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Local Company ‘Gearing Up’ as Marcellus Work Increases

Kathy Mellott
Johnstown Tribune Democrat 
December 15, 2010

Johnstown, Pa. — Fred Raco is living proof that hard work plays a big role in reaching the American dream.

He also admits he was in the right place at the right time when the Marcellus Shale boom started to break in Pennsylvania.
“We kind of fly under the radar,” Raco said of his company, RNDT Inc. of Maple Avenue in Johnstown’s Woodvale neighborhood.

Since 2002, RNDT’s laboratory has been testing items such as engine brackets and artificial knees for joint replacement.

“Part of the manufacturing process is to test these products so they don’t fail when put in use,” Raco said.

While his company continues to work in these areas, the Marcellus industry has taken RNDT in new and profitable directions.

In October, Raco added a ninth mobile darkroom for field applications.

The field units are used in testing various applications in the Marcellus fields, including the welds on the high-pressure pipelines. These tests are done before the natural gas flows through.

The radiographic and magnetic particle testing has already been used on 45 gathering lines from the Marcellus wells, Raco said.

RNDT also tests manifolds, metering and scrubbing pipe assemblies, a dozen compressor stations and numerous other areas in the gas drilling industry.

“When they weld those pieces of pipe underground, we go in and X-ray the welds,” he said. “In addition to the pipeline X-rays, we do work on rig structures, compressor stations – anything like that.”

Raco, 47, uses the term “ultrasound” in talking of his work. He said, “We look internally just as they do in the medical field – it’s pipeline X-ray.”

As the Marcellus work increases, so does the need for larger working space at home, he said.

Raco is negotiating to purchase and refurbish a new facility in Richland Township, giving him three times more space than the city site.

“We’re really gearing up for this,” he said of the Marcellus Shale.

Raco currently has 23 employees working at his Johnstown laboratory and in the field. He expects his employment to reach 50 within two years.

The 8th Ward native said that as a young man he was forced to leave Johnstown for work.

He learned the testing trade in the oil fields of Texas, where he located in 1982.

Raco thinks Marcellus may allow more young people to stay at home.

“These are technical jobs,” he said. “They are by no means minimum-wage jobs.”

Raco rejects the notion that the Marcellus jobs are going to workers from Texas.

“There is a real misconception that all the jobs are being filled by people from out of the state,” he said. “We’re doing work with companies that are Pennsylvania-based that are manufacturing metering stations, manifold piping, that type of thing.”