Brothers Mike and Kelly Clark had no intentions of breaking into the oil and gas markets back in 2000 before they realized there was a void begging to be filled – or, more specifically, a hole to be excavated.
Back then, the Clarks were in entirely different industries until someone approached Kelly – an attorney – about initiating litigation with a hydro excavation company.
As he conducted his research for the case, Kelly Clark soon realized there was hardly any competition in this market. As a result, he brought his brother into this venture to start a new company.
By June 2001, Hydro-X – now H2X – was launched with one truck outfitted with equipment to dig trenches using water while simultaneously vacuuming the slurry into a debris tank. With headquarters in Decatur, Texas, the company now has 27 trucks operating in six states. H2X also boasts three operating centers in Texas, one in Colorado and two more in California.
The more successful H2X becomes, the more word spreads in the oil and gas industry about the hydrovac process. In fact, Kelly Clark believes the only thing keeping his company from growing even faster is a lack of familiarity in the United States with the concept, which is much more popular in Canada.
“Really, this boils down to increasing awareness that hydrovacs are out there and should be digging up all utilities,” Kelly Clark explains.
Making the Machines
The hydrovac process was so far under the radar in the United States at the turn of the millennium that Clark says H2X struggled to find manufacturers that could make trucks with the proper equipment. In fact, H2X partnered with a manufacturer that did not have these capabilities on an experimental basis so both parties could determine what would and would not work on these machines.
“We were one of our manufacturer’s guinea pigs for several years,” Clark says. “We got to a point where several years later, we were able to figure out what worked and what didn’t.”
By 2006, H2X approached another manufacturer with some components that worked for its operations. Clark says H2X approached these manufacturers ready to buy their machines if they were built properly.
“We went to them and said, ‘If you build the trucks we want, we’ll buy the trucks from you,’” Kelly Clark says. “We came up with a truck that’s on the road today, and it is one of the best. Our primary truck builder now is Vacall, a division of Gradall.”
In addition to hydro excavation, the hydrovac trucks include a rig cleaning system that is designed to cater to the drilling side of the oil and gas business. The Clark brothers determined this was necessary because so many rigs are self-contained – this system allows H2X to completely clean a rig and its mud tanks before it moves on.
“It works really well, and it works better than anything we had previously,” Kelly Clark says.
This is especially important for operators using hydraulic fracturing with their wells. When frac water is extracted from the ground, it often carries harsh solid materials that settle in a tank used for bringing clean water to the rig. H2X’s trucks are able to clean out these tanks before they’re filled with more water.
Standardizing the Industry
The word is beginning to spread about hydro-excavation, according to Kelly Clark, and this is a huge advantage for H2X considering the competition is still somewhat scarce, depending on the geographic area. Mike Clark cites insurance companies looking into the process as a good sign of things to come for his business because clients will do whatever they can to keep those premiums down.
“The best practices are starting to show up, and facility owners are starting to require certain things,” Mike Clark says. “They see us or somebody else doing something in particular, they say, ‘We have to have this nondestructive excavation, whatever it is.’ So, there’s starting to be a little more standardization of practices.”
The Clark brothers are doing their best to speed up that standardization by staying active in industry associations. For instance, H2X is a member of the American Equipment Manufacturing Association, and H2X is working with the group to determine practices and procedures for hydrovacs.
All the while, H2X continues to serve oil and gas operators throughout the United States wherever they might need a hydrovac. As the Clark brothers see it, there’s no stopping how big H2X can become as long as the oil and gas industry remains robust, and it seems as if it will remain that way for quite a while.
“We’re aiming for world domination through hydro-excavation,” Mike Clark jokes. “We’re going to get as big as we can get.”