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Oil Lift Technology Inc.: Changing the Oil Industry with Innovative Technology
Vern Hult founded Oil Lift Technology Inc (OLT). in 2000 as a small technology company geared towards resolving long-standing obstacles in oil field operation. Hult, founder and senior vice president of technology and corporate development for OLT, started off with four employees. Over the last decade, the crew has experienced rapid growth and global expansion. “Before starting this company, I worked as the general manager for the technology center at Weatherford,” Hult elaborates. “Before that I worked with Griffin and Grand, which Weatherford acquired. I already had a lot of experience and I saw an opportunity.
“There are issues that had been a problem for the progressive cavity pump business that still had not been addressed,” he continues. “We offer a better technical solution. I started up this company to develop equipment that solves some of the largest issues in the oil industry. We build products to increase safety, protect the environment and reduce our customers’ operating costs.” Hult and his crew have succeeded in improving operations for customers, a factor that has boosted OLT’s sales and brought in business from around the globe.
A Better Way
A development that stands out personally for Hult is the solution to what he calls a perennial problem in the industry. “Oil leaks at well heads have been a major problem,” he explains. “An oil leak is also an expensive problem. Oil companies have to repair or replace the oil head, which on its own is costly. Most often, they have to perform an environmental cleanup, which is an awful lot of expense. Years ago, this was happening all too frequently.
“When we solved that problem, it really changed the industry,” Hult continues. “First, we made a product that lasts longer. It is easier and less expensive to fix and our customers do not have to remove it from the well in order to fix it. On top of that, we used conventional materials, all things the oil industry is used to using. It was one of those issues where you know there has to be a better way and it turns out that the solution is fairly straightforward. We put the stuffing box on top of the drive instead of underneath it. It becomes more accessible because you have a way of renewing it without having to rebuild the drive for the well. We call it the Zero-Spill Stuffing Box.”
OLT continues to develop leak prevention technology, however Hult explains that there is another important side of the business. “Safety becomes more important every year,” he says. “We want to produce gear drives that meet those ends. For all of our drives, we keep the moving parts inside the body or enclosed within a guard. This makes it significantly easier to keep people out of the way of potential harm.
“Another considerable issue is growing as wells get larger,” Hult adds. “When you shut off an oil well, all of the fluid you are trying to lift drops back to where it was. You have a rod 2,000 to 3,000 feet in the ground that is wound up. It stores a lot of energy which needs to be released. If that release is not close and controlled, the situation can become very dangerous. It is common in the industry to have a swivel at the top of the well, used as speed reduction for the motor. When the well spins back at a high speed, that swivel can pull up, sending particles flying that can hurt people at a great distance. We came up with a centrifugal brake system, which is virtually failsafe.”
The company serves clients in Canada as well as the United States, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Columbia, Argentina, Russia, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Oman, Yemen, Gabon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, Vietnam, Indonesia, Australia and New Zealand. “The artificial lift business was developed in Canada,” says Hult. “If people want to know more about this technology, they look to our country. With that, we recognize that if we have a good presence in Canada, we have international interest. We market ourselves through building connections. We exhibit at major trade shows, such as the Global Petro Show in Calgary and the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. These exhibitions have helped us establish a name in the industry.”
Hult insists that on a global scale, his business is relatively small for the industry. “At our head office in Alberta, we have about 70 people,” he says. “We have another manufacturing plant in Australia with roughly 45 people there. Then we have 11 field locations. Depending on size, we average at about five or six people at each of those locations. The engineering crew at the home office continues to grow, participating in an active development program to improve existing products and seek new alternatives to serve customer needs.
Despite economic challenges, Hult and his team continue to expand the company’s reach internationally. “We had to tighten our belts like everyone else,” Hult notes. Within the next few years, the OLT team seeks to provide complete artificial lift solutions to customers, working in cooperation with Norris Production Solutions, a corporate family of oil field technology and service professionals. Through these developments, Hult believes Oil Lift Technology can continue to impact the oil industry, offering safer solutions for people and the environment while helping to create jobs worldwide.