What Do You Do When It’s 30 Below Zero and You’ve Got Sleeves that Won’t Open? 

Downtime is one of the main efficiency killers in today’s oil and gas business, a business that has utilized faster drilling times and improved extraction methods to increase returns in the last couple of years.

“For example in the Appalachian basin, they’ve reduced drilling times by half from what it was two years ago,” said Nathan Conway, CEO of privately held Fortis Energy Services in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Fortis has built its reputation by providing highly trained manpower and state-of-the-art equipment to the largest 10 operators in the Utica and Marcellus. And now the company has taken its reputation to North Dakota, where conditions are often much harsher.

Nathan Conway, CEO of Fortis

Nathan Conway, CEO of Fortis

Fortis is a Michigan based oil well service company that specializes in completions, service rigs, down-hole repairs and maintenance, and provides related well site services and equipment in the major shale basins. “Our rigs are in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and North Dakota,” said Conway. “Our customers will pay a premium to get the best crews in the area. That’s how we’ve grown our reputation and our business.”

Oil & Gas 360® spoke to Fortis’ CEO Nathan Conway and VP Business Development Edward Shelton today in an exclusive interview.

OAG360: Could you talk about where you see increasing activity?

Our business in the Northeast has definitely picked up. In the past, a lot of our customers have experienced infrastructure constraints in Appalachia. They weren’t able to get produced gas into the market. But that’s been catching up some this year. Since the second quarter of 2014 we’ve ramped up, especially in the Utica. We have 2-3 rigs working in the Utica at all times. Many of our customers are putting a lot of work and research into understanding the Utica, and we’re looking to add another rig there before the end of the year. There’s still a lot of development that needs to be done; it’s still very much an immature play. The infrastructure is way behind which is why the area slowed down, but they’ve continued to build and it will come.

OAG360: What trends are you seeing with respect to completions?

In the Appalachian Basin operators are doing a lot more tweaking with how they apply the fracs. They’re pushing to see how far those fracs can propagate, how far they can go in between the wells.  They’re going back and forth between traditional and new technologies. We see what they are using downhole as far as plugs, and how they deal with it if sleeves don’t open. We go down and drill out the plugs and sleeves that are causing issues.

DSC_0122OAG360: What sets your group apart from your competition?

Safety and efficiency define our value. It’s our culture of safety. For instance, we had zero lost time incidents in 2013. We thoroughly screen people so we can put together the most knowledgeable crews. We look for new ways to find and hire the best people. In this business, recruiting must be a core competency. We find people who believe in discipline and hard work. We’ve got great jobs – lots of them – and we go out and find people who want to get into this business and are willing to work hard. The military is a great place for us to find the best people. These are individuals who come to us that already understand discipline and teamwork. We are partners with Heroes For Hire, and we also established our own program designed to take people who come out of the military, train them and put them to work on our crews. It’s called Fortis 4 Vets.

Right now we’re at about 110 employees and we’re going to hire and train 18 to 20 more people for new rigs in Appalachia and 4 to5 in North Dakota. Our people work together as a team. We have a training program called “Fortis Safe Certified” that we provide our crews. The certification goes on their hard hats.

In North Dakota we try to hire North Dakota locals. Our North Dakota crews are made up of teams of people who grew up there; they’re used to the climate. When it’s 30 below zero our guys are still working.

We have best-in-class equipment maintenance. We’ve grown from three rigs in the Williston to six this year. In our Eastern Division we have seven rigs. We’ve got almost all new equipment; only one rig is older than 2012 and it’s a 2008.

OAG360: What’s next for Fortis?

We are getting ready to announce a big expansion in services between now and year-end. We’re getting into more ancillary equipment including hydraulic cat walks because they make it a lot safer. Just about everything we do is guided by improving safety and efficiency at the well site.

OAG360: Thank you for your time.

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