An innovative approach has quickly elevated Crossfire LLC to top-tier status among oilfield construction firms.

“We’re now available for operations in every state west of the Mississippi, plus Ohio, and we’re looking at further expansion in the eastern half of the country,” says Larry Rust, superintendent of Trucking Operations for Crossfire. “But we’re doing this slowly, adding what we can when we can, subject to maintaining our high level of quality and our safety record.”

In addition to their Ignacio home office, Crossfire has branch offices in 10 other states and is looking to expand on that metric as well. Business is booming in the oil, gas and mining industries, despite the economic downturn, and Crossfire intends to leverage that boom for itself and its clients.

“It’s all about safety, efficiency and integration,” says Derek McCoy, Crossfire’s business development manager. “If we can provide those values to our clients, and do it better than anyone else, the sky’s the limit for Crossfire.”

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Starting from humble origins, Crossfire has made the right decisions, retained the requisite skilled personnel, trained staff as needed and built an impressive list of clients: Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips and Shell, to name just four of 35 listed on their extensive resume. Crossfire built that resume with informed planning and gradual but continuous expansion into all construction industry service areas.

Growing the business

“Since we’re a one-owner company, our business strategy is based on industry growth guided by great team vision,” Rust says. “We trust the owner’s judgment, and it’s pointed us in the right direction so far. We’re all on the same page here at Crossfire.”

McCoy echoes that appraisal, observing how smaller privately held companies often have a better grasp of what they need to do to succeed: “We can adapt to changes in the industry or economy more quickly than large corporations. But to my mind, it’s our safety record that really sets us apart and gives us the edge to compete.”

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Crossfire has grown exponentially since the start of the boom in U.S. gas and oil exploration. Adding more services as needed to grab more business, they can now handle everything it takes to get a new operation up and running. That includes:

  • Initial road building
  • Well pad and wellhead installation
  • Onsite support buildings
  • Pipeline construction
  • Ongoing maintenance
  • Ongoing safety training

“We’re primarily a construction company, but we also have a maintenance side to the business,” Rust points out. “Once the wells are producing, we provide services for the production side of the operation as well. And that includes ongoing comprehensive safety training – at least 30 hours before we send anyone out on a job. It covers everything from CPR to defensive driving to job-specific skills.”

Crossfire is not limited to the gas and oil industry. Renewable energy projects, including hydro, wind and solar are also in their business plan. There’s not much potential for new hydro in this country, but Crossfire has done some hydro plant upgrades as part of the AARA program for national infrastructure.

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Leveraging technology

State-of-the-art technology also factors heavily into the business plan. This is what can level the playing field between smaller companies like Crossfire and their larger multinational competitors like, say, Halliburton. Crossfire has leveraged this technology on several fronts to improve and publicize their safety and efficiency stats.

Crossfire utilizes ISNetworld, an information portal that allows potential clients to access Crossfire’s (and their competitors’) policies and procedures, as well as their safety records. And Crossfire’s safety record is impressive.

VisionLink technology, provided by Caterpillar, assists with multi-state logistics monitoring. Not unlike the popular OnStar system for passenger vehicles, it provides data on such parameters as:

  • Location and run-time logs for engines and machines
  • Schedules for planned maintenance and major repairs
  • Management of fault codes or diagnostic codes
  • Problem detection before major component failures
  • Machine availability and productivity
  • Identification of inefficient operation and need for operator training

“For example, with any vehicle, we can monitor downtime, idle time and active time,” McCoy says. “If a vehicle isn’t operating in the most efficient manner, we can take the steps needed to correct that. It adds to our bottom line, and the client’s bottom line. Properly run and maintained equipment adds value for our clients.”

In addition, Crossfire uses Caterpillar’s Field Follow program. This augments the VisionLink system by incorporating logistics management protocols, again helping to use their equipment as efficiently as possible. They are currently using these systems to manage their recently acquired fleet of Caterpillar Hybrid 329 Excavators and Cat CT660 trucks integrated with Premier Oilfield Equipment CV Series hydroexcavator bodies.

