Montana Tech


Oil company startups

By Gerard O'Brien of The Montana Standard

Football was the lure, but engineering sealed the deal for Tom Bandy at Montana Tech. Coming from Havre, and wanting to play college ball, Bandy hoped to get into the University of Montana or a comparable school.

However, his father, George R. Bandy, had some influence in convincing Bandy to choose Montana Tech.

"I wasn't really large enough to play in the Big Sky Conference. My father, who worked in the Montana education system for 30 years, was well aware of Tech's potential and directed me there. And, at the time, the Dean of the Petroleum Engineering Department, Bill Halbert, convinced me to give it a try.

The result: Tech has yet another successful player in the oil and gas industry sitting on its Foundation Board of Directors and Bandy has had a long and fruitful career.

"And, there is something I'm very proud of," said Bandy. "About 15 years ago, the Frontier Conference named the All-Sports Trophy after my dad, George R. Bandy."

Still today, the Bandy Memorial Frontier Conference All- Sports Trophy is given to the Frontier Conference School that has the most successful year in men's and women's athletics.

Q. How did you choose your area of study?

A. Growing up in Havre, there were lots of oil and gas wells on the horizon. It was intriguing to me to explore how a company actually looked for oil and gas.

Q. Why did you choose Montana Tech over other schools?

A. My dad was an exceedingly bright guy. From early on, he was convinced that oil and gas would be very strong by the time I graduated in 1976 over the other engineering fields, such as mechanical and civil engineering. I have to give him credit. I wasn't that smart. Other reasons were the low cost of the education and the fact that I had a football scholarship.

Q. What is your proudest moment in your career?

A. Being chosen to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1997.

A true description of me now is being semi-retired. Over the last two-and-one-half years I've been able to invest in several small startup oil and gas companies. In fact, Tom Dyk, who was featured in Profiles in Success in The Montana Standard earlier, is a key managing partner in one of them. After 20 years in Houston I wanted to move back to Denver and work in a part-time capacity in the oil and gas field. Right now I am working part time for Blue Tip Energy, one of the other small oil and gas companies that I helped start. It's fun and exciting — we are a little over 18 months old and now have three offices in Houston, Denver and Pittsburgh.

Q. What goals did you accomplish or what project are you most proud of?

A. There are many. Two that come to mind are the two successful companies that we started from scratch, as they are still profitable today.

When I graduated from Tech with a petroleum engineering degree, I started out in the energy industry working for Phillips Petroleum Co. in Cut Bank. After working for Phillips for about three years, I left to work for Getty Oil Co. for several years and then finally, I landed at a small independent called Snyder Co.

All three jobs were great. I was doing many of the normal things that young engineers do, such as designing new oil and gas wells, working on existing wells or monitoring oil and gas fields. Then in 1984, I left Snyder Oil Co. to form a small energy service company called ProTechnics.

The company was formed to develop a service designed to assist in well fracture stimulation diagnostics. Fracture stimulation is when an oil or gas company pumps sand into an oil or gas well in order to increase the amount of oil or gas production that comes from the well.

To enable oil and gas companies to analyze the effectiveness of these very costly fracture stimulation projects, ProTechnics developed diagnostic techniques using low-grade radioactive tracers and battery operated instruments to read the radioactive materials.

It was a portable, efficient technology, the demand for which grew rapidly around the world. We sold the company in 1996 to Core Laboratories of Houston, Texas.

One thing I'm most proud of is that ProTechnics is still the most profitable and rapidly growing subsidiary for Core Laboratories. In September we celebrated our 25th anniversary of starting ProTechnics.

While we had many difficult economic times with ProTechnics, starting a company from scratch is something a person doesn't usually get very many chances to do. Being able to survive the initial startup and then be able to grow it and eventually sell the company were great experiences. Maybe the most rewarding thing is to see the company today, 25 years later, still profitable and still growing.

After we sold ProTechincs, we started another energy service company in 1998 called Production Access. The company actually was started with a group of Montana Tech colleagues. Production Access developed and marketed software designed to help oil and gas companies in acquiring and using the vast amounts of data and information that they generate on a daily basis. We grew Production Access until it was sold in June 2007 to Petris Technologies of Houston. Similar to the situation at ProTechnics, the software products we developed at Production Access are still some of the cornerstone products for the Petris.

Q. Tell us about some memorable college experience.

A. I had wonderful friends and classmates, particularly in the 1976 petroleum engineering graduating class. That class spent a lot of time together, taking numerous field trips during our junior and senior years. The good experiences and fun had on those trips created tremendous memories. I keep in touch with many of those individuals today. To remain very close after all these years is a tribute to the grounding and schooling we all had at Tech. We learned the basics of the oil and gas industry and made countless connections. The mere fact that I had an association with Montana Tech led me to many of these connections. At Tech, we learned the ability to think creatively and, quite frankly, what it means to work hard. I see time and time again in the industry that Montana Tech alum are hard workers and very smart. Every one of us is proud of the solid foundation that a Tech engineering degree has given us.

Also, I was able to play football for two years at Tech, and on some very good teams. I think we tied for first in the Frontier Conference one year and finished second the other year. Just like Tech's athletes of today, finding time to study wasn't always easy when juggling with football practices, games and travel. But it was sure fun.

