Riding the Oil and Natural Gas Boom

July 1, 2011

The truck, trailer, and transport industry is on a natural high, serving a frenzy of well site construction needs in a round-the-clock construction boom that includes the installation of roads, well pads, and pipelines, which means that every contractor must get the right equipment to the right job site at the right time. The boom began with improved hydraulic fracturing technologies that make it possible to produce oil and natural gas in places where conventional methods are ineffective. It uses water pressure, under tight controls, to create fractures in rock that allow the oil and natural gas it contains to escape and flow out of a well. Until recently, formations such as the Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania; and the Fayetteville shale in Arkansas, were not considered profitable for gas production. But this new “fracking” technology, combined with a dire need for additional domestic energy sources, has dramatically altered the playing field.

Truck and Trailer Trips per Multiwell Pad
The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) estimates a staggering number of truck trips required to bring in rigging, equipment, water, and materials for the multiwell pads under construction in the Marcellus Shale formation, for example.

DEC data indicates that truck trips per multiwell pad (assuming two rig and equipment deliveries and eight wells) are:

  • Drill pad and road construction equipment: 10-45 truckloads
  • Drilling rig: 60 truckloads
  • Drilling fluid and materials: 200-400 truckloads
  • Drilling equipment (casing, etc): 200-400 truckloads
  • Completion rig: 30 truckloads
  • Completion fluids and materials: 80-160 truckloads
  • Completion equipment (pipe, wellhead): 10 truckloads
  • Hydraulic fracture equipment: 300-400 truckloads
  • Hydraulic fracture water: 3,200-4,800 tanker trucks
  • Hydraulic fracture sand: 160-200 truckloads
  • Flowback water removal: 1,600-2,400 tanker trucks

Engine Performance
Steve Kent Trucking has served the oil and gas industry of Louisiana and South Texas since 1992 with its five regional offices and a fleet of 175 trucks, mostly Kenworths.

“We support fast-paced drilling operations with product hauling, waste hauling, pumping, and handling of just about any liquid in the oil and gas business,” said owner Steve Kent.

When it comes to equipment, Kent says, “Downtime will kill you in this business. That’s why I buy Kenworth T800s with PACCAR MX 485-horsepower engines. What has hurt me in the past has been the serviceability on other engines. Trucks would sit for two, four, even eight weeks waiting on the engine manufacturer to address an issue. I prefer the PACCAR MX engine because the Kenworth dealer can diagnose a problem right away and get me back on the road quickly. I’ve been running PACCAR MX engines a long time. I ran three prototype trucks as part of the PACCAR MX testing program for three years. The engines were flawless.”

Downtime can be especially hard on Kent’s drivers, too, who are assigned a specific truck and work on a percentage of the gross. When equipment fails, revenues stop flowing. That’s why Kent’s drivers say that they appreciate and prefer the long-term durability and dependability of Kenworth trucks. Many drivers actually purchase their Kenworth trucks when Kent gets ready to trade them in. “After five years, I will sell the trucks to my drivers who want to become oil operators, and I’ll finance them myself. My drivers are all self-made business people and we have it set up so they can make plenty of money. My whole deal is keeping my drivers happy. We work 24/7 on these rigs. We might go out to a rig and get hung out there for two or three days. It’s a challenging business,” says Kent.

While every year the challenges seem to multiply, Kent and his manager in South Texas, Bobby McConal, are constantly looking for equipment that can keep pace. “Our newest standard spec going forward is the PACCAR MX engine,” said McConal. “If we have an engine issue, we want it solved at the dealership. That way, at all our service points, we don’t have to wait on another engine manufacturer to make a decision. We want one standard engine that we can depend on in the field and at our Kenworth dealer.”

