Pennsylvania contractor expands from water hauling into hydroexcavation and other oilfield services to keep business going in downturn.


Canyon Environmental has survived the downturn in crude oil prices because of its solid foundation formed at startup, but it also sees a need to grow and diversify.

“The oil boom was a very good foundation for the company to get on its feet and in a good position,” says Kevin Covey, business development manager for Canyon, based in Mansfield, Pennsylvania. In recent years, though, the company has added several other services to help withstand the ups and downs of the oil and gas industry.

While the company still focuses on its original specialty of water hauling, it has added general oilfield construction and most recently hydroexcavation both inside and outside the oilfields. “We’ve also added roustabout services and added more cleaning services with the use of hydroexcavators, like mud, frac and water tank clean-outs,” Covey says.

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Canyon Environmental knows its growth will come back as oil prices rebound, but until then it can stay busy with utility work, thanks to its hydroexcavation equipment.

A START IN CONSTRUCTION

Before becoming an oilfield services contractor, the company started as a general construction contractor known as Dirt Excavating and East Resources Construction, founded in 2005. The company changed direction and names in 2007 with the addition of water hauling and rig pad services.

"The original founding partner wanted to do water hauling and pad building for the local drillers and that’s how this venture started,” Covey says. “We’ve pretty much done everything in the business from containment, rig-up, rig-down and cleaning rig mats.”

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Through the years, the company, owned by William Bender, has added to those services. “We’ve provided general and skilled labor, mechanic and equipment repairs, water hauling, pipeline right of way cleaning and maintenance, and nondestructive hydroexcavation as well as various forestry services,” Covey says.

WATER HAULING TO HYDROEXCAVATION

The company hasn’t strayed too far from its origins, still operating water and other fluid-hauling trucks. “The water-hauling aspect of our company has always driven the number of employees,” says Covey. “In the beginning it drove the number of third-party trucks we would subcontract out for.”

Over time the company wanted more direct relationships with its customers and added its own water-hauling trucks. Today, Canyon Environmental has eight water trucks and two fluid-hauling trucks. “We run them 24 hours, seven days a week and every day of the year,” Covey says. “What makes us stand out from our competitors is being available all day long, every day.”

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In 2013, the company added hydroexcavation to complement its water hauling. Canyon Environmental has two Vactor HXX hydroexcavators and expects to add a third in the near future.

“It mixed well with our water trucks and support services as far as cleaning of rigs and frac tanks,” Covey says. “It allows us the mobility to go to locations and have a nice tool to do multiple cleaning duties.”

The machines also enabled Canyon to move into potholing.

“When we first looked at them, we knew they had the ability to pothole and we learned how popular they are in the pipeline industry for utility crossings,” Covey says. “That has commingled a lot with the work we do around compressor stations when the pipeline enters or leaves. Compressor stations have just a huge web of utilities underground. It’s very common to use a hydrovac in that application.”

Covey says utility locating services are growing in popularity because they reduce the risk of accidents that happen in traditional excavation: “It’s safer for the crews and for the general public.”

TRACKING WITH GPS

Keeping track of its equipment can be daunting, but it’s made easier by a GPS program the company developed. “We have the GPS service for our mobile assets to help us and our customers,” Covey says. “It gives our customers a real-time view of where the trucks are and what we are doing while we are on their clock.”

In place for two years, the customized GPS program gives company officials and customers access to truck information. Customers can see where the water shipments are and when to anticipate delivery. “Oilfield people built this program for oilfield people,” Covey says. “That’s the difference between the system we use and other GPS systems.”

The GPS program also allows company officials to monitor their employees’ safety on the roads. “It really helps with our safety, because we can watch the trucks, the speed and location,” Covey says. “We can see what the weather is like in a location they are at and go back to the GPS and see if the trucks are maintaining a safe speed.”

SAFETY IS NO. 1

While a crew of two can operate the hydroexcavators, Canyon requires a crew of three to run its machines. “We have the operator and two swampers,” Covey says. “If one needs to take a break, the free guy can step in and help. We planned it that way to keep the crews safer out in the field.”

The company has an in-house safety program that employees go through weekly to stay familiar with skills such as CPR, first aid, confined-space training and hazardous materials handling.

“All employees go through a similar safety program, but I would consider the hydrovac training a little more extensive because of the equipment used and the confined space involved,” Covey says. “Roustabouts are also trained extensively for oilfield work.”

Covey says company owner Bender is very safety conscious. “He promotes a safe environment and workplace at all times.”

RIDING THE WAVE

Canyon hasn’t been immune to the decline in crude oil prices and has had to lay off employees, but the company has stayed productive and positive by offering diverse services.

Covey is excited to see what the future holds for that part of the company. “If the potential of line locating with municipalities and utilities goes where we think it’s going, we think it would be a growth spurt for this company,” he says. “Going with the land clearing and utility site work and potholing gives us a lot of great hope in riding out this wave.”

Covey also expects the industry to turn around, as it has done before. “Hopefully we ride it out to the next boom and the next boom is right around the corner,” he says. “We’ll be ready to go back to work full force when the oilfield calls come in.”


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