Tech's petroleum department has come so far it is just amazing. Right now, I think it may be the second or third largest petroleum undergrad school in the county. Last week in Denver I attended the Society of Petroleum Engineering national convention and Tech had a function there for alums. Tech also had 65 undergraduate students who traveled by bus to Denver to attend the convention. That shows how far they have come with the petroleum department. When I was in school, we could maybe afford to send one or two.

Q. Who is a favorite hero to you, mentor, public, private and why?

A. My mentor and hero clearly has to be my father, and for many different reasons. My father worked in the Montana Education System for 30 years, starting out as a high school teacher in Belgrade, then moving on to college at Northern Montana College and Western Montana College, and finally ending up as Interim Commissioner of Higher Education for the state of Montana.

I think we were fortunate as kids to grow up in the type of environment that taught us to look at things in a slightly different way. In fact, I have two sisters who followed in my father's shoes to also become school teachers. My father died in a tragic sail boating accident in July 1983. His former wife and my mother, Betty Mora, lives in Great Falls with her husband, John.

Q. How did Tech serve you in your past, current or event potential, future jobs?

A. Because of Tech's very fine placement office I had numerous job offers to choose from when I graduated in 1976 — certainly more than I expected and probably deserved. I know the placement office is doing even a better job today. In fact, I think Tech still is close to having 100 percent placement of all petroleum engineering graduates into jobs or graduate school over the past 50 years or so. It's a staggering statistic when you think about it.

Q. How do you stay connected to Montana Tech?

A. In the past I have served on Tech's Petroleum Advisory Committee. Comprised of Tech alumni who have significant amounts of industry experience, the group meets two or three times per year and works with Tech's petroleum department and its students. I am serving this year as chairman of the Montana Tech Foundation Board of Directors. This board meets three times per year and works directly with Tech's administration and faculty to raise money for Tech, manage Tech's existing endowment and develop spending policies for the Foundation. Currently the Foundation is in the midst of a successful capital campaign. Input from the Foundation Board has been crucial toward the success of this campaign. I have enjoyed my involvement on this Board. Being able to reconnect and give back has been fun.

Q. What advice would you give high school students who are considering entering college?

A. It's an ongoing dilemma for parents. I was 17 and not wise enough to know what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go to school. I thank my dad for guiding me toward Tech. He told me that no matter what field I picked, make it a goal that when I finished that my job skills would be marketable and unique. That's exactly what Tech offers, from careers in petroleum to mining to metallurgy; once you've gotten through and have bachelor's degree, you have clearly made yourself unique in the market place. We all know those fields have ups and downs, but we also know that those fields will endure through time.

Today people routinely change jobs numerous times throughout their careers. Our parents were tended to stay with the same job or same company for an entire career. My advice for young people is to choose a good field, a field that they know will be a vital piece of America's industry. Fields like petroleum engineering, mining engineering, environmental engineering or metallurgy will be around for decades to come. And with any of these fields, a person still can try a number of different jobs over their career.

I do foresee a shift to alternative energies, but in our lifetime I doubt that we will see a time when these fields are no longer vital to the American economy. Oil spiked to nearly $150 a barrel in July. What it tells me is that energy alternatives are absolutely necessary, but they will take time and a committed effort, both from the private sector and from our federal and state governments. The American public seems to finally understanding the importance of oil and gas drilling and alternative energy sources working together. It remains to be seen whether our politicians have enough on the ball to make the common sense decisions necessary for this to happen.

Q. What do you do for fun?

A. We've had a home in Whitefish for about 16 years and recently remodeled it. We now spend about 30 percent of our time up there — generally all of July and August and then a few weeks here and there over the year. We do a lot of fishing, boating, golfing and all the fun things that you do in Whitefish. Both of our boys still love to come to Whitefish every chance they get. Our oldest boy is now in the finance business in Nashville, Tennessee and our youngest is a junior in the Business College at SMU in Dallas.

In terms of books I enjoy reading, I'd have to say that recently I have been reading everything I can get my hands on about the political direction of our country, the economic meltdown we all are in, and wondering what will happen next. We all have witnessed some amazing events over the past several months. But I'm generally an optimist — I think the economy will emerge strong again when we have worked out some of these excesses. Hopefully we all have learned some things about what to do and what not to do in the future.

‘I thank my dad for guiding me toward Tech. He told me that no matter what field I picked ... my job skills would be marketable and unique' Tom Bandy — Class of 1976

About Tom Bandy

Name, age: Thomas R. Bandy, 54

Current address: 6459 South Blackhawk Way, Aurora, Colo. 80016. Semi-retired.

Brief Work history: Phillips Petroleum Co. (Petroleum Engineer); Getty Oil Co. (Petroleum Engineer); Snyder Oil Co. (Petroleum Engineering Manager); ProTechnics Co. (founder, CEO, sold in 1996); Production Access Inc. (founder, CEO, sold in 2007). Currently working part time helping a number of small energy and energy service companies

Family: Wife, Linda; son, Mike, 23, Tim, 20

When did you attend Tech? And degrees earned: Fall of 1972 to spring of 1976: Degree: Bachelor's of Science in Petroleum Engineering.

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