HLH Construction & Environmental


Sep 21, 2011

Komatsu D51 dozer - favorite machine

Two recent projects HLH Construction & Environmental worked on highlight the scope of the Drumright, Okla., company’s offerings. One was a grassroots construction project of a crude-oil, tank-farm pump facility just south of Cushing.

Brothers and Owners Mike and Dale Hester each ran one project, with Mike handling the tank-farm construction, a more than 12-month endeavor that will serve as a storage facility for oil that’s traded on the New York Stock Exchange. When finished, HLH will have installed about 30,000 feet of pipe.

“We connected with an existing tank farm about three-quarters of a mile away, and laid another 6,000 feet of 24-inch line that goes to another hub,” explained Mike. “Inside the facility itself, we’ll have laid about 22,000 feet. We’re serving as the general contractor and are responsible for the entire timing of the project.”

Piping is only one aspect of the new construction project, which started with HLH working with the customer to plan the construction. HLH crews then cleared and grubbed the 80-acre site before moving about 460,000 cubic yards of dirt to put the facility to grade. HLH also put subbase under the tanks, the construction of which was subbed out, and did some concrete work.

Meanwhile, Dale handled a survey and rehab project in Kansas that involved pushing a “pig” through an existing pipeline where it took readings and measurements to check for wall thickness and anomalies that needed repair. The tank facility was a bid contract, and the rehab project was billed on an hourly basis.

“Our work is about a 50/50 split between hourly and bid work,” Mike pointed out. “That’s changed somewhat through the years as we’ve transitioned into doing more new construction. From that end, we offer a full package of services that allow us to work as a general contractor. We’ll also sub out portions of our work, if that’s what our customers want.”

A safe, dedicated staff

Offering full site packages is relatively new to HLH Construction & Environmental, which has been in business nearly 35 years. When the Hester brothers founded the business in the late 1970s, they primarily focused on pipe installation for reconditioning and rehabilitation work. The business also specialized in environmental clean-up work. “Soil remediation and removal of structures at old refinery sites were other niches for us,” Mike explained. “We still do some environmental work, but that’s become a very small percentage of our business.”

What hasn’t changed is HLH Construction & Environmental’s ability to respond to emergency cleanup of leaks, which the company has offered since its early days. Because of that, and the Hesters’ focus on the oil and gas industries, HLH maintains strict safety training of its nearly 50 employees.

“Because safety is our utmost priority, we have a very good safety record,” Mike noted. “That’s a definite factor in whether a pipeline company will allow a contractor to work for it. A very large majority of our work is for repeat customers, so that speaks for itself. But that doesn’t happen without having employees who are dedicated to making safety a priority.

“That’s one reason customers call us,” he continued. “The other is that they know we’ll get the job done to their satisfaction, on time and on budget. We can do that, thanks to a very dedicated and experienced staff, many of whom have been with us a decade or more. Dale and I are hands-on, but there are times where we have multiple jobs going on, and we can’t be on site. We can trust our guys to get it done without us looking over their shoulders.”

Turning to Komatsu, Kirby-Smith

The Hesters note that getting jobs done on time also takes a solid lineup of equipment, and for more than 20 years, Komatsu has been HLH Construction & Environmental’s machinery of choice. The company started using Komatsu in the late 1980s when Kirby-Smith Machinery Territory Manager Bob Briley brought the Hesters some machines to demo.

“We primarily used another brand, but we had some dealings with Bob, Freddie Smith and Ed Kirby, so we got to know them well,” recalled Mike. “One of the machines they brought was a Komatsu excavator, and right away we saw it had faster response and digging power than the machines we were using. It sold us on Komatsu right then and there, and as the years have passed we’ve gradually phased out our other brands.”

But that doesn’t mean HLH Construction & Environmental runs all new equipment. The company has a mix of older and newer Komatsu units, from a late-model PC350LC-8 excavator to a D65 dozer purchased in the mid-1990s. It also has PC300, PC160, PC200 and PC228 excavators and D155 and D31 dozers.

“One of our main concerns when we started looking at Komatsu equipment was its durability, because I believe in keeping older machines as long as they’re productive and not costing us downtime,” explained Mike. “Komatsu has not let us down. For instance, we still have one of our older D65s that we bought in the 1990s. It has about 16,000 hours on it, and a few months ago, we put a new engine in it. The base machine is still in great shape. I’m confident it will run another 20,000 hours or more.”

Service personnel at Kirby-Smith’s Tulsa branch replaced the engine. HLH also turns to Kirby-Smith for rental units as needed, including cranes, lifting equipment, soil-stabilization machines, compactors, trucks and other speciality equipment. The Hesters work with Territory Manager Clay Lineback for sales and rental.

“Clay and Kirby-Smith have always been able to get us the equipment we need when we need it, and they give us flexibility in terms of length of time we have a machine out on rent,” said Mike. “Additionally, they keep the parts we need on hand, and whenever we call for service they get to us right away. They understand that uptime is critical in our business, and they respond accordingly.”

A look ahead

The Hesters believe the rehabilitation side of their business will continue to be strong for many years to come.

“A lot of old infrastructure still needs to be upgraded, and that’s an ongoing process,” observed Mike. “Even the new construction we’re doing will eventually need to be rehabbed. So, there’s work here for as long as we want to keep going.

“From a new-construction standpoint, it’s likely to grow for a couple more years then probably slow down,” he added. “That may change depending on what happens with energy policies and if there’s allowance for more domestic drilling. I anticipate that there will be more infrastructure building in the eastern part of Oklahoma. Whatever happens, we’re here to be a part of it.”