“Komatsus take whatever we can dish out”
Billy Torrence believes that starting his own company was a natural step he needed to take. Torrence founded Capco Contractors in 1995 after working several years in construction and as a welder.
“My dad worked in the construction industry, and I got some experience in that market,” recalled Torrence. “At 20, I started welding pipeline and did that for about 20 years. The last few years, I hired out as a general superintendent, moving from one company to another. When the opportunity came along to start my own business, I was ready.”
Torrence began with approximately one dozen employees, a small office and a jobsite trailer. The company now has a 30-acre headquarters in Henderson, Texas. From this location, the business works in a nearly 200-mile radius providing comprehensive pipeline service to oil and gas companies, including all aspects of pipeline construction. Capco Contractors is licensed to work in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.
The company offers boring and hydrostatic testing; turnkey installation of compressor and pump stations; pipeline reconditioning; gas plant and refinery construction and maintenance; well-site construction and hook ups; earthwork; reclamation and environmental cleanup; as well as safety training, instruction and consultation.
“We are a full-service pipeline contractor that can handle nearly anything a customer needs,” said Torrence. “We do a lot of turnkey work that involves everything from engineering projects and right-of-way design to installing and tying-in pipe. After it’s installed, we test it. We’re also doing a lot of rehab work right now, which means excavating existing pipelines and facilities as well as repairing or replacing them.”
“This area is rich in natural gas, so most of our projects are done for gas companies right in our own backyard, but we also work with oil companies,” Torrence explained. “We maintain master service agreements with many of them. They like that we provide a long list of services and that we perform all of them safely.”
Strong on safety
Torrence said that he and his employees have always focused intently on safety. Capco Contractors has a dedicated safety department that ensures OSHA regulations and DOT rules as well as drug and alcohol screening requirements are met.
“We really emphasize the importance of safety,” said Torrence. “We would not be able to work with our customers without a strong safety record. More importantly, nothing is more valuable to me than my employees returning home at night in the same condition as they came to work. They are critical to our success – past, present and future – and that’s why we invest heavily in ongoing safety training.”
Employees drive success
When Torrence worked as a superintendent for other companies, several people moved and worked with him. After he founded Capco Contractors, some of those people joined him and helped build the new company. Capco has employed as many as 200 workers at one time. The current employee list sits at approximately 100. Key individuals include Billy’s son Steve, who does estimating; General Superintendents Thomas Baughman and Francisco Reyes; and office and warehouse personnel such as Curtis Hughes, John Brown, Todd Stewart and Bennie Pierce.
“I talked my way into our first job, which was installing roughly 13 miles of eight-inch gas pipeline,” Torrence shared. “I rented the equipment, and we got the job done. When I worked for others, I built a good rapport with the oil and gas companies; so I called on them and set up service agreements with several companies. I am proud to say that many became repeat customers who we still serve.”
Throughout the years, Capco Contractors completed multiple, 50-mile-plus projects with pipe up to 24-inches in diameter. Torrence said that installing this size of pipe and smaller is the company’s niche.
“We have done larger pipe, like the 15 miles of 36-inch pipe that we put in for a gas company, but those types of jobs are few and far between,” said Torrence. “Our mileage totals well into the tens of thousands, and we’re equipped to handle all types of terrain and soil conditions, including rock. We can do almost anything because our staff expertise and experience is among the best in the industry. I estimate that our staff members average about 15 years of experience. This is a huge factor in Capco’s success.”
Komatsu excavators ‘the best in the industry’
Having the right equipment plays a vital role too, according to Torrence. He rented Komatsu excavators from WPI for his first job, and Komatsu has remained in Capco Contractors’ fleet ever since. The company currently runs a variety of sizes, including Tier PC240s and PC360s that Torrence purchased from WPI’s Kilgore branch with the help of Sales Rep Mark Bewley and Branch Manager Jack Smelley, Jr.
“We believe Komatsu excavators are the best in the industry,” said Torrence. “We use them for everything: digging, clearing, mulching, hammering, moving matting, lifting and laying pipe. They are our mainline production machines, and they handle any task we give them. Power, stability, smoothness – they are excellent across the board.”
Torrence also appreciates the durability that Komatsu excavators provide. He often removes the counterweights from older excavators and puts a retro-pack in their place to run hydraulic pumps that, in turn, run rotating grinders, which Capco uses for right-of-way clearing.
“Reliability and longevity are essential,” said Torrence. “We’re often in remote locations where it isn’t easy to get machines in and out. Pipeline work can be very hard on equipment, but the Komatsus take whatever we can dish out, with no major issues. We have used some for 10,000 hours or more and only performed routine maintenance or minor repairs. Even with that many hours, Komatsu still holds good resale value. They offer the whole package.
“We commend their service too,” he added. “The Komatsu CARE program, where Komatsu covers the scheduled service for the first three years or 2,000 hours, is a great value. WPI calls us, tells us when a service is due and takes care of it at a convenient time and location. They know when because they track the machines with KOMTRAX, which we also use to see hours, idle time and other critical data. Mark, Jack and everyone else at WPI have always been great to work with.”
Confident in a market’s comeback
Like many businesses that work in the oil and gas industry, the recent market downturn affected Capco. The company has reduced staff during the past few months, but Torrence is confident in a turnaround.
“The markets fluctuate, and as a company, we have to adapt to survive,” he pointed out. “I’ve been in the business for more than 30 years and have seen major swings both ways. We are still doing some small, new construction and good-sized rehab work. Eventually, the supplies will dwindle, and demand will go back up. Historically, that’s the way it’s been, and I believe it will happen again before too long.
“Nothing will change what we do,” Torrence added. “Our specialty is, always has been and always will be, pipeline service. It’s what we know, and we’re good at it.”