Business In Focus Magazine
Written by Leon Bracey
Comtech Industries specializes in a number of services in water management and treatment for oil and gas companies. The company is noted for revolutionizing the concept of traditional well pads to help companies save costs, increase environmental protection and increase their production in the process. Company President Dean Grose discusses the challenges, opportunities, and culture of innovation that has kept Comtech Industries in business.
With his extensive background in water treatment and industrial spaces, Mr. Grose knew that expanding the company into the oil and gas sector would be a great fit. The company is headquartered in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh. As he embarked on his commute, Mr. Grose noticed the operations of the Marcellus Shale, which has extensive operations throughout the western part of the state.
“I was curious as to what was happening in the Marcellus shale,” he recalls. “We began by starting our work in mud completion and suspended solids removal. It took 20 years to develop a unique platform, but we worked on our first well in the field, and eventually began water treatment operations and identified the need for radiological surveying. Instead of having completion companies use chemicals, we started water treatment and saving companies up to 80 percent of costs instead of the companies dealing with chemical coatings.”
Over the years, Comtech Industries has patented a variety of innovative technologies, and developed others that are so unique they simply can’t be replicated by other companies. For instance, “We’re the only company in the world that can provide 100 percent remediated frac water so companies don’t have to constantly use fresh water,” shares Mr. Grose.
For drilling services, Comtech combines technology and chemistry to optimize drilling rates and reduce costs for companies with services such as solids control and water clarification. The company has also engineered centrifuges, shakers, and fluid processing systems to help eliminate the need for the solidification materials that are often used in the industry. This helps decrease production costs and recycles the water used in drilling operations. By recycling the water, this reduces disposal costs and new water resource costs, and lowers the cost of trucking during drilling operations.
Comtech’s water reuse technology for flowback operations is used to treat flowback water following the hydraulic frac process. Flowback water is the murky water output from fracking natural gas wells that consists of fluid which returns to the surface along with the produced water. Flowback water contains materials such as clay, soil, metals, and chemicals that may have been added during the process of the completion of the well. Comtech operates full-scale operational chemical / physical treatment and filtration systems to treat this water on the pad site or in stationary treatment facilities, allowing 100 percent of treated water to be reused at subsequent fracking operations. Water is returned to its original clean state, which helps the environment and saves money for the company.
Comtech is also noted for its on-site mobile lab for flowback operations. Instead of hauling water off-site for treatment, chemists employed by the company can skip that step and issue water treatment on-site, saving even more money for clients. The advantages of this process include a reduction in the need for alternative water sources, reduced trucking operations, reduced water storage costs, maintenance of high environmental standards, and elimination of the need for wastewater disposal.
The company is also known for its Naturally Occurring Radioactive Material (NORM) Surveying to detect materials found on well sites that are enriched with radioactive elements. During natural gas production, these elements are released into the atmosphere, and are often found in industrial waste and byproducts. Today, oil and gas producers, operators, and service companies are addressing NORM to protect the environment and the health and safety of their employees; Comtech’s Radiation Protection Program also works to address the issue to protect the environment and the assets of client companies. To this end, a team of radiation safety officers and safety specialists perform duties such as NORM Surveying (pits, tanks, equipment, and liners), NORM Reporting (reports generated with a complete analysis of NORM levels on surveyed equipment), and composite sampling and lab analysis (used for Health, Safety and Environmental recordkeeping and waste disposal).
Perhaps most notably, Comtech Industries is known for providing above ground water storage tanks for its customers. These water tanks are designed to reduce the size and cost of a well pad and replace pits, allowing flowback water to be recycled. These 1 million gallon tanks are designed to simplify frac fluid handling; they are 39 feet tall, 71 feet in diameter, and hold up to 23,810 barrels of water. The tanks are designed in accordance with American Water Works Association standards and are painted with corrosion-resistant paint in their interior and exterior. A unique feature of these tanks is the manifold, designed for separating the water and used for frac and flowback operations.
“When fracking a well, one uses lots of water in short period of time,” explains Mr. Grose. “Our water hotels [tanks] allow our customers to store water until it’s needed again; this allows our customers to share each other’s water. Many of our customers are willing to combine water and share back and forth through the water hotel concept.”
Comtech also provides specialty chemicals for boiler water, waste water, and cooling water. Equipment such as pump and feed packages, custom built systems, test kits, and telemetry is provided for Comtech’s clients. Lab and analytical services such as water and deposit analysis, metallographic reports, coupon and corrosion studies, corrosion and scale modeling, and microbiological analysis can also be offered, depending on the needs of the site.
The unique combination of services that Comtech provides is known as the “Well Pad of the Future,” making well pad operations more efficient and helping customers save money. “By developing the ‘well pad of the future,’ our work has created a whole new approach to Marcellus and Utica Shale exploration and production,” says Mr. Grose. “We have reduced the environmental footprint of production pads through new technology and offerings. We find solutions for those challenges through our specialty chemical innovation.”
With the boom of the oil and gas industry, Comtech Industries has benefited and grown tremendously since its initial start. The company has doubled in size for the past four years and expects to continue this growth trajectory. To capitalize on this growth, some future plans include expanding operations into the Bakken Shale and Permian Basin with companies that are currently operating in those locations. “Currently, our customer base is growing,” says Mr. Grose. “By using our tank technology and the well pad of the future, we expect even more growth within the next five to ten years.”
Comtech Industries’ dedication to quality and service has been noted by the industry, as evidenced by its numerous accolades and awards. The company was awarded Vendor of The Year by corporate partner Chevron in 2012. Comtech works with Chevron’s Marcellus Shale Air Rigs to dewater and manage the drill cuttings produced from the air drilling process. “We are now working with Chevron to work on shrinking well pads, helping them save money. We’ve recently developed a vacuum manifold to download water in four minutes, not one drop hitting the ground. This helps increase efficiency and helps us meet impending regulations in the future. It might not be the cheapest way, but we are making plans to meet these upcoming changes in requirements.”
Certainly, the company’s principles of safety, respect, integrity, leadership, accountability, and innovation have driven its success over the years. Comtech Industries is committed to the highest standards of environmental, health, and safety performance, and under Mr. Grose’s leadership, the company has developed a set of standards and principles known as the Comtech Way. These principles include community involvement, safety, mentoring, environmental protection, continuous improvement through key performance indicators, and hazard awareness.
“We want to do the right things when no one is looking,” says Mr. Grose, whose vision and leadership have earned him recognition in the business community. In June, he received the Entrepreneur of The Year 2014 Award in the Energy category in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia. The award recognizes outstanding entrepreneurs who demonstrate excellence and extraordinary success in such areas as innovation, financial performance, and personal commitment to their businesses and communities.
Since 1995, Comtech Industries has evolved into a worldwide leader for water treatment in the oil and gas industry, and the company’s dedication to the principles of innovation, safety and environmental protection guarantee that the company will succeed for many years to come. “We’re a water management company and [offer] all of the water treatment, tanks, and other things involved in that,” says Mr. Grose. “You can track your water from cradle to grave; we’re trying to address the needs of our customers to help them save money and the environment.”