By Cole Walker, territory sales manager, Thunder Creek Equipment
With increased forecasts for oil production and prices in the Permian Basin — and a continuing focus on energy independence with so much volatility in foreign markets — the ability to effectively service oil and gas operations to maintain optimal uptime is big business.
Blackstar Energy Services — based in Odessa, Texas with valve and rental operations in Midland, Texas — has seen an ever-changing production landscape in the region. Driven by a mantra of “Thankful for what we’ve built, fearless for what we want to become”, the company has built a culture around premium customer service and quality equipment. This includes providing one of the newest fleets in the region for pump downs and double pumpers, to rental services for anything that requires power to make work possible out in the basin: generators, light towers, man camps, RVs and more.
Fabian Zapata, the operations manager at Blackstar Energy Services, has seen the growth and changes in the region through the years. He knows that the race to capture the most value in oil and gas production is won by a single word: Uptime.
“Downtime. We can’t have it,” he says.
Zapata has spent his 7+ years at Blackstar focused on delivering that uptime, and that requires evolving how his company helps power the engine(s) that are powering the drive for energy independence.
For many years, the company relied on self-fabricated skids that could hold up to 300 gallons of diesel in individual tanks. This solution worked up to a point, but as the company grew and diesel demands continued to expand, Zapata and his team searched for new solutions.
“Sometimes you need more than 300 gallons,” says Zapata. “Sometimes you need 500 or 600 gallons. Filling up pump downs usually needs between 600 to 800 gallons at a time. And we have to keep this equipment going at all times. Downtime costs a lot of money.”
The solution to delivering that continually growing volume of diesel? The MTT 920 multi-tank trailer from Thunder Creek Equipment. Through its innovative design, the MTT 920 allows Blackstar Energy Services to deliver more than 900 gallons of diesel in a single fuel trailer — all without requiring drivers to have a HAZMAT endorsement.
“That’s where they’ve helped out. They pump a lot faster — it’s a much quicker solution,” says Zapata. “We're also saving time for the guys coming back to the yard, filling up at the yard and then going back out. It saves a lot of money compared to making three different trips to our yard instead of making just one big trip [with the Thunder Creek trailer] and hitting eight, 10 different locations, 20 different locations that are smaller — and still be able to finish in one day within a reasonable time.”
A Unique Solution. Massive Savings. Improved Responsiveness and Customer Service.
The Thunder Creek MTT 920 fuel trailer allows Blackstar Energy Services to haul bulk diesel to their customers’ sites without requiring a HAZMAT endorsement from the driver. This is made possible by isolating diesel in eight separate 115-gallon, DOT-compliant non-bulk tanks. Tanks are joined by a manifold to a common pump, creating complete isolation during transport and controlled dispensing of fuel at the jobsite. Each trailer is built to maintain a low profile and is configured to provide optimal balance and a smooth ride at highway speeds, as well as in the most rugged, off-highway conditions.
Most trailers can also be operated without a CDL, depending on the combination of truck and trailer size, as well as local regulations.
An optional utility box that houses additional tools such as air compressors, greasing systems and more is also available — and the front compartment is designed to handle Thunder Creek’s exclusive 2-in-1 diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) storage and dispensing system.
Fuel pumping speeds range from 25 gallons per minute up to 40 (depending on the pump option selected).
Blackstar Energy Services has deployed six of these trailers in its fleet. For Zapata, the ability to have more than 900 gallons of diesel hit the road at a time drives massive savings:
Fewer trips back and forth between customer sites and their yard (time savings and labor efficiency).
Fewer miles put on trucks driving back and forth between the yard, customer sites and/or other fuel depots (fewer miles/less wear and tear on trucks).
The ability to fill large tanks, faster (fewer trips/less chance of downtime).
Employees without HAZMAT endorsements can haul the trailers from site to site (reduced labor costs).
Buying in bulk is cheaper than filling up at the pump.
The company puts a lot of miles on vehicles to keep each site up and running. The ability to haul 920 gallons at a time has helped them be more efficient in routing and time management, and reduces the amount of crisscrossing West Texas and putting all those extra miles on vehicles.
“I’ve had multiple locations where we needed 800, 900 gallons at a time at two different spots, 300 miles away from each other,” he says. “We’ve bought six [trailers]. And they’re amazing.”
Zapata has each of his trailers outfit with the optional 50-foot hose to make accessing equipment on often-crowded rigs and sites easier.
“We can pull up on site next to the front of the truck and still be able to reach two or three trucks, and then move on to the next one,” he says. “It's a lot easier.”
In addition to refueling the equipment they provide, they’ll occasionally provide fuel for other needs on site as well. As such, each trailer is outfit with a meter to keep track of the amount of diesel pumped at each stop.
“Usually people have their own people that fill up, but if somebody calls in that they need fuel, we'll fill 'em up and that's easy to help out with the 900 gallons of diesel in the back of your trailer,” says Zapata. “It's important to keep track of how much fuel we're using on each piece of equipment we have on location that we keep track of what's getting filled and how much is using every time we fill it up.”
And one of the most important factors in keeping their customers up and running? The uptime of their own trailers. Each trailer is built with the best in Midwestern craftsmanship in Iowa, and the trailers have stood up to everything the Permian Basin has to throw at it.
“The axles are built pretty good on it,” says Zapata. “We've never had any issues with them. They go through a lot on these hard lease roads that are pretty rough. You would have to be doing some crazy stuff if you wanted to break one of these trailers — so they're very durable.”