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Natural gas driller is liquidating equipment

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- After 92 years in business, S.W. Jack Drilling Co., an active natural gas driller in the Appalachian Basin, is liquidating its operating assets.

The company's 16 drilling rigs and related equipment, including dozens of trucks, trailers and dozers, will be auctioned by Kruse Energy & Equipment on Aug. 4 and Aug. 5 in Pittsburgh, Pa.

S.W. Jack has equipment yards along Interstate 79 near the Elkview exit and at Buckhannon. The company is headquartered in Indiana, Pa.

In a statement posted on the company's website, Christine Toretti, S.W. Jack's chairman and chief executive officer, said the company will invest the liquidation proceeds "in endeavors within the energy industry and other innovative realms."

"Under a changing oil and gas landscape, and the financial burden of high-tech investment demands, we believe that we can make a bigger impact by turning our focus in other directions," she said.

Toretti said she will continue with basic oversight and management of the company but will increase her focus on Republican politics. She currently serves as national committeewoman of Pennsylvania to the Republican National Committee and has been heavily involved with the Republican Party for years. 

Henry Harmon, president of Triana Energy, a Charleston-based exploration and production company, said, "Sam Jack was a mainstay in our industry for a lot of years. The industry moved away from them as people search for larger equipment and horizontal drilling."

Modern equipment with horizontal drilling capability is in demand in the Appalachian Basin because the industry's focus is on the natural gas trapped in the deep Marcellus Shale.

The drilling industry has consolidated for decades, every time the price of natural gas is low. The price is currently about $4.69 a million British thermal units. In the summer of 2008, before the national economy went into a tailspin, natural gas was selling for about $13 a million British thermal units.

S.W. Jack's prepared statement did not say what will happen to James McElwain, Toretti's business partner for more than 30 years, or the company's other employees. Gordon James, S.W. Jack's spokesman, did not return e-mails seeking comment.

Contact writer George Hohmann at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.


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