In the 1990s, Western Canada was booming and demand for service rigs was high. Treeline Well Services recognized the opportunity this held for them and in 1997 it expanded its abandonment company to include service rigs to meet that demand. Within a few years it had four rigs and had found its niche.
“We were a smaller, mom-and-pop operation,” says Dan Bryson, president of Treeline Well Services. “Then we started concentrating on different areas and since 2013 we’ve become really aggressive and focused on key markets.”
Treeline divested of its abandonment company in 2006 and by the following year it boasted eight service rigs that followed projects throughout the entire life cycle of the well – from completions to workovers to abandonments. Since then the company has grown slowly and steadily. It has evolved with the ever-changing industry, which led to it retiring its older legacy rigs and replacing them with a fleet of 22 new-generation service rigs.
“We now operate one of the newest rig fleets in Western Canada. The average age of our rig fleet is only six years old,” says Bryson. “We are also the largest privately-owned service rig company operating in Western Canada.”
The new equipment was necessary to match the vision and direction of Treeline. Over the past several years, Treeline has aggressively grown in the Grande Prairie and Fort McMurray areas, targeting the key markets of deeper, liquids-rich Montney plays and long-term thermal SAGD projects. Over the years, the company has established a solid reputation for safety and quality as well as for having the best equipment. Because of that, Treeline has attracted business and signed many long-term contracts with the top major players in the business.
Unlike the old days of interchangeable crews on standard rigs, these projects require highly-specialized equipment and highly-trained field hands to handle the deeper and more complex horizontal wells and thermal requirements.
Treeline is currently designing a heavy double package geared for Montney deep horizontal work in the Grande Prairie area and it recently deployed a new customized rig for a major SAGD customer in Fort McMurray. This rig incorporates many innovative features tailored to the needs of its customer including automated tongs, pipe handler and pushing capability as well as the ability to accommodate 24-hour operations.
As Treeline specializes in customized contracted rigs, it has been able to adapt and change to customers’ needs quickly. The company has survived the downturn better than most, with utilization sitting at around 97 per cent this winter compared to its competitors running between 35 and 45 per cent. In fact, well licensing was at a 22-year low last year but Treeline has been setting records, month after month since October, for rig hours and utilization.
Despite the volatile economy, the company has used the past few years to grow, adding great people to the team, as well as upgrading and building new rigs. The company capitalized on the lack of investment and innovation by other operators and through its aggressive approach and access to capital has grown in a time when many other companies have been struggling just to stay afloat.
“Our strength has come from our focus and the ability to adapt to the changing landscape of the service rig industry. Everyone talks about specialized drilling rigs and going farther and deeper but no one mentions the service rig that has to come back to that well over and over again. The needs of our customers and the market have changed and we will continue to be a leader in this progression,” says Matt Dagert, vice president of sales and marketing.
Treeline can give customers what they need for each job, promising the best equipment, performance and quality service. It also provides customers with the best people in the business. After all, the company was built not only by quality rigs but by quality people to operate and manage them. Management empowers employees to voice their opinions so they are involved in the direction the company takes. That respect and consideration has paid off, as many employees have stayed for more than a decade and some since the inception of the company.
“You want to be part of a company that is more like a family, where you have a say. That’s what happens here,” says Les Yakemchuk, vice president of Treeline.
The professionals in the office find the work and build the best equipment in the patch, but it’s the crews in the field who allow the company to truly prosper.
“We get the first job for the rig. The guys out there have to get the others,” says Stuart Watson, business development at Treeline.
That is how Treeline Well Services established a foothold in the industry. The sales team sells a customer a rig, and a positive experience leads customers to commission additional rigs. The company now has about 200 people working in the field with another 15 administrative and managerial staff supporting them in the office. Customers know if they have questions, there is someone who will pick up the phone and get them an answer. Treeline is big enough to do the job well but small enough to give personalized attention to clients.
The motto for the company says it all: “Great iron, even better people.” The majority owner, Ben Docktor, has preached for decades that you always want to surround yourself with great people, and Treeline strives to do just that. Its people are quality on and off the rig. Treeline emphasizes the importance of being involved in the communities in which it operates and has established joint ventures with the First Nation communities in the Wood Buffalo Region.
“This has been instrumental in us growing that SAGD area. The oil companies want more inclusion of the local communities and want them to prosper from the activity. We’re focused on the important stuff,” says Bryson.
Over the past two decades, the important stuff – respecting the areas in which they operate, fostering relationships and providing the best product and services possible – has allowed Treeline Well Services to evolve from a small company to a leader in the industry. As Treeline celebrates 20 years, it looks ahead to continued strong relationships with customers working on SAGD projects and in Montney plays, and to providing innovative, efficient equipment to make those customers more successful.
“The industry has changed so we’ve changed with it,” Bryson says. “We’ll remain focused, build as needed and continue to grow.”
And with Treeline Well Services’ unrivalled service levels, innovative equipment and superior crews in the field, the service rig company is sure to remain a force in the industry for decades to come.