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Dean Gilliss joins the ranks of SE Sask Legends

Gilliss recognized for his lengthy and successful career as an entrepreneur.
Dean Gilliss was inducted into the Southeast Sask Legends at the Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Show by Darcy Cretin.

WEYBURN - Dean Gilliss' commitment to the energy sector has earned him the distinction of a Southeast Sask Legend.

Gilliss was presented with the honour during an awards banquet at the Saskatchewan Oil and Gas Show in Weyburn on June 5.

According to his bio, Gilliss was born in Manor in 1959 and graduated there in 1977. Starting that summer and continuing into early 1979, he worked road construction for Ramsey & Bird Construction.

In the spring 1979, Gilliss went to work for Bird Drilling in southeast Saskatchewan.

“Coming from Manor, that’s just what you did," he said.

In the fall of 1979, Gilliss enrolled in a pre-employment electrical course at STI Moose Jaw. The spring of 1980 saw him working for Simmons Drilling in southeast Saskatchewan as a roughneck. By 1983, he worked his way up to a drilling position.

During the road ban season of 1983, Gilliss went with Simmons Drilling to Saudi Arabia in search of potash on an island in the Red Sea. That was not his cup of tea, he said.

Gilliss married Bonnie Quarrie of Fife Lake on Nov. 3, 1984. They had two children: Dylan in 1988 and Logan in 1990.

In the summer of 1985, Gilliss took a coring position with A&A Coring in Estevan, supervising the coring of potash exploration and oil wells.

In the fall of 1992, Gilliss was inspired by long-time drilling consultant Carl Shane of Estevan. Gilliss and his wife purchased Coffee Power Tongs of Carlyle, renaming it Gilliss Power Tongs. The company was moved to their acreage west of Lampman.

“We started Dec. 1, 1992,” Dean said. “When I started, there were only 12 rigs running in southeast Saskatchewan. It just kind of grew, and we grew with it.”

He started DAM Oil Field Services in 1995 with Michael Grimes. That company rented radios and closed telephone systems for use on drilling rigs. In 1999, Grimes moved to Calgary and Gilliss' younger brother Laird became his partner in the company. They sold the company to Global Link of Alberta in 2001.

By 1996, there were 50 to 60 rigs working in the region, and now that number has climbed to about 70 in southeast Saskatchewan and another dozen in southwest Manitoba. Things became busy in the power tong business.

“In 1997, I had eight trucks, but in 1998, it all came to a ‘Whoa!’ It got down to just me, and I sold off some equipment,” Gilliss said. However, as things picked up, Gilliss Power Tongs rebounded. And by 2008, they built a new shop north of Estevan.

In 2004 Dean and Randy Phillips of Stoughton started RDT Rentals Ltd. This company rented portable offices consultants could move themselves from location to location, providing a huge step up from using their pickup as an office.

In 2006, Gilliss came up with the idea of the mechanical clamp now known as the Bulldog Clamp. It’s a device used to aid in the transfer of tubing from the catwalk to the rig floor. That led to the creation of Gilliss Oil Tools. The clamp is used primarily on service rigs, but also drilling rigs.

In 2008, Bonnie Gilliss purchased Phillips' shares of RDT and then sold them to Dylan Gilliss in 2009.

In September 2008, they sold Gilliss Power Tongs Ltd. to Wyoming Casing, whose head office was in Dickinson, N.D. Dean Gilliss stayed on and managed for two years then shared the position with their older son.

“Lots of people thought I should have sold the company to the boys in 2008 but there was one problem. They didn’t have any money," said Dean Gilliss.

In 2011, RDT Rentals was sold to Lane and Emery Hanson of Estevan. And in 2013, Dylan and Logan bought Gilliss Power Tongs back from Wyoming Casing, renaming it Gilliss Casing Services. They’ve since expanded to add First Line Pressure Works, a well control testing company. Dean and Bonnie still own and operate Gilliss Oil Tools out of Estevan with the aid of Logan.