Good, Bad and Ugly for PROs in Oilfields

Good, Bad and Ugly for PROs in Oilfields
PROs in the know say working in the oil and gas industry is not a job for everyone.

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When it comes to serving the oil and gas industry, all that glitters isn’t black gold. Yes, the profit potential can be enticing, but portable restroom operators in the know say it’s not a job for all. Here are some words of warning from PROs who work hard to maintain — and grow — portable sanitation operations in the booming oil and gas industry. 

Do it now

Working with companies in the oil and gas industry can be demanding, says Mark Knight of Bill’s Service in Knox, Pa. “They want it done now,” he says. “So many times with the portable toilets, if I could have serviced them on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, it would have fit into my schedule. But no, they wait ’til Sunday morning and then they call and say, ‘Hey, you got to come out here right now.’ ” 

Cold climate

Frigid temperatures can be another challenge of working in the Marcellus Shale. “There was heavy usage and a lot of frozen restrooms — you just couldn’t keep ahead of them,” says Knight, who provided approximately a dozen restrooms for two local wells, pumped holding tanks for crew camps and hauled in freshwater. That was two years ago, before the lure of riches brought in price-cutting competition. 

Restroom rivalry

“You don’t want to work for nothing,” he says. “It doesn’t really make it feasible to do anymore. I guess if the boom was here, then the price would go up. I think a lot of these companies are working relatively cheap; cheaper than I want to work for.” 

Knight, who has approximately 600 restrooms in his inventory, doesn’t believe in removing units from construction sites to service a well that can go from boom to bust in a matter of weeks. “You can’t put all your eggs in one basket,” he says. 

One area Knight has found profitable is providing service for construction crews building compressor stations. “They last eight to 10 months,” he says. “I’d rather be with the construction people at the compressor stations than have a bunch of wells where they’re drilling a well here and a well there.” 

Education is key

Braden Jones of ACE Enterprises services refineries near Baton Rouge, La. Education is his biggest issue. “They don’t understand the service — how often to service and how many toilets it takes,” he says. 

“We have to teach them. They’ll order 30 toilets and three-times-a-week service, and they work seven days a week. Instead of 15 people per toilet, they’ll do 30 people per toilet. You’ve got to educate them on how it all works.” 

Quantities of scale

Approximately 95 percent of the 3,000 restrooms Jones supplies are standard units. “I’ve got 400 hand-wash stations out and another 400 holding tanks.” Serving the sites are 18 employees and 12 vacuum trucks. 

Jones says it’s that concentration of service that makes the job attractive, even if the per-unit charge is less than at a construction site. “You might have 250 toilets within the radius of the plant, but you don’t have to run 20 to 30 miles down the road to service a toilet.”


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