Reliability on Rough Haul Roads
Satterfield Pipeline, of Norfork, AR, is a contractor whose specialty is laying field gathering lines that connect with larger natural gas pipelines. The projects involve clearing, grading, stringing pipe, and trenching-with each task requiring a separate crew and at least three to five pieces of equipment onsite. Until just several years ago, the company had outsourced its hauling and did not own its own trailers. Today, the company relies daily, or even hourly, upon two Talbert customized haul trailers to transport its Komatsu excavators (55,000- to 80,000-pound units) and dozers from site to site.

“When we outsourced our hauling, we often had to wait a day or two to get equipment onsite. Now, when we get a call, they want you onsite in the next hour. These days, if you don’t get there immediately-someone else will,” says Mark Satterfield, co-owner of the company along with his father, Loyd, who founded the business as an earthwork contractor in 1972.

Currently, Satterfield Pipeline operates two different trailer models from Talbert Manufacturing-a 50SA and a 55SA, both featuring a non-ground-bearing hydraulic gooseneck design. “It takes a well-built trailer to hold up in the oil-and-gas industry. We’re not running on the interstate, but rather on rough haul roads. To get to the wells, we may run on gravel roads for 10 miles at a time to get to a job site,” says Satterfield.

The Talbert 50SA offers a low-profile design and a framework that’s reinforced for a future fourth axle. Offering an advantage in load capacity over comparable models, says the company, the Talbert 50SA is rated at 100,000-pounds capacity in a 12-foot, 6-inch load base. Rated at 110,000-pounds capacity, the Talbert 55SA features the flexibility of a three-plus-one axle configuration or a fourth axle pin-on.

According to Talbert engineers, both the Talbert 50SA and the Talbert 55SA deliver greater lifting capacity, over comparable models, due to the number of hydraulic cylinders. While most conventional trailers feature only two cylinders, Talbert trailers are engineered with four hydraulic cylinders. This key differentiator means that Talbert trailers offer a lifting capacity that minimizes and/or eliminates the need for the frequent load adjustments typically required when operating a two-cylinder trailer. Additionally, Talbert strategically places its cylinders further from the trailer’s fulcrum point, allowing greater vertical travel in the deck.

The Talbert trailers are customized to fit Satterfield’s requirements. “I can airlift the back axle on my 55-ton trailer. It’s also got the excavator cut-outs so that I can get my booms lower and am not over height regulations. Additionally, it has extra D-rings, and I have pony motors on each trailer that run the hydraulics. So just in case a truck goes down, I can easily hook the trailer up to another truck,” he says.

For Satterfield, “gathering gas” is an entirely different ballgame than that of merely laying pipeline, as they had done in years prior. In this market, he says, you get no notice. “You get a call and you need to be there. Every minute that the customer is not selling gas is money lost.”

A Fleet Built for North America
Serving 10 Canadian provinces as well as 48 states, Bushell Transport is a heavy-equipment hauler in the oil-and-gas, construction, road-building, and pipeline industries. “We are very proud to run Murray trailers, as they are the strongest and lightest trailers on the market,” says Grant Glattacker, president and chief executive officer of Bushell Transport. The company has Murray low-profile 48-foot double drops as well as Murray 16 wheelers. “Their 16-wheel design is legal in Alberta, and Murray modified that design for us by adding a third axle, which allows us to pack a lot of weight across borders-and utilize the same trailer on both sides of the border,” he says.

Glattacker says that these trailers serve a target market in the 60,000- to 80,000-pound weight class, which covers a large majority of the oversize weight category. “Due to this equipment, we are one of the few carriers in North America who can haul in this market across borders,” he says. “These trailers have very low rear profiles for hauling service rigs, wire line, and construction equipment that most carriers would need to do on a stretch double drop-and we can pack more weight and size and be more cost effective than a stretch double drop in most cases. In the event that a stretch double drop is required, we can offer that as well up to 10 axles. We also run California 9-axles with wheeler jeeps, which allows for greater payloads-and Murray trailers keep our tare weights down so our payloads can go up,” he adds.

