ProFrac Services LLC
Hydraulic fracturing services
Business View Magazine interviews Paul Kaster of Profrac Services LLC, as part of our focus on best practices in the oil, gas, and energy sectors.
ProFrac Services, with headquarters in Willow Park, Texas, custom-manufactures and assembles fracturing units and high pressure pumps for the fracking sector of the upstream oil and gas industry. The company began operations in the Permian Basin, a large sedimentary basin located in western Texas and southeastern New Mexico, in September 2016, and the Marcellus/Utica Shale, a deep, natural gas reserve running under parts of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virginia, in October of the same year.
According to Paul Kaster, ProFrac’s Senior Vice President for Health, Safety & Environment, and Compliance & Training, the company’s founders – the Wilks Brothers – who had previously transformed a start-up into the world’s largest private pressure pumping company, felt market conditions were conducive, and purchased three fleets of equipment that had been sidelined at another services company that had gone out of business, and put them to work. “Then, we opened our manufacturing facility and started manufacturing our own equipment,” Kaster recounts. “At the time, we had less than 30 employees in our manufacturing facility.”
The vision of ProFrac Services was to shake up the pressure pumping market by bringing better equipment to end users than was currently available. Its manufacturing facility sits on 20-plus acres and allows ProFrac to build custom-designed equipment. Its high pressure pumps are designed with today’s modern longer laterals/multi-well pads in mind. Putting an emphasis on reliability and safety in its equipment has allowed greater up-time leading to better efficiency for its customers. Under a veteran leadership team of Ladd Wilks (CEO), Coy Randle (COO), Matthew Wilks (CFO), and Paul Kaster (Sr. Vice President HSE, Compliance, & Training), ProFrac today has over 1,400 employees working at the company’s 130,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility and its 60,000-sq.-ft. distribution facility in Cisco, Texas; and at four fracking locations: Smithfield, PA; Marshall, TX; Odessa, TX; and El Reno, OK.
While many of ProFrac’s competitors have closed down, Kaster says that ProFrac is not only “staying pretty steady,” but is actually planning to move into new areas. “We’re about to start a fleet down in south Texas, and pick up more fleets in west Texas,” he acknowledges. Regarding the company’s competitive advantages, Kaster notes, “ ProFrac doesn’t have the same overhead as most other companies providing similar services. We are a very lean company from an upper management standpoint.”
He also points to the company’s focus on fire suppression. “Everybody’s scared of a giant frac fleet fire on location,” he relates. “Every pump we have in our frac fleet has its own internal fire suppression system built into it. It’s similar to a sprinkler system in a restaurant or hotel room. We’re the only service company that has that – fire suppression on all of our equipment. That alone is tremendous. Our approach to the silica hazard is also tremendous. The dust that comes off of frac sand is a potential health hazard. We have control measures in place, not only to medically monitor our employees, but to reduce that silica exposure hazard, more so than other companies out there.”
Safety on the highway is another important agenda item. “Coming down the highway is our biggest exposure to harm,” Kaster explains. “More fatalities and injuries in the oil and gas industry are related to driving; it’s the number one source. So, we have speed limiters in our vehicles, and we have 24/7, live coverage of where our vehicles are and how they’re acting.”
Finally, Kaster touts ProFrac’s training program as one of the most robust in the services industry. “We have our normal onboarding safety trainings that are required by law, but in addition to that, we have a career progression program for our employees,” he remarks. “We actually send them to Profrac University, whether you have a lot of experience or no experience. When you come in, you get set a baseline of your knowledge level and then we set out your career path going from that baseline, onward, so you can progress at your own rate.”
While fracking has its critics, Kaster believes that the need for the volumes of natural gas and oil are not going away anytime soon. “In the industrialized world, oil and gas is a must,” he avers. “Look at all the undeveloped countries that do not have energy like we have. Most of them don’t have running electricity the way we have. That part of the world is growing faster than the industrialized world and somebody’s got to supply them with power for electricity.”
In addition, Kaster believes that the fracking industry has made great strides over the last ten or so years in safety and looking after the environment, and he is constantly focused on making all of ProFrac’s operations the most efficient in the business, so it can continue to provide the world with cheap energy. “That’s why we’re here,” he states. “First and foremost, going forward, I want zero harm to what we call our PEAR: people, environment, assets, and reputation. I hope to have the silica issue solved; I want a quiet frac fleet; and I want our environmental footprint to be almost non-existent. We are an extremely safety-conscious company; we are very innovative; and we are constantly looking at better ways to maximize our efficiencies and reduce negative impacts on the environment.”
ProFrac also takes an aggressive stance on drugs and alcohol and has done so since day one. Kaster notes, “The oil fields have a reputation for being heavy with drug use because of the long hours. So, we continually monitor the hours our truck drivers are working so as to not have fatigued drivers out on the road. Secondly, on our drug testing, we not only test to the level that our federal government requires but we actually go above that, because the Feds only require truck drivers to be tested. We require all of our employees to be tested at the same levels, and we actually test for all synthetics, as well as the normal drugs you’d see in a drug test because the last thing we want is an impaired driver out on the road.”
As for recent initiatives in health and safety, like the rest of the world, ProFrac is currently in the midst of trying to slow down the novel coronavirus. Because their oilfield workers live in “man camps” with very close quarters, and they ride crew buses together to work every day, the company is actively doing its best by training employees and working with customers on ways to mitigate the potential for the spread of COVID-19. To double down on that, ProFrac has a Medical Directorate that is overseeing the process to make sure protocols are followed.
“We are also members of PESA (Petroleum Equipment Services Association),” says Kaster. “And right now, I’m in charge of educating oilfield workers on human trafficking. It is a multi-billion dollar industry, worldwide that targets the market of predominantly male groups like we have in the oilfields and it usually goes hand-in-hand with drug abuse. So, through PESA we do educational awareness in the man camps, so they can actually lock down their facilities more and make it harder for the traffickers to access those places. Thankfully, I work for a company that totally supports that.”
Community involvement and outreach is close to the heart of the ProFrac team. In that regard, the company is an active member of the Permian Road Coalition – a group trying to get the local municipalities to work with them on increasing road safety in the Permian Basin. ProFrac also supports the local school districts by volunteering with fundraisers for school supplies and other worthy causes. Speaking to the negative reputation that the fracking industry has been tainted with in the media, Kaster asserts, “People just hear the bad side about our industry; they don’t realize what we’re trying to do. Without fracking we wouldn’t have affordable energy. It’s all about education, and we’re on top of that.”
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AT A GLANCE
WHO: ProFrac Services LLC
WHAT: A custom manufacturer of fracturing units and high pressure pumps
WHERE: Willow Park, Texas
Shale Support – www.shalesupport.com
Shale Support is a leading provider of frac-sands and logistical solutions to the oil and gas proppant market and Shale Support’s products work to enhance the recovery rates of hydrocarbon products from natural gas and crude oil wells. Shale Support and its executive team of leaders has diverse and significant depth of knowledge in the chemical, petrochemical, logistics, investment and financing and energy services industries, which greatly enhance the business relationships Shale Support has with its customers, investors and the communities it serves. Shale Support operates an extensive mining and transload network strategically aligned with key destination terminals that serve the Marcellus, Utica, Haynesville, Permian and Eagle Ford Shale Basins. With the logistic flexibility to ship proppant via rail, road and barge, Shale Support’s network boasts more than 80 million tons of frac-sand reserves within its mining properties and most recently, Shale Support has signed two new contracts to be a provider of proppant for two tier-one natural gas exploration and production companies.