Polyflow LLC has shipped more than 4 million feet of spooled pipe from its Oaks, Pa., factory to oil and natural gas companies working the Permian Basin that straddles west Texas and southern New Mexico in the last 2-3 years, according to CEO Jim Medalie.
That's 757 miles of reinforced thermoplastic (RPT) pipe being hauled some 1,780 miles to the nation's most prolific oil-producing area.
However, Polyflow's logistics just got a lot easier. The company announced the grand opening of its new manufacturing plant in a renovated building in Midland, Texas, this morning.
“Now we're closer to our customers, which means a quicker response time, and we have a service center to support them,” Medalie said in a telephone interview, listing exploration and production companies like Conoco Phillips, Devon Energy, Apache, Pioneer Natural Resources and Occidental Petroleum among PolyFlow's clientele.
The 50,000-square foot plant is the first RTP facility in the Permian Basin, Medalie added, and it also will serve the Eagle Ford Shale play in south Texas and parts of Oklahoma. The CEO wouldn't say exactly how much of an investment the second manufacturing operation represents for PolyFlow but he did say it has three lines of new equipment to double capacity. Thirty-five jobs will eventually be created.
“The plant is highly automated with very little labor needed. It's capital intensive,” Medalie said.
Polyflow is increasing production of its multi-layer Thermoflex product line, which uses a proprietary technology to bond seemingly non-compatible polymer liners together for lightweight but strong pipes between 1 and 6 inches in diameter.
“We've really grown tremendously. We've tripled our business in the last two years,” Medalie said.
Thermoflex competes against pipes made of steel, polyethylene (PE), high density polyethylene, and other RTPs, which Medalie said are typically lined with PE and reinforced with fiber glass or other materials.
“We have a unique position with the inner liner of our pipe, which comes in contact with the hydrocarbons or fluid being moved” Medalie said.
The inner-most layer of Thermoflex is made of either a proprietary nylon or Fortron, which is polyphenylene sulfide, for corrosion resistance and high-temperature strength.
“A lot of competitors use polyethylene, which can absorb hydrocarbon into it, and change its property,” Medalie said. “Nylon is extremely resistant. It's used for fuel lines in automobiles. The Fortron is used for sour environments where we have a lot of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) or CO2. A lot of wells in west Texas and around the country are sour and we have a unique advantage over our competitors with our Fortron liner.”
The center layer of Thermoflex contains an aramid-fiber reinforced weave for strength and high tensile load. Medalie notes that one of the best known aramids is Kevlar, which is used to make bullet-proof vests.
The outer jacket of Thermoflex pipe is made of polypropylene or nylon to protect the braided fibers from abrasion.
The result is RTP pipes that are strong, can handle pressure of 275 to 3,000 pounds per square inch, and are lightweight enough to be moved around job sites without large cranes or heavy equipment. All these features help get wells — and revenue — flowing faster, Medalie said.
“Our main value proposition is that our product is quicker and easier to install so our customers get a return on their investment immediately or more quickly than others,” he said. “We've had customers deploy over 2 miles in a day.”
Polyflow also will send out deployment trailers to help customers maneuver the huge reels of pipe. A spool can hold 2,000 to 6,000 feet of Thermoflex, which is typically used from well heads to storage batteries -- points of collection and disbursement for producing wells -- or to connect storage batteries together.
The Permian Basin is about 200 miles wide and 300 miles long. Crude oil production there increased from a low point of 850,000 barrels a day in 2007 to 1.35 million in 2013, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
If needed, Polyflow can add capacity to its Midland plant, Medalie said. He is optimistic about the basin despite some worry on Wall Street that slumping oil prices could scare off investors and cut off the cash flow to drilling companies.
“I think we're still very enthusiastic about the opportunities in the Permian Basin,” Medalie said. “It's been a great market and we expect it to continue. Companies are still investing heavily in the Permian and there's still a lot of oil to be had.”