The Bushell truck fleet is entirely Peterbilt. “The oldest Peterbilt model is 2006 and the newest is 2011. Each of our trucks is equipped with Shaw Satellite Trucking/Scanning, which is fully integrated with our Sylectus dispatch system. Also, we are the first carrier in Canada to offer the BOSE ride seat in our heavy haul trucks. It’s an amazing piece of technology that makes time on the road far more enjoyable for our expert drivers,” he says.

Extended Hauling Solutions for Oil Transportation
XL Specialized Trailers Inc. offers two models engineered with the oil industry’s needs in mind-the XL Step Deck Extendable and the XL Folding Gooseneck. According to XL, the field tail roller and pipe pocket options in both models are especially useful to customers in the oil, gas, and pipeline industries. Ideal for easy loading, XL’s Step Deck Extendable features many different rollers, including neck rollers, tail rollers, and pop-up rollers.

Shawn Barney is a salesman for Wallworks, an XL authorized dealer in North Dakota. He lists many uses for the Step Deck Extendable. “It’s really great for longer loads,” he says. “It works for anything from skid shacks, sump pumps, shakers, gensets, and mud pumps, to tanks. The pop-up rollers make for easy usage.”

The Step Deck Expendable also features the Extend-a-Track, which allows users to extend and retract the trailer without hooking and unhooking the air and electrical lines. The air-operated lock-pin system in the Step Deck stops where needed.

The XL Folding Gooseneck features a self-contained power unit built into the main deck on a single drop and in the wheel area transition on the double drop.

“The many customization options make the XL Folding Gooseneck extremely versatile. Self-contained units or wet-line-operated units are available for customers. There are also multiple kingpin settings offered in order to achieve proper load distribution with almost any tractor or truck. The winch can be placed in the wheel area to load inoperable equipment. As with all XL products, customers can customize their order to fit their specific needs,” says Barney. “Working with Joel Dewey (XL factory representative) and the engineers at XL to customize the trailers allows me to use the feedback from my customers and make adjustments,” he says.

Trailer Product Highlights
Rogers Brothers Corp. offers its Oil Field OF40L-a 40-ton capacity trailer, which features a rear tail roller and a spacious 35-foot level deck, and is designed to handle the workhorse duties needed in oil and natural-gas exploration, says the company. The unit features heavy-duty main beams and side channels with deep cross members that combine to make a strong and durable trailer frame. Its undercarriage includes flip-leg landing gear and single-point, two-spring suspension. Both axles have spring parking brakes and a premium 4S/2M antilock braking system. Also, the Rogers OF40L trailer has a rounded front designed with an attachment for winch lifting. It has a pair of recessed air-line glad hands that are retractable for the easy removal of dirt and mud.

Palomino Manufacturing Corp. offers its Muv-All Trailer Series, which is highly suitable for use in construction equipment transport for well site preparation. The series includes both single-drop and double-drop low-bed trailers and both mechanical and hydraulic detachable gooseneck trailers. According to Palomino, all Muv-All Trailers feature HSLA steel beams that are more forgiving under load, and are easy to service; 1.5-inch-diameter tail hinges that are beefed up (by 50%) for tougher, more reliable operation; pre-arced beams and custom-designed crossbars for greater beam life; optional double-screw fastened wood floors sealed all around for extended floor life; and a structurally integrated standard steel floor that prevents floor bending between crossbars.

The Trail-Eze 2011 TE100DGLP is designed with 13-inch beams and I-beam style cross-members, and offers a 20-inch deck height with a 7-inch ground clearance. The main deck is 102-inches wide by 24-feet long with an extended rear slope. The Trail-Eze TE100DGLP is the ideal trailer for the excavation contractor or construction equipment hauler. The entire deck is covered with either oak or apitong. According to the company, its ease of loading, flexibility and customer- driven design makes this Trail-Eze unit highly suitable for the oil and gas market.

Towmaster Trailers offers its Titanium Model Series, of which its T-110DTG is most suited to the heavy equipment transport needs of the oil and gas industry, says the company. This triple-axle unit offers an 110,000-pound load capacity; a 24-inch (fully) loaded deck height; an 11-foot, 10-inch gooseneck; 96-inch swing clearance; and a 24-foot main deck. Towmaster says it uses only the best-grade T1 steel in the manufacturing process. The T1 is fabricated into cambered main beams to give the Titanium Series trailer its light-weight strength.

