Geomembrane extruder Brawler Industries LLC is arming itself to weather a slowdown in oil and gas production that is hurting demand for its products.
Brawler is committing $10 million to expand its wide-sheet extrusion and lamination capacity in Houston, where the company is headquartered. Most of the funds are directed at equipment purchases with a smaller amount to add floor space and boost ceiling height, Chief Financial Officer John Collins said in a phone interview.
Brawler will install a new Gloucester Engineering blown film line and a lamination line in Houston and bring them up to production late this year. They will complement three other extrusion and lamination lines and sheet welding and other fabrication equipment Brawler operates in Houston and in plants in Midland and Pleasanton, Texas, and in Miles City, Mont.
“The oil and gas industry keeps us happy when it's busy but when it turns down we need to look around at other markets,” Collins explained. Brawler's extruded polyethylene sheet and scrim-reinforced PE sheet also find use in environmental, agricultural, athletic field and infrastructure applications and these areas could become more important to Brawler, Collins said.
New equipment means Brawler can offer PE sheets in widths up to 25 feet, which in many cases are heat welded together to create panels to line ponds or to act as tarpaulins for athletic fields. Currently Brawler can extrude 22-foot-wide sheet. The new equipment also allows Brawler to cut back on how much wide sheet it buys from other extruders. The firm can extrude sheet from 6 millimeters thickness up to 80 mm. Multi-layer coextrusion capability means Brawler can incorporate color schemes and textures into its products. Its sheets can meet performance standards for high density PE and linear low density PE sheets set by the Geosynthetic Research Institute in Folsom, Pa.
Brawler Industries' origins date to 1978 although it got its current corporate identify in 2012. The company includes the former West Texas Plastics and Western Industries businesses. It claims to be one of the first firms to produce and convert PE film and reinforced PE film for applications such as reserve pit and frac liners.
“We want to build on our longstanding position in energy by providing superior quality, service and choices to the customers in the agricultural, environmental and construction markets,” noted Kent Metzger, vice president of sales, in a news release.
Brawler also announced the appointment of John Keating as Brawler's CEO, replacing Rick Gasser who will continue as a director on Brawler's board. Keating had been president of In-Line Plastics Inc., a Houston geomembrane extruder that was bought by private equity firm Tailwind Capital Group LLC in May 2014 and combined with the former West Texas Plastics and Western Industries to create Brawler.
Tailwind, founded in 2003 and based in New York, invests in mid-market companies in diverse sectors that include business, health care and communications.