Early in 1988, Production Operators Inc. Sales Manager, Al Richards had made contact in Venezuela with a Venezuelan company that was already doing business with the national oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, PDVSA. It was not necessary to have a national partner as it had at one time but it certainly made contacts and negotiations much easier and so we formed a joint company to search for contract compression business. From 1947 to 1960, Venezuela had solicited US and other companies to explore and develop the suspected vast oil reservoirs of the country and there had been a flurry of activity. Oil and gas deposits were found in the eastern areas and mainly around Lake Maracaibo in the west. As these began to be drilled and developed, the oil quantities produced began to rise but with vast amounts of associated natural gas that, because of the lack of infra-structure and markets, was flared and wasted. Gradually, much of this gas was collected and provisions made to compress it and inject it into the oil reservoirs to recover and maintain the underground declining pressure in order for oil to continue being produced. The oil minister of Venezuela was very active in September, 1960 in working with four other oil-producing countries, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia to create OPEC, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, to bring order and some price control to oil. (Today, there are 12 OPEC countries.) Then, in 1976, The Government of Venezuela, under President Carlos Perez, nationalized all the oil companies and activities in the country. At the same time, PDVSA was created, together with three operating arms, Corpoven, Lagoven and Maraven. In the fall of 1988, Al got us a contract with Corpoven to install two gas engine driven 1000 HP compressors and, at a different location, two electric driven 350 HP units in East Venezuela, our first venture into foreign markets.
In the summer of 1988, Doris and I went to Cancun in Mexico for three days and to the adjacent Islas des Mujeres for another three days. Cancun was an artificial resort created in 1970 as such by the Mexican Government and it was just beginning to be popular. We stayed in both locations at a new hotel right on the beach. New hotels were beginning to take shape in both locations. We had a great time swimming at Cancun and had a nice dinner one night in the town at Bogart’s, a new restaurant copied exactly from Rick’s hotel in the movie, Casablanca.” They even had a piano player who played, “As Time Goes By” at least four times while we were there. After three days, we took the ferry to the island famous for being
It was north of the island in deep and rough waters so I went to the calmer Garafon beach where Cousteau had raved about the variety of fish of all sizes, shape and color. There was a gap that had been cut through the coral reef and I snorkeled through it to come across a big drop-off to very deep, clear water in which were very big groupers that
looked like blimps many feet below me. Each of the mornings, I snorkeled happily
until about 10.00am, when a large boat brought a hundred or more snorkelers
from Cancun on a daily visit. It was fun to watch them, but from the beach, not the water. We liked the island so much we swore we would go back one day but we never did. I had to dunk Doris under the water to make sure she saw the pretty fish so she was less inclined to go snorkeling again.
Back in Houston I continued to stay involved in Sales and in mid-1989, Carl Knobloch promoted me to President, nine years after I had been lured to Houston with that title, but I had been quite happy with my tenure as Exec. VP, and my remuneration. Our trip to Cancun, and especially the stay on Isla des Mujeres, had reminded us both of another island trip we had made in 1980 when we lived in Jacksonville, FL and were considering whether we wanted to move to Houston, TX or Carthage, MO. (See Memory Number 35). We went to a club called the Guana Club on a small island in the Outer Abaco Islands called Guana Key. We drove to Fort Lauderdale and flew to Marsh Harbor in the Bahamas from where we took a ferry that only went on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I had read an article about Guana Key and we thought it would be perfect. The club was the only building on the island and we had the seven mile sandy beach and the Atlantic Ocean to ourselves each morning. We swam and sun-bathed till noon and went to the club for Guana Grabbers, a rum and fruit concoction and lunch of conk fritters in the bar. The restaurant only opened in the evening when each night a variety of luxury boats and their crews arrived for dinner. The entire place did an amazing transformation with two steel drummers and a guitar player providing music for dinner and dancing. The entire waiter and kitchen staff all participated with the guests in the dancing and it went on quite late. We learned to have a nap in the afternoon that came naturally with the Guana Grabber lunch and we then dressed for the evening entertainment. I wondered how some of the boat captains ever found their boats and navigated away safely. It was quite an experience only spoiled by me getting sick after a dinner of turtle soup and turtle steaks that had not fared well in the frequent power failures that shut down the kitchen’s refrigerators. It made our return to Marsh Harbor on the ferry a difficult ride as well as the flight back to the mainland.
After our vacation, with me as President of POI, it became quite noticeable that Carl had begun to spend less time micro-managing our operations and to be more interested in the fortunes of our stock on the NASDAQ exchange. It became clear that there was a different center of interest and he started having meetings with bankers and groups of anonymous visitors in his closed door office. This did not bother me at all as I continued to monitor sales and operations. Al Richards and I met with representatives from the national oil company of Argentina, Yaciamento Petoleos Federales, YPF when they visited zhouston and learned a lot about the increasing oil and gas activities in their country. I made a trip with Al Richards to Caracus to meet with PDVSA officials to whom Al had been making proposals. We flew to see the Corpoven compressors that were just being readied for operation and to the Maraven offices in Maracaibo to discuss a proposal we were working on to install eight 1500 HP compressors on an off-shore platform in the middle of Lake Maracaibo. I was impressed how good our relations with them were and it was encouraging to hear how interested they were in giving us the project.
In July of 1989, My army friend, Dick Carrington and his wife Mary flew to Houston to go on a tour of the western States and to the Grand Canyon that we had been planning together but that’s another memory for another day.