“Komatsus demonstrated they were strong machines”
Pipeline projects are generally measured in miles. Putting thousands of feet of pipe in one central location and constantly going back to it would be unproductive and inefficient, so contractors choose several sites along the route to stockpile supplies. To ensure the pipe and other materials get from the supplier to those stockpile locations, they often call Pe Ben USA.
“The common term for what we do is logistics,” said Dale Mykyte, CEO of Houston-based Pe Ben USA. “We assist contractors and engineering firms in moving pipe from Point A, such as a steel mill, to Point B, which are locations along the pipeline’s route so that it’s readily available when needed. In some cases, the customer already has sites selected and leased, and other times we help them find locations for their stockpiles.”
Mykyte explained that in most cases materials are moved from Point A via rail car. In those instances, the supplies come to a rail yard close to the project site where Pe Ben, the pipeline contractor or another firm offloads it. Then, Pe Ben often moves it to various points along the pipeline’s route using trucks and trailers from its fleet of nearly 200 units.
“Usually the contractor wants a stockpile every so many miles along the right-of-way,” Mykyte pointed out. “Depending on how much pipe there is, it may take a few truckloads or a few hundred to get it to those points. Whatever is needed, we can handle it, and that’s why contractors rely on us for trucking as opposed to doing it themselves. Our fleet is modern, with approximately half of our trucks a year old or less, and a large percentage of those newer units are automatic, which increases our efficiency.”
Stringing it out
Pe Ben’s service offerings don’t stop there. The company contracts to “string” the pipe, meaning it moves the pipe from stockpiles and lays it out along the route. Pe Ben also offers removal of excess pipe and remediation of stockpile sites at the end of a project.
“Hiring us to string pipe removes another task for the customer,” said Mykyte. “That allows the contractor to concentrate on what they do best, putting pipe in the ground. Installing pipe is not something that we handle. We are strictly a service provider and do not compete with our customers.”
Mykyte emphasized that stringing involves more than just placing pipe along the right-of-way.
“There is a lot of planning because it’s imperative that the correct pipe is put in the right place,” said Mykyte. “The wall thickness of pipe in one area can be much different than another. It’s up to us to know where each size of pipe belongs and deliver it, so that it’s ready for the pipeline contractor to bend, weld and put in the ground.
“Additionally, we have to take into account the proper quantity for a particular area,” he added. “Certainly, the pipeline contractor can’t have too little pipe and get held up waiting for more. We have to ensure that we’re matching the proper footage with the survey stakes. A lot of good communication with the contractor and/or the engineering firms is crucial.”
Decade of service
The firm celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, but its roots date back to the 1950s when the original business, Pe Ben Canada, was founded. Mykyte joined that organization in 1988 and in 1995 came to the United States for a project in Nevada. A year later, he returned for a second job with the same customer and never left.
In 2006, another company acquired Pe Ben Canada, so Mykyte and the new owners reached an agreement allowing him to purchase the U.S. assets and start Pe Ben USA. At the time, Mykyte’s company had 20 trucks and trailers as well as a handful of employees.
“We used to think that it was a busy year if we had four or five crews running,” recalled Mykyte. “Last year, we had 15 to 17 stockpiling and stringing crews operating at any one time. Our staff numbers almost 500 now, including close to 20 in the office. When we started, the office staff was myself and a couple of people.”
In addition to Mykyte, Pe Ben USA’s management team includes his sons, Dustin and Alex, who are President and Chief Estimator, respectively. Stepson Blake Culp is Vice President of Equipment Operations. Additional key personnel includes CFO Gary Shell, Operations Manager Jimmy Gregory and General Manager Bernie Bermac. Bermac is serving as President of the Pipeline Contractors Association this year.
Pe Ben USA works throughout the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, as well as Canada. It has completed multiple, large-scale endeavors such as the Ruby Pipeline that runs through parts of Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, Nevada and Oregon. Pe Ben located rail yards and had nearly 630 miles of 42-inch steel pipe shipped and then stockpiled it for this project.
The company received supplies from Italy and unloaded at the Port of Albany for the Millennium Pipeline, which runs across upper New York. Other jobs include the TransCanada Keystone, Northern Border, Vector and Dakota Access Pipelines.
“Every project is different, and each presents unique challenges,” said Mykyte. “We all have many years of experience, and I think that plays a major role in our ability to provide exceptional service. Our staff knows the most efficient ways to move pipe because they have managed nearly every situation imaginable.”
Good machines, excellent service
Pe Ben USA rented Komatsu PC490LC-11 excavators and a Komatsu D85 dozer from Kirby-Smith Machinery last year for the Dakota Access Pipeline project. The PC490s were equipped with vacuum attachments to conveniently lift and move pipe. In addition to a six-way blade, the D85 dozer had a winch.
“The excavators have good hydraulic power to run the attachments,” said Culp. “Each lift was roughly 23,000 pounds, including the pipe and attachment, so the Komatsus demonstrated they were strong machines. We need strength in our dozers too, because we use them to pull trucks through mud and across rough terrain, and the D85 handled that with ease. Typically, we only use the blade for cleaning up any ruts we make. The D85 took care of those, so it proved to be a versatile machine.”
Pe Ben USA worked with Kirby-Smith Machinery Director of Pipeline Services Joe Trapani and Account Manager, Pipeline Services Division Woody Ferrell to acquire the machines.
“We picked up the equipment from Kirby-Smith and transported them ourselves,” said Culp. “Kirby-Smith tracked them and let us know when services were due. Because the machines were being used so far away, Kirby-Smith arranged for another Komatsu distributor to take care of the maintenance under the Komatsu CARE program. We appreciate the high level of service that Komatsu, Kirby-Smith, Joe and Woody provide. It’s why we are renting more units from them for other jobs.”
Pe Ben USA purchased 40 additional trucks and trailers in order to have the capacity to keep up with a growing project list. Mykyte said the company actively seeks expansion in its area of expertise, but not into additional service offerings.
“We have our niche and want to stick to it,” Mykyte emphasized. “That has served us well and helped us grow for more than a decade to beyond what I believed we would achieve when Pe Ben USA started. It’s set up for another generation to take it even farther if that’s what it chooses to do.”