A Game-Changing Resource
Currently, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, and other states are reaping the economic benefits of a natural-gas boom. A Penn State University study predicted that the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania alone will be responsible for the creation of 111,000 jobs and for bringing in an additional $987 million in tax revenue to the state by the end of 2011. Natural-gas extraction has been one of few industries growing (without government subsidies) during this recession, offering an unmatched opportunity-and a natural high-to many entrepreneurs in heavy equipment hauling and truck and trailer manufacturing.

Fontaine Magnitude 55MX
Fontaine Trailer is introducing a heavy-haul trailer that handles a wide variety of hauling jobs.

The Fontaine Magnitude 55MX extendable heavy-haul trailer features a modular design that provides exceptional convenience and versatility. Fabricated with 100,000-pound minimum yield steel flanges, the Magnitude 55MX has a 29-foot clear deck length in the retracted position and easily extends to 50 feet.

The loaded deck height is 20 inches with 6 inches of ground clearance. It handles up to 55 tons in frame capacity in as little as 16 feet. Features include

  • a versatile gooseneck with all the connections needed to add the optional flip box to achieve 125-inch swing clearance;
  • an adjustable locking ride-height mechanism to match the deck-to-fifth-wheel relationship;
  • a ramped bogie, featuring a modular connection to match equipment needs;
  • built-in tool box and storage compartments.

According to John Craig, president of Fontaine Trailer Co., “If you haul a variety of equipment, then the modular design lets you switch easily and quickly to accommodate just about any hauling job.”

Heavy Hauling: Buy for Tomorrow
With more than 40 years of experience in all areas of the trailer industry, John Wilson, a heavy-hauling trailer expert at Dragon Products, has a good perspective on the mistakes customers can make when they purchase equipment. The error that bothers him most is their tendency to buy only what they think is absolutely necessary for the near future, without regard to the value of planning ahead.“I’ve seen so many customers make that decision,” Wilson says. “They’ll buy a trailer that has only the basics and think they’ll do better to add on extras later if they need them. But the problem is that they are often unprepared for situations that could be solved easily by having the right equipment on board.”Wilson cites examples of what can happen. “When the electric system is equipped with LED strobe lights on a battery backup, you’re OK if you have to leave a detached trailer behind. That’s an important safety feature. Or say there’s a breakdown and you need to be towed. If your trailer is equipped with a pony motor, that’s easy to do.”“It’s really like insurance for the job,” he says. “The added value is that you have more time on the road and less in the shop—plus lower maintenance costs.”

The bottom line, Wilson believes, is to be careful about what is called “standard” in the trailer industry. One company’s “standard” may not include the quality features that can make the difference when you’re hauling. It’s also important to buy from a company that has the financial strength and customer-service history to be there over the eight- to 10-year life of the trailer.

“If a guy is out there on a grading job with a 55-ton trailer, he needs be sure that he doesn’t have to worry about what his trailer doesn’t have,” Wilson adds. “It’s good to know that you’ve got all you need to get the job done today, or a couple of years from now. I’ve had many customers come back and thank me for giving them this advice.”

Should You Consider Natural Gas?
Diesel engine manufacturer Cummins has had NG engines since the mid-1990s. The Cummins Westport venture was struck in 2002. The company has placed over 25,000 engines into the market globally. Jeff Campbell, Cummins Westport’s director of product marketing, notes government tax incentives and credits for natural gas vehicles in the US are helping to generate some interest. “The technology works, the fuel costs less, and operators save money, making NG vehicles competitive on a bid basis. It gives people something to differentiate their fleets with a greener technology.”“The market has changed quite a bit over the last few years,” says Campbell. “The 2010 technology for NG is pretty simple in terms of truck and vehicle integration. Now it has a three-way catalyst muffler so there are no DPFs (diesel particulate filters) or SCRs (selective catalytic reduction) on the system. Those two systems are on the diesel engine, but not on the NG engines. When you package equipment and everything else on the vehicle, not having those two systems helps because we also need to install the CNG tanks on the trucks.

