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
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
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.”