Saskatchewan company works hard keeping oilfield leases free of plants that cause a safety hazard
Just over a year ago, Dustin Ng and Brant Kersey saw an opportunity they couldn’t pass up. The brothers-in-law knew Pride Upkeep, a vegetation control business owned by a cousin, was for sale.
“We really saw a chance to buy the business and dive right in,” Ng says. “We knew it was a service that was in demand by the oil and gas industry.”
Located in Estevan, Saskatchewan, Pride Upkeep provides vegetation and weed control, mowing and weed whipping of plants on oil lease properties. Excess vegetation on a property is a safety hazard and can interfere with operations.
“We handle properties of all sizes from oil facilities upwards of 1 million square feet to a thousand square foot abandoned well,” Ng says.
During their first summer in the fields, Ng, who previously worked in an insurance office, and Kersey, who formerly worked in the newspaper industry, were joined by Ng’s cousins – Pride Upkeep’s previous owners. Ng says they showed them how everything worked and what went into getting the job done.
“It’s a lot of work. You walk a lot,” he says, adding that crew members spray the fields using 500-foot retractable hoses. “It’s more efficient that way.”
Pride Upkeep hires four seasonal workers and runs three teams of two people each. The company has three heavy-duty Dodge 5500 trucks equipped with a tank that holds 3,000 liters of chemicals. In addition to working on leases, they also do some shop yards as well.
“We’re a seasonal business and start on May 15 and go until early September,” Ng says. “On a good day, we can cover 100 leases.”
The days in the field are long and heavily dependent on the weather. If it’s too windy or wet, the crews can’t work. While Ng and Kersey are out in the field, their wives handle the administrative work, tracking where and when work was completed.
“It all needs to be documented,” Ng says.
Proper planning is key to the business’ success. He and Kersey line up customers who are near each other on the same day to cut down on travel time.
“Efficiency and pre-planning are very important. We hand-map the locations as calls come in so we can see where all the clients are and then plan from there,” Ng says, adding the company serves clients within 200 kilometers of Estevan.
This past winter, Ng and Kersey worked the phones and met with potential customers to line up clients for the season.
“Pride has a tremendous reputation in the community and people know we do a good job,” Ng says. “We try to create a personal relationship with customers and work to meet their needs.”
Needs differ depending on the property. For example, they may mow vegetation and weed-whip on organic land while on others they use herbicides.
“We just get in there and start working on taking care of the vegetation on the property,” Ng says.
While the industry is going through tough times as oil prices decline, Ng says Pride Upkeep remains busy.
“There’s maybe a little less work than before, but the oil and gas companies still need to make sure their properties are taken care of since having too much vegetation can be a real safety issue,” he says.