Although one of the helicopters sharing the Eurocopter booth here in Dallas may look like a Russian attack aircraft, its true role is far less aggressive.
The EC 135 pictured here belongs to Taylor Energy, a private oil and gas producer that was driven from its home base in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The company recently moved back into its main offices, but it’s still having mail delivered to a satellite facility in Lafayette, La.
The helo’s unique camouflage color scheme was the choice of its oilman owner, the late Patrick Taylor, who founded Taylor Energy in 1979 and was said to be fond of the blue camo paint job. The company is one of the larger independent oil companies in the Gulf of Mexico and is the only privately held firm ever to drill in the federal offshore waters there.
Taylor Energy’s operations were severely affected by last summer’s hurricanes. Although production is now back to previous levels–and, indeed, slightly up–Taylor’s numerous facilities are not all fully online yet.
Taylor chief pilot Jim Bell told HAI Convention News that, before the storms hit, the company’s fleet of four EC 130s and the 135 (all in a similar paint scheme) managed to escape to one of its operating outposts in Patterson, La., some 60 miles southwest of New Orleans and far enough out of Katrina’s path. Taylor’s headquarters was badly damaged and the company has only just re-occupied the premises. “Taylor has been in business since 1979 and each of these storms [Katrina and Rita] was more destructive than the rest of them put together.”
Undaunted by the experience, new company CEO Phyllis Taylor (Patrick’s widow) is about to order a sixth Eurocopter, this time an EC 145, to join the squadron. It has yet to be decided whether the new helicopter will be painted in a similar scheme as the others.
Eurocopter has focused on sales to Gulf of Mexico operators in recent years, and with good reason. Today, more than 35,000 people live and work offshore in the Gulf, supported by nearly 650 helicopters flying as many as 9,000 flights each day.
Eurocopter, a major presence at this year’s Heli-Expo (Booth No. 1741), occupies an equally broad presence in support of the world’s oil and gas industry with approximately 540 helicopters in service, and the Franco-German company has every expectation that this number will grow.
Continuing demand for dwindling supplies of gas and oil has spurred the oil and gas industry to develop new fields and increase production in those already being exploited, which in turn is creating more demand for helicopters in support of exploration and production.
Eurocopter claims a 40-percent market share in this industry, with four of its “new-generation helicopters” launched into the oil and gas industry from 2001 through 2005. More than 120 Super Pumas fly in support of the oil and gas industry, of which 70 operate in the harsh North Sea environment.
While the heavy Puma and Super Puma are the backbone, Eurocopter notes that the fleet serving in the oil and gas industry also includes smaller helicopters–84 light single-engine craft, 277 light twins and 116 medium twins.
By region, 150 Eurocopter rotorcraft are dedicated to oil and gas services in the U.S. and Canada, 48 in Latin America, 113 in Europe, 105 in Asia/Australia, 39 in the Middle East and 62 in Africa. Less significant numbers of Eurocopters operate in other world regions.
Eurocopter’s most recent addition to the family, the EC 225, was certified last year. Thirty-two have been sold to date and the helicopter is already in service in the North Sea.
Assuming continued robust expansion of oil and gas exploration and production, it would appear that Eurocopter, and its rivals, will have a ready market for helicopters for some time to come. In a helicopter market, it seems appropriate that the only direction is up.