Mike Moncla is no stranger to hardship. Like most oilfield service companies, Moncla Energy Services of Lafayette was forced to make a lot of hard decisions after the price of oil plummeted from more than $100 a barrel down to $27 in 2015. The service side of the business was hit particularly hard, and Moncla’s company went from boom to bust.
It was a different story before that. As the third generation in his family’s workover rig business, Moncla began working for his father after graduating from college and helped guide the company through several years of growth.
“We had seven rigs at the time,” he says. “By 2007, we were the largest independent workover rig company in the U.S., with 53 rigs in seven states.”
Although Key Energy Services bought the company in late 2007 and hired Moncla to oversee aspects of their operations, he saw the need for a change just three years later.
“It was a tough marriage,” he says. “Their big company mentality didn’t fit with the way we like to run our business.”
In 2010, Moncla, his uncle and two brothers purchased the barge side of the business from Key and started over. It was a fortuitous move, as the company quickly grew in annual revenue over the next four years, making it the fastest growing oilfield service company in the U.S. At its peak in 2014, Moncla Energy Services operated 35 rigs (both land and water) and even worked in Alaska.
Of course, that all changed when the bottom fell out, and the company was forced to significantly scale back its operations and work with creditors just to stay in business.
And while things have settled down somewhat, demand for workover rigs remains low.
“I found myself twiddling my thumbs too much, and I have to stay busy,” Moncla says. “That’s when I ran into a childhood friend of mine, Patrick Killeen, at a Christmas party in 2019.”
Killeen asked him to take over as vice president of marketing for his directional drilling business, DrilTech, which has work in west Texas.
Later, Moncla also took over as president of the Louisiana Oil & Gas Association following the departure of Gifford Briggs, where he now runs the day-to-day operations of the association and serves as a lobbyist.
“I am politically minded and have a lot of passion for both Louisiana and the oilfield, so this role fits me well,” he says.
All the while, he continues to work for Moncla Energy Services where he handles sales, Master Service Agreements, ongoing lawsuits and the company’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve contract for the U.S. Department of Energy.
10/12 Industry Report sat down with Moncla to discuss the challenges and rewards of working in the oil and gas market.
What do you find most challenging about working in oil & gas?
The general public doesn’t understand the challenges we face. From 2015 to now, some 500 companies have filed bankruptcy. Louisiana is not blessed with the sexy shale plays that Texas has. We only have one in Haynesville, and geographically it’s difficult for south Louisiana companies to participate in north Louisiana.
When the oil companies are barely making money, you can bet that they’re pummeling the service companies. For towns like Lafayette or Houma to recover, which are service oriented, it takes at least $75 a barrel for us to ask oil companies for a price increase.
What has frustrated me for decades is the incredibly poor job that the oil and gas industry has done in promoting itself nationally. All the while, we’re demonized by mainstream media. I wish the majors would tout all that we do in nonstop national campaign efforts.
Any best practices you would like to share?
Treating our people like family and making sure we treat them fairly. That was the key to all our successes. After starting our barge business over, we had to hire more than 200 people and our former employees jumped right over without any hesitation. And as we grew to 622 employees in 2014, all of those were mostly ex-Moncla employees.
What do you find most rewarding about your line of work?
We’re proud to furnish the cheapest liquid in the world. Just think about the geology it takes to find it, the expense that goes into pulling it out of the ground, the logistics of transporting it, etc. Then to be able to ship it around the world so cheaply … I’m proud of that.
The world is addicted to oil, although most people don’t realize the benefits of its byproducts. You can’t get plastic without drilling and producing oil and natural gas. Nobody is going to drill wells just to produce plastic.