It’s hard to miss the 66,000-pound truck sitting in the exposition hall at the Offshore Technology Conference.
Netherlands-based J.H. Larsen, a water recycling-equipment company, hoped strapping its giant pumps onto a grey-steel Kenmore in Houston truck would turn heads and attract some buyers from the U.S. oil patch.
Since the advent of U.S. shale drilling, oil field service companies have parked more and more big trucks at OTC, invading a conference space that had long belonged to the settlers of the deep-sea oil fields. Most of these trucks carry hydraulic fracturing equipment, the pumps that blast water, sand and chemicals into oil wells to crack open shale rock in places like West Texas and Oklahoma.
It’s yet another sign that the mystique and allure of oil the industry has shifted onshore. After all, investors have poured $100 billion into U.S. shale plays over the past year.
On one end of the expo hall, Texas oil field service company Dragon shows off a giant truck with equipment that blends 120 barrels of proppant, chemicals and water per minute.
“This thing right here feeds the frac pumps,” said Steve Pape, a salesman at Dragon, pointing to a series of valves under the body of the truck. “This is the first one that’s driven with a transmission. It’s a lot easier to work on and a lot less apt to break.”
And it’s a giant magnet for wanderers of the conference hall, Pape acknowledged. His company makes the most of its big display, showing off models of other big trucks that, for example, carry liquefied natural gas to power oil field equipment.