Moving it around

Logistics technology further improves efficiency, reduces costs and adds value for Crossfire clients. In-house heavy equipment is deployed nationwide to ensure quality control and availability. That equipment includes:

  • 350 Yellow Iron Units, aka “big machines,” from Caterpillar
  • 40 hydroexcavation trucks, including a large fleet of Cat CT660 trucks integrated with Premier Oilfield Equipment CV Series hydroexcavator bodies, as well as Vactor HXX units on Peterbilt and Western Star chassis
  • Ditch Witch FX30 hydrovac trailers
  • A fleet of trenchers, including the Tesmec 1075 and M5, and a Vermeer T755
  • 10 Western Star 400EX heavy-haul trucks
  • 15 tandem end-dump trucks
  • Nine belly-dump trucks
  • 25 clean-water trucks (19 80-bbl and six 130-bbl)
  • Western Star hot-oil truck
  • Seven Peterbilt 367s with 55-ton National cranes, and one Sterling AT9500 with a Cormach knuckleboom crane
  • Three Finn T300 hydro-seeding units on Sterling chassis

Crossfire rarely uses local equipment or subcontractors. “We move our equipment around as needed,” Rust says. “We’ve got nine equipment distribution centers to help us do this allocation. By avoiding the use of subcontractors where we can, we know our heavy equipment is up to specs and being operated by our own people – people who already know how to use it safely.”

When they do have to use a subcontractor, which McCoy notes is sometimes necessitated by logistics, they run them through their training program first so they don’t risk compromising their excellent safety record.

Safety by the numbers

Crossfire’s CenterPoint Fire and Safety Program is a large part of their success. Safety training is required for both in-house and client personnel. In fact, CenterPoint is so highly regarded by the industry that competitors have applied for training.

The metrics for safety come down to two important numbers known as TRIR and EMR, calculated from data on how much work was done compared to how many accidents and injuries were reported. “TRIR and EMR ratings are like our credit score,” McCoy explains. “Our stellar record is what really drives our business.

“We strive for exceptional safety, not only to meet industry standards, but to exceed them. Crossfire’s safety stats are among the best in the industry. Still, we’re not satisfied with our performance until we meet our self-imposed goal of zero incidents, and we’ve done that in several years.”

TRIR stands for Total Recordable Incidence Rate. It’s based on recorded injuries in a calendar year, normalized per 100 workers, and divided by total man-hours worked. This number is used by insurance companies to set rates for liability and comprehensive policies. It can also affect the charges for bonding.

EMR stands for Experience Modification Rate, and it’s a crucial metric for any business. This number is used by insurance companies to gauge past cost of injuries and future chance of risk. The lower the EMR of your business, the lower your workers’ compensation insurance premiums will be.

For example, in 2013, Crossfire logged over 2 million man-hours worked, and over 11 million miles driven. Their TRIR was 0.37; the industry average is 2.0 to 3.0. Their EMR was 0.68; the industry average is defined as 1.0. This exemplary safety record translates into reduced costs for both Crossfire and its clients. Clients appreciate lower risks, and that drives much of Crossfire’s business.

Plans for the future

Crossfire started as a reclamation operation back in 2001, and that still comprises much of their business. Old industrial sites, especially those operating in the pre-EPA era, often have large areas contaminated by hazardous waste. Crossfire can handle that, and has worked with the environmental divisions of several large companies, like Chevron, to help them decommission older sites and bring them into compliance.

“We recently took on a job to decommission a 20-mile stretch of 50-year-old pipeline that runs under the Mississippi River,” McCoy says. “It’s an environmental legacy issue for the owner, and there’s no way we’re going to dig it up. Our plan is to flush it, remove any contaminates and then fill it with inert material to seal it off.”

Crossfire is capable of handling any decommissioning project up to $75 million, which could include coal power plants and refineries.

Philosophy for success

Crossfire founder Ezra Lee wrote their vision and mission statements, and they succinctly summarize his philosophy for success.

Vision Statement: At Crossfire our vision is to be the leading energy service contractor most admired for its people, relationships and performance.

Mission Statement: Crossfire’s mission is to consistently exceed the expectations of our customers and to be the best in the eyes of our employees.

McCoy says safety is everything in this industry, and that’s what sets Crossfire apart from the competition. “That’s why we started our CenterPoint Fire and Safety division. When we bring in new people, we train them in-house and put them in the field only after they’ve been fully NCCER certified.

“So if business is down in one area, rather than laying these people off and losing them to the marketplace, we can just move them to another area. Obviously, that’s good for retaining the people we’ve spent money to train, and adds value for the client.”

In addition to training their own people, Crossfire has had many of their competitors send staff through their safety training. Likewise for the subcontractors they use. And they also provide ongoing training for their clients’ personnel.

“Our owner has a unique approach to the business. For him, no job is too big or too small,” McCoy says. “It’s all about providing whatever our clients need. And I think a large part of our success comes down to that ‘can do’ attitude. With all of our employees sharing that philosophy, we’re really an unbeatable team.”

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