Customers in Action

Blackeagle Energy Services


December 14, 2015

The quality of Komatsu equipment

For almost 30 years, Blackeagle Energy Services has been involved in the Colorado oil and gas industry. During that time, the Berthoud-based company has become a leading provider of services including construction, fabrication and maintenance of both pipelines and facilities.

“It’s a cyclical industry and right now, we’re focusing a lot of efforts on pipeline maintenance,” said Equipment Manager Courtland Acosta. “Because of the (low) price of oil, there’s not a lot of new pipeline construction going on. But due to age, a lot of existing pipelines need to be maintained, repaired or replaced. We saw the situation coming, so we made pipeline maintenance a specialty. Maintenance projects typically require smaller crews that move frequently to different facilities. Since we geared up to do these types of projects, we’re busy right now despite the slump in oil prices.”

Under the leadership of President Rick Barrett and Vice Presidents David Mayo and Don Harding, Blackeagle Energy has grown significantly. Today, the company employs about 600 people and is growing rapidly.

“We’re not just a Colorado company anymore,” said Acosta. “We’re going wherever there is energy-related work. Texas. North Dakota. Northwestern Pennsylvania. Because of the capabilities we possess, we think our services will be in demand wherever there’s oil and/or natural gas activity.”

Blackeagle Energy’s capabilities include almost all aspects of energy-related construction.

“From the day the drill derrick goes down, right up to the point where the product gets to the refinery or end user – we’re there,” said Acosta. “Being a one-stop-shop is one of our greatest strengths. We’re able to tie everything together for our oil and gas company customers. We build the vessels and the entire infrastructure for storage and product movement. We have a shop with certified welders that custom-manufactures products. There aren’t many shops in the country that can do that. We can also work in refineries. Basically, we handle all aspects of the industry and that’s a real plus for our clients.”

Rocky Mountain Pipeline Project

Blackeagle Energy Services works with all the large oil and gas companies in the Rocky Mountain region, including Phillips 66, Kinder Morgan and Suncor. One of the company’s largest and most difficult jobs is the second phase of a current Suncor project. It is installing new pipeline from Cheyenne, Wyoming, to Suncor’s refinery in Commerce City, Colorado. The idea is to significantly upgrade the pipeline to reduce truck traffic in and out of the refinery, which will improve the environment and make energy transportation safer, more efficient and more reliable.

Blackeagle started working on a 20-mile stretch of that project just north of Denver this summer, laying pipe from 128th Street in Thornton to a Suncor pump station in Fort Lupton. The project is currently under a compressed schedule, with a target completion date at the end of December 2015.

“I’ve been in the industry a long time, and this is one of the toughest jobs I’ve ever been a part of,” said Construction Manager Alan Castillo. “We’re running 20 miles of 16-inch heavy wall pipe. Since we are going through neighborhoods, it’s very highly regulated. A compounding factor is the tighter-than-expected time frame, but we’re on schedule and fully intend to complete it on time.”

Castillo says Blackeagle crews pride themselves on their ability to complete jobs on time and on budget.

“Because of the complications, this job is a challenge, but we enjoy it. Things never go exactly as planned. It’s how you react when adversity arises that really defines your ability. To meet the new deadline on this particular project, we’ve brought on more people and more equipment. At Blackeagle, we do what we have to do to get the job done and give customers what they want.”

Castillo credits a dedicated and veteran workforce for the company’s ability to take on and successfully complete projects like the Suncor Rocky Mountain Pipeline.

“We have a lot of good people and we take pride in what we do,” said Castillo. “Safety for our own employees and anybody else on the job is our top priority, but a close second is giving the project owner a quality final product. Safety, quality and efficiency are our watchwords and what we strive for every day. We want the same productivity from every crew at every location, and we’ve put into place a system where we’re able to achieve that.”

The pipe that Blackeagle is installing is a specially designed product that’s considered essentially spill-proof.

“It’s many times more expensive than standard pipe, but it’s what Suncor wanted, not just for the lack of maintenance it will require, but because they never want the product it’s carrying to leak outside the pipe into the ground,” said Castillo. “It’s a very environmentally friendly project that will benefit consumers by ensuring safe and efficient delivery of crude oil.”

Komatsu machines and Power Motive support

To complete the current Suncor job, as well as other projects, Blackeagle recently began turning to Komatsu machines from Power Motive Corporation. The company is currently leasing three Komatsu PC138 hydraulic excavators and is looking to lease more units in the near future. Blackeagle is also renting more than a dozen other Komatsu machines.

“I’ve been in the construction/mining industries for decades and I am well aware of the quality of Komatsu equipment,” said Acosta. “I know the machines are fast, durable and mechanically reliable, but many of our people were not familiar with Komatsu. Before we proceeded, I had to get buy-in from our field employees. So, Power Motive Sales Rep Jeremy Griebel took our construction manager, three project managers and myself to the Komatsu proving grounds in Georgia to demo Komatsu equipment. They really liked the machines and I was very impressed with the Komatsu Tier 4 regeneration process, which had caused us some issues with other brands.

“The Komatsu PC138s in particular hit a sweet spot for us,” he added. “We had been using a slightly larger excavator from another manufacturer, but after we tried the PC138, we found we could go smaller and do the same work. The operators liked it and said it was a better piece for what we were doing.”

From Castillo’s point-of-view, Komatsu excavators are superior to any other brand. “The hydraulics of Komatsu excavators are the best. As a result, the excavators are quicker, they cycle faster and you can get more done with them. When we’re digging ditch to lay pipe, we normally get a couple hundred more feet per day with Komatsu than with another machine. That’s real productivity.”

Acosta says his goal as equipment manager is to have machines that deliver the lowest cost per hour. A lot of that is from the machine itself, but he says a lot of it is also a result of distributor support.

“The dealership is very important to me as an equipment manager. We need the dealer’s help to maximize machine uptime. Jeremy and Power Motive have been outstanding. I appreciate that I can use Jeremy as a single source of contact for anything I need. Power Motive also has the infrastructure to support us after the sale, including a financing arm that meets our needs.

“At Blackeagle, we’re about production, not about maintaining and repairing equipment, so we have Power Motive perform our routine services and repairs,” he added. “All the Komatsu pieces we are using come with maintenance contracts. It makes sense because they are the equipment experts. We want somebody to watch our back, look out for our best interest and be there for us when we need help. Power Motive meets all of my expectations.”

Rapid growth ahead

Even though the price of crude oil is down, a lot of power plants are switching from coal to natural gas, which means pipelines are in demand to transport it. That’s one of the reasons Blackeagle Energy Services is growing rapidly.

“We’re about six months into a planned expansion where our goal is to double in size in three years,” said Acosta. “That will take us to about 1,200 people and we’ll be working in a multi-state territory.

“We respect our employees but demand a high level of professionalism from everybody who works here,” he noted. “I think the energy companies we work for recognize that. As long as we continue to do what we say – deliver a quality project, on time and within budget – we think we’re in good position to continue to grow in the years to come.”