After our trip to Tokyo and Kobe, we had to tell our customer, Chevron that there would not be a quick solution to the problem of the Kobe Steel nitrogen generating plant under-performing because Kobe needed to make extensive repairs and modifications. Chevron had been able to produce some oil and gas from their field and had used our nitrogen compressors to inject re-cycled natural gas which allowed them to produce at a limited rate much lower than they wanted. They were quite happy with our compression and said that they understood the Kobe problem. Despite this, there was some talk about “throwing us and Kobe off the mountain.”
We of course, promised that we would do all we could to expedite the acquisition and installation of equipment to remove water and carbon dioxide from the air feed and for new heat exchangers needed to replace the inadequate Kobe accumulators. To this end, we had already contacted the Trane Company in Lacrosse, WI to see if they could expedite delivery of their aluminum plate exchangers that had become quite prevalent in the cryogenic industry, on an urgent basis or if they possibly had some suitable exchangers already constructed for another customer that might agree to letting us have them for suitable
recompense. We warned Kobe to find or send over qualified aluminum welders because we had found that none were available in Evanston.
I was able to leave the nitrogen plant to Al Domeshek for a while and this allowed me to get up to date on some of our other major pieces of business that fortunately were all running well with no problems. The first of these was a much larger gas compression contract with Amoco at their Anschutz Ranch field on the opposite side of Evanston to the Chevron operation. Amoco had mostly gas wells and the produced gas was treated to recover some liquids and was then gathered together and piped to our compression building. This housed an impressive row of ten 800 HP gas engine driven reciprocating compressors that pumped the pressure to about 120 psig to send it to market via the Trailblazer Pipeline.
Another even larger project was the entire operation contract with Chevron for the Sacroc carbon dioxide system in west Texas that entailed gathering quite high quality produced carbon dioxide at four multi-compressor stations in the Permian Basin, south of Fort Stockton, TX,
transporting it through a 230 mile above ground pipeline and injecting it as a flood gas into oil wells near Odessa, TX. We were responsible for all phases of this system including the pipeline itself.
We also operated two major Progas plants that provided an inert gas for pressure maintenance in a very unique process developed by Production Operators. This was a gas engine driven compressor compressing the exhaust gas from its own gas engine driver after suitable drying and treating, and injecting it into a non-producing well to enhance the production of oil. One of these plants was in the Permian Basin at Iraan, TX and the other was in a Phillips Oil field west of Oklahoma City, OK.
Apart from these principal operations, the routine original contract compression service was growing continually. Customers that took advantage of our service found that they liked it and started using our compressors in many of their other locations. Our services were principally in Texas, Oklahoma Louisiana, Wyoming and Colorado with many units at single remote wells. This required a varying density of operators. Some regions had a lot of units within a small area that could all be handled by a single operator. In more remote areas like west Texas, if the units were spread out, a single operator might only be responsible for two or three units. All operators were in touch by phone or radio and had a personal truck and tools. Typically, they would only routinely visit a unit unless they were notified by the customer of any problem. These operators also helped install or move units as needed and all reported to area managers or the head office. We had a good rapport with with all operating personnel who truly represented the entire company when they were in remote locations since they were the only POI people the customer ever saw. We relied on them in all kinds of weather and had to totally trust them to uphold the reputation we had gradually been accumulating.
Our sales representatives were also located in the many oil and gas producing areas and reported to a Sales Manager in the Houston Office. We developed an incentive program for the sales personnel and it served to keep them very active and most of our revenue producing zones were continually growing and expanding.
On the accounting side of our business, we found that, as the company had been growing, the demands on Accounting were creating difficulties in responding. We not only needed financial reports from the various sections of our company but we also needed operating data daily and monthly so we could monitor our progress. It soon became obvious that we needed a central data center that could be accessed by area managers as well as the head office managers. We had installed a relatively early computer system for the accounting department but this was clearly inadequate and we needed consulting help from the growing number of computer experts in a new profession that soon after became known as Information Technology.
Tom Reinhart, our Accounting Manager had got proposals from three companies and he liked the one from the Wang Corporation in New Hampshire so he and I went there to discuss how they planned to meet our needs. We met with their technical people for a whole day and met the president, Mr. Wang. We were both very impressed with what they had proposed and agreed to their terms. When the computers arrived, Tom arranged twenty units in one of our large areas to have the Wang people teach groups of twenty at a time to learn the fundamentals. Like most of us, I had to be shown all elements even including how to turn the unit on and go to the program we wanted. I sat in for two of the sessions and as I sit here today typing on my own computer at home, I realize how everything was so new and amazing to us and now how almost everyone is carrying a personal computer with them wherever they go and some even have a watch on their wrist that can do thousands of things more than those early computers that were astounding us back then.
While I was paying more attention to the day to day activities of the company, Al Domeshek was still coordinating the activity within the nitrogen plant in Wyoming. The rework was not going well with the Japanese aluminum welders and equipment deliveries were all falling behind the promised dates. Chevron had super-imposed themselves on us and the Japanese and had hired the Linde Division of Union Carbide as consultants. Karl von Linde was the first person to liquefy air in 1895 and also the first to distill liquid air to produce oxygen and nitrogen in 1904 and since that time, the Linde companies have taken many forms but were always the leading purveyor of air and other gas cryogenic separation plants. (Georges Claude in France followed closely behind Linde and his work created L’Air Liquide the other major cryogenic company that has rivaled Linde in the industry ever since.)
This introduction of Linde into the project indicated that Chevron was clearly signaling that they were going to take over the plant themselves and to have Linde re-construct and then operate the plant at which point we and our contractor Kobe would be negotiated out of our contracts. This suspicion became true but that is another story for another day.