Isotech acquisition won't change local presence

Isotech acquisition won't change local presence

CHAMPAIGN — Champaign-based Isotech Laboratories has been acquired by Weatherford Laboratories, a subsidiary of Switzerland-based Weatherford International.

Isotech Labs, founded in Champaign in 1985, does isotope testing for the oil and gas industry. The company employs 42 at its office at 1308 Parkland Court, C.

Dennis Coleman, the longtime president of Isotech Labs, said Isotech will continue to use its own name and have its own website.

The company will remain in Champaign and operate under the same management, he added.

"No outsiders are being brought in to take control of the company," Coleman told The News-Gazette on Monday. "We'll continue operating as we have been, but coordinating with the much bigger network they (Weatherford) have available."

Weatherford Labs, based in Houston, has 40 labs in 21 countries, and its parent company is active in more than 100 countries, he said.

Coleman declined to reveal the purchase price, but described events leading to the sale.

"The whole thing all started about a year ago when they approached us and asked us to consider being acquired," Coleman said. "Our first response was 'no,' because we were happy with the way things were going and what we had."

But Isotech kept hearing from Weatherford periodically.

"We hired a business consultant to look into it and tell us if we were being stupid for not listening to them," Coleman said. "The consultant said, yes, we're probably being stupid."

Isotech had reached the point where going forth on its own would be more risky, Coleman said. The technology the company had developed was becoming accepted widely in the oil and gas industry, and other companies realized it was a market to pursue.

Weatherford made clear that isotope analysis was a field it needed to be in, and could get into it by either acquiring an existing firm or starting from scratch.

"They can either be a competitor, or we can be working with them," Coleman said.

Isotech already operates three satellite labs in Cairo, Rio de Janeiro and Perth, Australia, and is in the process of setting up another in Oman. Weatherford offered opportunities for even greater expansion, Coleman said.

"This offers Isotech opportunities for growth and stability, and it allows Weatherford to expand its offerings," he said.

The company's owners — before Monday's sale to Weatherford — included three of Isotech's founders — Coleman, Jerry Benson and Kerry Riley — as well as Steve Pelphrey and Todd Coleman.

Benson will retire shortly, but the other four will remain with the company, Dennis Coleman said.

In a news release, Chris Bechtel, Weatherford Laboratories group vice president, called the acquisition of Isotech a "turning point in how gas geochemistry will be used in the petroleum industry."

Weatherford noted that Isotech's tools help reduce risk in oil and gas exploration. They are also used to check the integrity of underground gas storage fields.

Isotech's tools are also used by the environmental sciences industry to determine the origin of groundwater hydrocarbons.

Weatherford International is one of the largest oilfield-services companies in the world, Coleman said. The company has more than 50,000 employees worldwide, 10,000 of them in the United States.

Coleman said he anticipates no attempts to move Isotech from Champaign.

He said Weatherford officials told him "what makes your company is the people, and you just can't move those people."

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