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Vulcan: The Offshore Experience


"Our feet are tired, our stomachs upset; our desks are ladened with work abandoned...our personal lives are in shambles, and, at the bottom line, our billfolds are empty." (Petroleum News Southeast Asia editorial on attending trade shows, February 1986)

One of the industry events that Vulcan participated in over the years was the Offshore Technology Conference, usually held the first full week in May at the Astrocomplex in Houston, Texas. In a real sense OTC is more than a trade show; it's a cultural event for the oilfield, which has survived boom and bust cycles since oil was first discovered. Vulcan's participation -- which nearly dates to the beginning of the conference in 1969 -- mirrors that and shows Vulcan as a real participant in both the best and worst of times in the oil industry.

The 1970's

The 1970's were the most active years for Vulcan at OTC. New products were coming out regularly -- such as the 560 in 1971 -- and the "energy crisis" elevated prices, making supplying the oilfield a lucrative proposition (if the raw materials were available!) Vulcan's booth reflected this with the frequent changes, the hospitality suites and models, and most importantly the frequent visitors from Vulcan's user base.

Vulcan's booth at the 1972 OTC, showing the 560 hammer and a model platform. The 560 hammer model is still in use by Vulcan Foundation Equipment; the platform, which took up most of the booth, was donated the following year to the Petroleum Engineering Department of Texas A&M University.

Vulcan's Chairman of the Board and President Henry Warrington (right) making a point with R.G. "Dick" Castle, who represented Vulcan's product in California, at the 1974 OTC. Vulcan booths were designed primarily to allow extended meetings with Vulcan's distributors and customers.

Vulcan's booth was also important to allow distribution of product specifications to the engineers who designed and oversaw the construction of the platforms. Platform construction was the place where Vulcan's product was used; even though it was and is a very specialized part of the oilfield,

Models were a part of many Vulcan booths in the 1970's; this one is showing off the 1975 booth. The slogan (unreadable) in the centrepiece is "The Sun Never Sets on Vulcan Hammers," unarguable then and now.

Above and below, the eighth wonder of the world: the Astrodome, hosting part of the 1975 Offshore Technology Conference. Vulcan was generally located in the Astrohall, which the conference outgrew, then filling the Dome (and then the stock arena and the parking lot...) The Astrodome had the advantage of being able to house the taller exhibits, which would otherwise end up in the outdoor exhibits, such as that of the diesel hammer distributor Pileco. And parking lots in Houston in May are very hot...

Thirty years later it became a very large homeless shelter in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

OTC exhibitors knew that Freeman Decorating was the official decoration company for the Conference. At the 2008 General Assembly of the Church of God, where the church department I work for was exhibiting, I asked the Freeman people there whether they still worked OTC. Not only do they still work it, but one of the Freeman employees at the Assembly used to set up Vulcan's booth in the Astrodome during the 1970's and 1980's!

Vulcan employees Ed Kersting (left) and John Lerch at the 1979 OTC. Kersting, a distinguished civil engineer in his own right, made up the Houston office with Pem Warrington from 1978 until 1980. John Lerch was a design engineer on the 5150 and 6300 hammers. Most all Vulcan booths featured both the "Porthole" and "V-man" logos, along with the transparency from McDermott's DB-23 in the center.

The 1980's

OTC reached its zenith in 1982 with over 100,000 in attendance, but the collapse of oil prices led to the collapse of the show's attendance as well. Vulcan's participation as an exhibitor was erratic during those years, but had one unique feature: the presentation of two technical papers by a Vulcan employee, in this case Don Warrington's "A Proposal for a Simplified Model for the Determination of Dynamic Loads and Stresses During Pile Driving" in 1987 and "Theory and Development of Vibratory Pile Driving Equipment." in 1989.

Right: Another slow OTC. Offshore Sales Manager Herman Hasemkampf tells one more classic oilfield story to Executive Vice President Pem Warrington while wating for a customer to show up. In the 1980's that meant a lot of stories.

Below: OTC attendance, 1969-2005. Source: Offshore Technology Conference.

The 1990's

The appointment of Dave Horsman as President of Vulcan in 1991 marked the return of Vulcan to OTC on a regular basis. Here he's shown (on the right) "manning the booth" at the 1994 OTC. The photo also shows the last booth Vulcan built for OTC.

Vulcan continued to exhibit at OTC after Cari Capital acquired the business in 1996, using the same booth shown. Vulcan Iron Works' last OTC was 1999; by then the financial woes of the company made further participation impossible.

The 2000's

IHC's acquisition of the product line in 2001 as Vulcan Foundation Equipment incorporated its presence into IHC's own booth, which is part of the Dutch exhibit at OTC. This was discontinued as IHC divested itself of the product line in 2008.

Driven Pile Manual Volume 1a
Driven Pile Manual 1b
Driven Pile Manual 2