The Cummins Westport ISL G right now is 320 horsepower with 1,000 foot-pounds of torque. This is a little below some of the 11-liter diesels; however, the 11.9-liter Cummins Westport ISXG is going to be coming out in 2012. According to Vatter, it will give the same performance as any 11-liter diesel out there.

Over the years, there’s been continued interest in CNG. It all may have intensified in the late 1980s when there was a lot of talk about going green, according to Steve Davis, vice president of sales, Universal Air Products Corp. “The problem was, back then diesel fuel was 75 cents to $1 a gallon and natural gas was a dollar per gallon, so it was pretty difficult to make that happen. Now the tides are turned. Natural gas remains $1.50 to $2 per gallon equivalent, while diesel fuel is typically over $3 per gallon.”

Universal’s CNG stations are found around the country and, to some degree, around the world. The Midwest to the eastern US forms Universal’s biggest market currently, though it’s done work all over the country. “California is definitely hot for us, and Pennsylvania is good due to extensive NG reserves,” adds Davis. “Even here in Virginia we’re seeing a lot of success.

“With CNG, you’re going to save money whenever you fill your vehicle. And CNG is a long-term fix, not a band-aid. Once we can get the infrastructure in place and we get CNG mainstreamed, we will never leave it. The resources in this case are extensive, though it’s difficult to estimate the extent of the amount of NG in reserves in the US.”

Trillium USA specializes in turnkey CNG station solutions, including designing and building stations and then operating and maintaining them for the long term.

“When fleets switch to CNG, they’ll phase out their old diesel trucks and build their CNG infrastructure around the new vehicles,” according to William Zobel, Trillium senior vice president. “For fleets building their own stations, there are often considerable upfront equipment and construction costs. However, the long-term fuel savings will offset the cost of that infrastructure. With your own CNG station, you’re going to see significant savings as compared to diesel. Fuel savings could be a dollar per gallon or more depending on the size of your fleet.

“CNG stations are big investments, so you want to ensure you maximize the return on your investment. To do this you need to look at the lifecycle costs of the equipment and its operating costs. It’s important to consider the quality of both the equipment and the service provided by your vendor. A well-designed, well-built and well-maintained CNG station will last for 20 years or more, whereas a cheap, poorly maintained system needs major repairs and potential replacement in just a few years. It’s important to remember you get what you pay for in this business.”

Greenfield Compression specializes in CNG refueling equipment including compressors, dryers, storage, and dispensing for CNG-powered vehicles. The company is part of Atlas Copco and has its factory located in Richardson, TX.

Some of Greenfield’s predecessor companies actually started doing CNG in 1919, according to Scott Zepp, key accounts manager. “We’ve been providing our systems to the industry over the years—more specifically the last 10 years—and it’s not changed much at all. What has changed has been the quantity and availability of the vehicles that allow us to actually sell those systems to the municipalities or the private fleet users and make the projects economically viable.

“It’s specialized depending on what the vehicle fleet make ups are and what the end user wants to do; it’s really making sure they are committed to moving their fleet to CNG, expanding their use, buying new vehicles and keeping the industry going in that direction.”

National Grid is an international energy delivery company. It is the largest distributor of natural gas in the northeastern US, serving approximately 3.4 million customers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Rhode Island.

The good news on infrastructure, according to Ron Gulmi, manager of product management-transportation, National Grid, is that there was a large amount of federal stimulus funds awarded for many new CNG fueling facilities throughout the country. “There was $300 million dollars awarded from the US Department of Energy Clean Cities Funding for alternate fuel vehicle programs, which is fuel neutral for a variety of different applications, but a little more than half of that went to CNG vehicles and infrastructure.”