Rig report offers snapshot of San Juan Basin

James Fenton
Randall Parker talks to Randy Pacheco, dean of San Juan College's School of Energy, about the weekly rig report on Sept. 16 at the school in Farmington.

FARMINGTON — When Randall Parker settled in Farmington in 1990, the former oilfield worker took his interest in the San Juan Basin and the industry activity in it and began putting together a report on oil and gas production. He sent out that information in emails each week — and has done it 52 times a year ever since.

Parker, 60, started the “San Juan Area Weekly Rig Report”  in 1999 and it has become the reliable and detailed source of industry activity in the region.

Parker grew up in Littlefield, Texas — birthplace of one of Parker’s favorite musical artists, Waylon Jennings — and worked for 40 years in the oil and gas industry in 18 states and worked as a well-site manager before retiring.

“In the 1990s, I came back to the (San Juan) Basin, we were not down like now. It wasn’t a boom, but I started putting together a little ol’ report and starting sending it around to people I knew in Farmington,” Parker said. “It started out very small and through time it just kept growing and growing, word-of-mouth. The operators and service companies started seeing it and more and more they started participating in it.”

Randall Parker shows his weekly rig report on Sept. 16 at the San Juan College School of Energy in Farmington.

The report lists the weekly activity for drilling rigs and workover or completion rigs, listing each by contractor, rig number, customer and well name. The report also lists the total number of rigs working and those available in each category.

The Sept. 14 report showed five drilling rigs and 40 well-servicing rigs active in the basin, a snapshot of the current downturn courtesy of a slump in oil and gas prices on the commodities market.

A decade ago, a report dated Sept. 19, 2005, tells a different story — 38 drilling rigs and 123 well-servicing rigs working.

Jason Sandel, Aztec Well’s executive vice president, said Parker’s report is an invaluable resource on activity in the San Juan Basin.

“When I came on in 2001 and to this day, that report is the thing I pore over on a weekly basis,” Sandel said. “It reflects the current state of affairs and is an important piece of my week that shows what rigs are doing, what is available and what my competition is doing. It’s essential.”

Parker has built the report the growing and now sizable rapport he has with area oil and gas companies, Sandel said.

Randall Parker, work force development instructor, looks at his computer Sept. 16 in his office at the San Juan College School of Energy in Farmington.

Sandel said that he only wished there was information like that provided by Parker on service operators in basins around the country.

“We wish every basin had a Randall Parker,” Sandel said. “There are (digital) apps that track drilling rig activity around the U.S., but not of well servicing rigs, which is a testament to the value of (Parker’s) reports.”

Parker said his contacts list for the report has ballooned to more than 500 people in the area and around the country.

“Eighty percent of the people I send it to, I’ve never met,” he said.

He started by calling around to area companies and emailing others, but today, he said, they all send him their numbers, which has cut down the time it takes to assemble the data.

“When I started, I was still working for a major (oil and gas corporation), so I had to do this after hours because it would be seen as a conflict, so that’s why I’ve always kept a low-key on it. My wife helped me a lot on it back then,” he said. “Now it’s pretty easy, to be honest about it. This is just a part-time, at-my-convenience type deal. The get-going wasn’t easy, but the last 12 years or so have been.”

Parker said he got interested in starting up the report because of the special nature of the San Juan Basin.

“This basin here, we use work-over rigs a lot,” he said. “The Four Corners area, we have always used work-over production rigs differently. We use our rigs here for more complex completion work than the other basins. We use them for much more than a simple rod job because of the type of wells we have here in this basin.”

The last year and a half, Parker has gone back to work, part-time, as an instructor in the Industrial Safety program at the School of Energy at San Juan College.

Randy Pacheco, the school’s dean, said that while Parker isn’t well-known in the industry, his report certainly is.

“For years, I’ve always read the rig report,” Pacheco said. “It’s a valuable asset. I think we as an industry have grown so accustomed to it, and I wonder who would continue it if Randall finally stopped.”

Parker said it would be easy for someone to pick up where he left off if he did finally decide to stop producing the report. But he has no such plans, he said.

“I’ll keep it going until I get tired,” he said. “Somebody would step up and do it if you broke their arm.”

Above all, Parker, who emphasized multiple times that he produces the report without any desire for recognition or notoriety — or pay — said the work is collaborative effort with an industry that he is most thankful for.

“I want to thank the rig contractors, the operating companies and everyone else that contributes to this report to make it work each week,” Parker said. “I am only the middle person, and without (them), there would not be a report to put together.”

James Fenton is the business editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621.