In the Powder River Basin northeast of Casper, Wyo., two plastics professionals have discovered a hotbed for pipe production.
This locale is where the largest methane-drilling project in the United States is under way in a coal-rich region that measures just under 9 million acres.
"The coal-bed methane could triple the gas reserves in the state of Wyoming," said Don Likwartz, supervisor of the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. "We're looking at as many as 50,000 wells to be drilled."
That booming market gave Mark Wason, Steve Burns and some silent investors a reason to begin producing high density polyethylene pipe Jan. 1 as W.L. Plastics LLC, based in Casper.
With a 40,000-square-foot facility and nearly 30 employees, the company is serving a market typically dominated by such players as KWH Pipe (Canada) Ltd. of Mississauga, Ontario, and CSR Polypipe Inc. based in Gainesville, Texas.
"They will be forecomers in the marketplace," predicted George Coleman, a plastic pipe and fitting consultant in Houston. "When that market needs product, they need a lot of it, and these guys can deliver."
W.L. Plastics is running 1.7 million to 2 million pounds of resin per month on three extrusion lines, Wason said. After adding two lines by year's end, that volume will increase to 3.5 million pounds, and they will begin making water pipe for use in gold, silver and copper mines.
"We just felt like there was an advantage to having a facility here," Wason said. Most pipe for the niche market was shipped in from Iowa, Nevada and Texas.
The company now is making pipe in diameters ranging from 1-16 inches, although it plans to make 24-inch pipe by year's end, Wason said.
Coleman said the group has combined pipe industry experience of almost 30 years.
The group anticipates first-year sales of $10 million to $12 million.