Bamocol Is On The Forefront Of Portable Sanitation Service For The Oil Industry In Colombia

Colombia’s Bamocol is up to the challenge of placing and cleaning restrooms in remote jungle regions to serve the burgeoning energy sector.
Bamocol Is On The Forefront Of Portable Sanitation Service For The Oil Industry In Colombia
Bamocol employees William Franco and Albert Murillo consult on the development of trails at Campo Rubiales.

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THE TEAM

Bamocol, a portable restroom and septic service company based in Cali, Colombia, is owned by Carlos Enrique Robles Mejia and his wife, Maria del Mar Zambrano Jaramillo. Robles says his most valuable assets are his 110 employees. “We always worry very much about our people,” he says. “We always take care of them, love them, treat them as the most important thing in the company, otherwise you won’t have a future.”

Other family members include Zambrano’s brother Adolfo Zambrano, operations and financial manager and Robles’ right-hand man, and his wife Adriana de Angulo, customer service manager.

COMPANY HISTORY

In the ‘90s Robles worked as an architect. He also enjoyed hang gliding, which indirectly led him into the portable sanitation business. “Before we go to fly, you always want to go to the bathroom,” he explains. “In Colombia we have to go to the trees.” Portable restrooms were unheard of then.

In 1995, when a friend brought back a picture of a portable restroom from a hang gliding event in Mexico, Robles saw the future and the course of his life changed. A few months later he attended a Satellite Industries trade show in Bogotá, where he bought his first two units. In 1998, Robles formed Bamocol, ordered 40 Satellite Tufway units, borrowed an old truck and built a trailer and tank.

Because portable restrooms were a novelty, business development was slow. Robles took any request that came along including dangerous assignments in the mountains where he had several frightening encounters with guerrilla fighters. But there were some benefits, he says. “I became very famous. Everyone wanted to know about the [restrooms] – TV, newspapers. From being an unknown architect, I became a very famous portable toilet guy.”

The tide turned in 2004 when Bamocol won a large contract from an engineering firm working on a transportation system. “From 92 toilets we went to 200 in just three or four months. Then we started growing.”

The company operates out of eight locations with 1,500 units and 37 service vehicles.

MAKING CONNECTIONS

In 2006 Bamocol received a two-year contract with the national oil company. The contract opened the door for further oilfield work, which soon became a focus for the company. It now has contracts with all the major local and multinational oil companies.

MAIN EVENT

Oil production in Colombia has grown in recent years after regulatory reforms led to increased foreign investment. Fields are found throughout the country – from the Andes foothills in the west to the plains bordering Venezuela in the east, from the Amazonian jungles in the south to centrally-located Rubiales, the largest field.

Because of the distances involved, Robles opened branch offices in each area contracts were awarded – Villavicencio, Barrancabermeja, Puerto Boyacá, Aguachica, Campo Rubiales and Yopal – all focusing on oilfield work. He also opened a branch in the capital, Bogotá, which, along with Cali, also does special events, construction projects, septic work and industrial pipe cleaning.

THE JOB

Working in oilfields is unique and challenging, Robles says. “It’s complicated, but since we have been doing it since 2006, every day we learn more, our work is easier, we can do what they ask us to do.” Challenges include:

Regulations. Bamocol must comply with numerous local, national and international regulations covering safety, the environment, personnel, service vehicles, security and waste treatment. Each branch has a specialist whose job is to keep up with regulations and ensure compliance.

Security. All prospective employees take a polygraph test. This is a company policy after having had some bad experiences, as well as a requirement by petroleum companies to conduct background checks on drivers. Each oilfield has different security requirements regarding access. Those on public roads are the easiest. In other cases, drivers must pass through security checkpoints after having made arrangements days ahead of time. Access to refineries is the strictest, requiring advance permission and extensive documentation.

Travel. Oilfields are generally in remote areas where roads are few and in poor condition. Drivers are also hampered by the 25 mph speed limit in many areas. Because of difficult travel conditions the 10 drivers in Campo Rubiales stay at the camp on a 21-days-on/9-days-off or 14-days-on/7-days-off schedule, with food supplied by the client.

Robles must travel by plane to visit his remote offices – two to Campo Rubiales, two to Aguachica and Puerto Boyacá plus a 3 1/2 hour drive. “I travel all the time – in a plane, by boat, driving,” he says.

BY THE NUMBERS

The company has 50 Satellite Wave hand-wash stations and 600 Satellite portable restrooms in numerous oilfield locations – mostly sand-colored Tufways but pink Globals for women unhappy sharing with men. “A good solution was to buy pink because macho men will never use a pink toilet,” Robles says. Units are delivered using company-designed trailers or, in tight conditions, service vehicles.

All units have a flush system. “When we started our business, we always thought we wanted it to be the best – the best service, the best toilets,” Robles says. “Our philosophy is to give an example to others, not only to our competitors but to the society.”

Bamocol keeps track of units, trucks and drivers with a company-developed GPS system. Every unit has a chip the drivers scan which sends an email to customer operations and the main office. “The customer and us, we know exactly what time the service truck is at the toilet,” Robles says. “We also know what speed he’s going, where he’s going, who is driving, when the pump starts.”

KEEPIN’ IT CLEAN

Cleaning procedures are written down and reviewed constantly to ensure compliance with certification requirements. Using Safe T Fresh deodorant products from Satellite, units are serviced two or three times a week by uniformed drivers wearing oil-industry-required long-sleeved coveralls, work boots, hard hats, rubber gloves and respirators (3M Company Model 601). The company recently purchased three LANDA PHW4-30024B hot-water power washers. “You can’t imagine how much the smell of our toilets changes with that,” Robles says. “With those things you start making a difference with your competitors.”

Service vehicles are mostly 2004 through 2015 Freightliners, Chevrolets, Fords, Nissans, Hyundais and Internationals outfitted with company-designed, locally sourced steel tanks ranging in size from 260 gallons waste/130 gallons freshwater to 1,300 gallons waste/260 gallons freshwater. They use Jurop, Masport Inc. and Conde (Westmoor Ltd.) pumps.

Waste disposal is one of the company’s biggest challenges. Robles says only 11 percent of the country’s treatment plants are in good working order, so he has had to take matters into his own hands. In Barrancabermeja he built a plant with a partner. He also sponsors sanitation research at local universities. “We can’t only be a portable toilet company. We must look forward to have our own treatment plants to close the circle,” he says.

Most of the company’s branches are near good facilities, but from Puerto Boyacá it’s a four-hour drive, and Villavicencio five hours. Waste is stored in bulk drums before the once- or twice-weekly transport.

READY FOR THE FUTURE

Bamocol has a solid niche in the high-barriers-to-entry oilfield work and is expecting more work there in the future, providing units for road construction crews and hauling water used in the pumping process, which companies are required to treat. “Colombia only has around 15,000 portable restrooms and we have 47 million people. So we have a big future,” Robles says.

MORE INFORMATION

3M Oil and Gas - 888/364-3577 - www.3m.com/oilandgas

Jurop/Chandler - 800/342-0887 - www.chandlerequipment.com

LANDA - 800/526-3248 - www.landa.com

Masport, Inc. - 800/228-4510 - www.masportpump.com

Satellite Industries - 800/328-3332 - www.satelliteindustries.com

Westmoor Ltd. - 800/367-0972 - www.westmoorltd.com



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