PetroFeed App helps industry officials locate and track Canadian drill rigs and wells.

The oil and gas market is huge business in Canada, but sometimes it can be tough keeping track of which companies are moving rigs or who is drilling where.

Ashley Dunfield’s PetroFeed mobile application for iOS and Android devices – as well as desktop and laptop computers – can help track all of that information.

“Rig location information and activity information is just fundamental to basically everything that’s happening in the oil and gas industry. That’s where all the money is being spent,” says Dunfield, CEO and founder of PetroFeed. “Really, the rig represents just the primary service among many services that go into actually doing that job and getting that well built and on stream.”

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Dunfield says by offering the app, which went live in February 2013, his company is building a network for industry professionals that allows them to do their jobs in the oilfields easier.

“This is for anyone who is working in the field that actually needs to go to well sites,” Dunfield says. “It gives you directions and gives you visibility into what is happening around you. You can follow a rig and get status notifications automatically pushed to you when something changes.”

The app, which is available in both the iTunes app store and Google Play store, shows the user the location and status of every drilling rig in western Canada. By clicking on the rig, users can see all the related historical information, including its previous drilling locations and activities. Users can also receive directions to the site or connect to that rig, Dunfield says.

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“You press the connect button and it’ll ask you what your position is on that rig, whether it be rig manager, tool push or whatever,” Dunfield says. “Then we go through a verification process to confirm you are who you say you are and once we verify that, you’ll actually see a private social group around that rig.”

Those users who are able to connect to the rig can then post messages and exchange information about the activities and operations on site, but it’s only visible to people who are securely connected.

“[PetroFeed] is also extremely useful to anyone in sales and business development in the service sector, so they’re trying to track where potential job opportunities are opening up or where to drive sales,” Dunfield says.

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The app allows users to follow several different rigs or one specific company and provides a level of transparency to well pad activities, Dunfield says.

The idea

Dunfield grew up in the oil and gas industry and got the idea for the app while being mentored to take over his father’s oil company.

“Social networks were really just catching on at that time and I was looking at what does a social network do to make it so efficient for one person to communicate with so many,” Dunfield says. “What I ended up creating was this other company called Life Socket that actually uses principles of social networking technology as not just a relationship between people, but relationships between other things like a house to determine contacts and relevance.”

Life Socket drew interest from different government agencies and Dunfield was able to connect with some engineers from Google and Facebook and gain exposure to modern software technologies, techniques and concepts.

“I did that for a few years before realizing I never want to sell to government again and the best place I could actually apply what I knew was back in the oil and gas industry,” he says. “Using all that technology, I came back into the oil and gas industry where I have very unique domain experience, knowledge and connections. That’s essentially where PetroFeed came from.”

Dunfield says it has taken about a year to really get the app to the point where he could market it, which includes 10 months of development before the first version was released publicly in 2013.

PetroFeed uses a variety of sources to gather its rig-site information – oil and gas companies, the government and industry associations. The app then stitches it together to create the most accurate, real-time information possible, Dunfield says.

Getting exposure

In late August and early September, local and national media attention pushed the app to No. 1 in the Canada App Store’s business category on iTunes.

Dunfield says the popularity of the app shows how important the industry is not only to those in it but the general public as well.

“Traditionally, this information has only been available via an expensive subscription and even then it mostly wasn’t mobile, it was mostly desktop-based applications that had it,” Dunfield says.

Dunfield adds that the free services offered on the app and website now will always be free, but the company is looking at adding more sophisticated features and functionalities that eventually will be rolled into a fee-based premium category.

“I think part of the reason for our success is not just the availability of the data and making it free, but also making it extremely easy to access,” Dunfield says. “The information is just so simple. A lot of the feedback we’ve had is that people just love how easy it is.”

Bigger plans

Dunfield has seen his company grow and doesn’t expect it to stop anytime soon. When the app launched in February 2013 they had six employees, in mid-August they had nine and by the end of September they had 15.

Dunfield expects to have 21 employees by January.

“We’ve had explosive growth. There’s no way we would have ever committed to the kind of user numbers that we have already achieved,” Dunfield says. “It’s the kind of user numbers that we would have dreamed for and they’ve come in very, very rapidly for us.”

PetroFeed added well locations to its database in mid-September and now the company is looking to expand into the United States. Dunfield says the company is looking at five different areas in the U.S., but hasn’t picked which ones to push out first. U.S. oil and gas industry officials – and the general public – can already download and access the app, but currently it only shows Canadian information.

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