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Martin Auctions

Auctioneer, oil field service firm watch price of crude

By JACK WEATHERLY

In the past two years, coinciding with the downturn in oil and natural gas exploration in the country, equipment sales have grown to 15 to 20 percent of Jeff Martin Auctions’ business.

Owner Jeff Martin declined to reveal the revenues for his operation in Brooklyn, Miss., near Hattiesburg, but said it has become the largest such auction company in the Southeast.

The next auction will be in Midland in the legendary Permian Basin of west Texas on Sept. 28.

“We try to hold four auctions a year in the Permian Basin, along with our four or five auctions a year in Brooklyn,” Martin said in an interview.

Equipment that is not specific to the energy business – such as trucks, excavators, bulldozers, forklifts and front-end loaders – is included in his inventory, Martin said.

“Frack tanks, blowout preventers, acid tanks, crude-oil transport trailers . . . are very limited in who can use them.”

Martin has a operation in Stanton, Texas, and a road crew that can bring an auction to the business selling its equipment.

Martin would not venture a guess as to what price of oil would change, the landscape, and thus his business.

Jason Smith, owner of Boots Smith Energy Group in Laurel works the other side of the street, offering oil-field services.

Asked for a price at which the exploration and production industry would reenergize, he declined to say.

“Every [exploration and production] company is different,” he said.

“I know we all feel like we’ve hit the bottom. It seems to be trending in the right direction.

“There’s no secret price range. Everybody’s price is different. Some people will go to work . . . in the 40s. Some people will say, ‘I won’t do anything till it gets to the 50s.’ Other people will say, ‘I won’t do anything till it gets to the 60s.’”

It has been below $50 since December 2014 and as low as $28.47 in January of this year, though benchmark west Texas light sweet crude closed at $44.83 on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Global oil prices will average $57 a barrel in 2017, according to the median of at least 20 analyst estimates compiled by Bloomberg News.

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