Proven Players

These companies exemplify what it takes to service the oil industry with new technology
By Luke Geiver | June 24, 2013

Time can be the best friend or the worst enemy of any company looking to introduce a product or technology into the Bakken oil and gas play. Recognizing that can help them brand, launch or pitch a product to prospective users. The product providers featured here offer two things to those seeking insight into the Bakken’s unique opportunity for nonexploration and production (E&P) companies to do business with E&P firms. First, these teams provide perspective on and proof of how products or technologies succeed in the play. Second, their experiences help highlight the tactics, methods or talking points that turn a potential product into a proven entity. 

Coating by Castagra
Somewhere in the play, a four-wheel drive truck towing an enclosed trailer with the word Castagra painted on the side is pulling onto a well site or an oil storage facility. The trailer carries environmentally friendly, nonflammable, solvent-free material that within a day will be applied as a coating to the inside of a storage tank. Invented roughly 20 years ago for the moldings and shingles industry, the gypsum- and castor oil-based product is now being used in the Bakken to coat the inside surfaces of 400- and 10,000-barrel oil tanks and frack liquid tanks. Tatsuya “Tats” Nakagawa, company vice president of marketing and strategy, says that although the product has been used in Texas and Alberta oilfields, “the areas which we have the greatest interest and success is in the Bakken.” 

According to Tats, the reasons are many, but when he pitches his product, he only focuses on what he believes is the greatest advantage of the product. “Although our coating product can and has been used on many applications,” he says, “we really focused on tank lining because that is where we have the greatest advantage for the end customer.” 

The product works when it is cold, or until the thermometer hits -25 degrees Fahrenheit. The product doesn’t have a flashpoint, meaning it can be applied under any form of lighting because fire ignition isn’t a concern. The prep for application is minimal, with a quick round of sandblasting all that is necessary. The company has designed a solvent-free application system that reduces waste and doesn’t require solvent to clean out the hose or pumping spray system. Castagra’s applicators have made great strides since they began working in the play, Tats says. They can work in extreme weather and can complete a project in a day. An applicator recently finished two 10,000-barrel oil storage tanks, but, as Tats says, big tanks weren’t always the norm. 

“With our new product entry, the smaller tanks were easier to get contracts for because they were viewed as a smaller risk. Small tanks equaled smaller risk. Tats says Castagra is starting to work on gaining the trust of the larger companies. To earn that trust, it had to perform several product demos onsite to prove the product could perform to its billing. “In the oil and gas industry, these companies make a lot of money and they don’t want to take a chance on something that is just marginally better.” According to Tats, understanding that aspect of the play will help any company brand their offering correctly. The key question he says a company needs to ask itself is, “Where is your biggest advantage?” 

A Good Tool Turned Great
Peter Duncan, founder and CEO of MicroSeismic Inc., has described the difference between conventional seismic technologies combined with the use of microseismic technology as if one were adding a stethoscope to an ultrasound. Duncan used his experience as a geophysicist with Shell Canada and other firms before starting the company in Houston.  Microseismic technology allows the user to listen and record the sounds present in an oil reservoir. The company, formed in 2003, now offers a product to monitor the noise emitted during the hydraulic fracturing process. The technology helps provide oil and gas firms with a better understanding of their pools allowing them to optimize well completions, determine well spacing and plan field development and enhance proven reserves. 

In the Bakken, the company has installed three trademarked BuriedArrays (near-surface listening geometry). For the BuriedArrays, the team has monitored roughly 250 well stimulation jobs. 

Recently, the company unveiled its trademarked Productive-SRV system that uses three microseismically created calculations to estimate target zone productivity, the fracture network and the size of fracture and the drainage capability of each fracture. The new tool allows drilling teams to better understand the 90-day initial production period. The technology also allows geologists to monitor how much proppant a fracture contains.

After providing technology to the Bakken, the company believes it has learned what brought success. “There is a big difference between testing technology and scaling-up. MicroSeismic has implemented its solutions at scale and can address field wide completions challenges,” said Mike Mueller, vice president of technology development. 

Riding to Safety
RIDE Inc.’s team has created a safety product developed by rig workers for rig workers. Because of that, the success and implementation of its safety product into the Bakken and other plays around the world may be no surprise. The product is a safety harness and escape structure attached to a zip line that ensures a derrick worker can safely escape from the monkey board, the catwalk platform sometimes 35 feet above the main platform, in an emergency such as a well blowout or fire. The patented braking system can move a worker off the top of the rig to the ground at 22 feet per second before the braking system engages and slows the worker for a soft landing. The system can also be operated even if the worker is unable to sit-up or stand. 

Greg Hartman, sales manager, says the company wanted to offer a product that would give all rigs a tool for safely escaping but also offer a user-friendly tool that kept rig workers on the monkey board connected to the rig at all times to avoid the hassle of connecting to an escape harness in an emergency in hot or cold weather. “Input from the industry helped to develop the system to what it is today,” he says. Darrel Boulter, a former derrick crewman, helped to design the product and says fumbling for a metal clip attachment with freezing or wet hands when the emergency siren on the rig has sounded is not a situation that should require a lot of time or thought. Because of that, the product allows for escape in under 30 seconds. 

Currently, 12 Precision Drilling-operated rigs employ the system in the Bakken, but that number should grow Hartman says, based on the continuing influx of workers to the industry, many of whom are untrained on the rigs. The company also offers an accompanying training program. 

To introduce the product into the play, the company hit the tradeshow circuit in the region to gain exposure and also leveraged its relationship with Tervita Corp. and Precision Drilling. Working in the Bakken has taught the team that safety is important to all companies, and products like RIDE’s can ensure worker confidence and can find a place in the play.