rich Canadian province of Alberta signed a letter of intent to acquire an oilfield rental company. You can check out the story here: http://rermag.com/trends_analysis/headlinenews/cerf-to-acquire-oilfield-rental-company-082412/index.html. They didn't even name the oilfield rental company, but I was intrigued by the fact that CERF is headed in that direction.

Most of you probably aren't likely to pay much attention to the doings of a small Canadian rental company, but the synergy between a construction equipment rental company and an oilfield equipment rental company strikes me as a natural one. I've actually been expecting something like this to happen for a while now. A lot of rental companies are doing good business in the energy rental market. The oil-sands region in Alberta is obviously a strong market for equipment rental as are the communities near the Bakken, Eagle Ford and Marcellus shales and other energy-producing regions in the U.S. Rentals to refineries, wind farms, pipeline construction, even support projects related to mining, are all strong areas at the moment.

There are oilfield rental specialists that rent a lot of equipment that aren't part of the inventories of most of the equipment rental companies that readers of this magazine are involved with. Names like Stallion, Chesapeake, Great Plains, Quail Tools, Knight Oil Tools, Greene's Energy Group and Gauthier's. There's plenty more of them, large and small. They rent stuff like drill collars, drill pipes, sand separators, blowout preventers, spacer spools, gate valves, frac tanks and frac heads, tubing of all kinds, ditch magnets, bleeder plugs, pipe joints, landing strings, and other items, some of which I've never heard of.

But a lot of those companies also rent earthmoving machines of all kinds, aerial work platforms, forklifts, telehandlers, light towers, generators, welders, air compressors and pumps. I would imagine many of these companies use similar software systems and operate using similar logistics.

As more construction-type equipment rental companies rent to energy markets, I would expect to see more synergies between construction equipment rental companies and oilfield equipment and tool rental companies. I know there are a lot of differences in who the customers are and who the suppliers are. But there might be as many similarities and synergies as differences. The oilfield rental companies are highly specialized and obviously the people who operate them know their markets far better than a company that specializes in construction rental, but it strikes me as an area worth exploring.

Maybe I'm overlooking something obviously fundamental to people who know both industries. Or maybe not? I hope to hear some feedback from readers about this issue.

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Michael Roth has covered the equipment rental industry full time for RER since 1989 and has served as the magazine’s editor in chief since 1994. He has nearly 30 years experience as a...

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