Billed as the pipeline construction event of the year, Ritchie Bros. conducted its largest-ever two-day auction in the United States on Sept. 28-29 in Columbus, Ohio. The record-setting day illustrated growing optimism in the oil and gas pipeline industry, said veteran auctioneer Butch Graham.
More than 3,400 equipment items were sold for more than $76 million (USD). Approximately $61 million (USD) of the equipment was sold on Day One of the auction — the largest single sale day the company has ever had in the United States. With more than 175 crawler pipelayers and other equipment up for sale, bidders turned out in huge numbers on-site and online from around the world.
“We reached the entire world in promoting this event,” said Graham, who has logged more than 30 years as an auctioneer with Ritchie Bros. “The thing that impressed me was the optimism and attitude coming back over that microphone. That’s pretty encouraging.”
Despite the recent downturn, Graham said that optimism he felt stems from increased activity in the pipeline industry in recent months.
“This industry has its peaks and valleys,” he said. “A lot of transmission oil and gas companies put holds on their projects. As recent as the last six to eight weeks, those holds have lifted. They’re going back to work. That’s part of it [the reason for optimism]. I’ve always believed that the oil and gas industry is not going anywhere. It’s going to be here. You sit and watch the rig count, and that’s a good place start, it’s slowly going up, increasing weekly. Anytime there’s exploration going on, there comes point that they’re going to need infrastructure to get that product to market. It’s been thin, but I believe we’ve turned that corner. I think the optimism of that crowd verifies what I’m saying.”
Among the bidders was Kevin Waschuk, vice president of Waschuk Pipeline and member of the North American Oil & Gas Pipelines editorial advisory board. Waschuk purchased four Cat 583H pipelayers and agreed that the success of that auction signaled good things for the pipeline industry.
“The amount of investment at this auction clearly signals that the industry is moving in the right direction — forward,” he said. “As a contractor, it is so important to be adequately prepared for work when it arrives. Although many buyers currently have work underway and were padding their fleet, there were also many who were positioning themselves for the future.”
More than 3,600 bidders from 52 countries registered to bid in the auction, including more than 2,500 online — surpassing the previous Columbus attendance record by 36 percent. U.S. buyers — including 21 percent purchased by Ohio buyers — purchased approximately 91 percent of the equipment. International buyers purchased approximately 9 percent of the equipment from such countries as Singapore, South Africa and The Netherlands.
“Although we had some activity from overseas, a majority of booms stayed in North America,” Graham added. “The place that really gave me a warm feeling were the known contractors in U.S. that bought a majority of the big booms.”
Lots 179 and 180, a pair of 2008 Caterpillar 587T Crawler Pipelayers, sold for $700,000 each. In total Ritchie Bros. sold more than $31 million in pipelayers at the auction.
Beside the massive selection of pipelayers, the auction also featured 135 excavators, 110 dozers, more than 235 truck tractors, more than 210 trailers and much more. Equipment in the auction was sold for more than 265 owners, including more than 70 items for Denver, Colorado-based Cross Country Pipeline Supply Company Inc.
The other main source of the equipment sold at the Columbus auction was from Sheehan Pipe Line Construction Co., the 113-year-old company that filed for bankruptcy in April. Graham, who is close with the Sheehan family, said it was a “bittersweet deal” auctioning off the company’s assets.
“When I sit and look at a 110-year-old company, one that I’m close to and know the history and know what they’ve done for this industry, I realize that Sheehan pioneered many of the standards we have today,” Graham said. “I think that’s something that made me want to reach down and work harder for them.”