Transportation and stringing services are critical to the success of energy pipeline construction projects. There are many facets that go into the hauling and stockpiling of pipe and other materials needed on the jobsite. To better understand those services, North American Energy Pipelines spoke to two experts in the field.
Dustin Mykyte is president of Pe Ben USA, which along with its Canadian subsidiary MTS Canada, provides pipe yard and warehouse selection and construction, rail car loading and shipping, pipe offloading and stockpiling, materials tracking and tracing, stringing and heavy equipment hauling for the pipeline construction industry.
Mike Nunnenkamp is executive vice president and chief operating officer (COO) for Dun Transportation & Stringing Inc., a fourth-generation, family-owned and operated business that has been in the pipeline industry since 1910. Dun offers pipe yard and rail siding acquisition, as well as the offloading, hauling and stockpiling of pipe. In addition, the company provides pipe coating repair and pipe traceability, among a number of other services.
Mykyte and Nunnenkamp discussed tips for success and trends that are impacting the industry.
What is the state of the pipe transportation/stringing business today? Growing, declining, stagnant? Why?
Mykyte: We are starting to see an increase in projects both in the bidding stage and in the construction phase. Our industry has been in a decline or stagnant for about two years due to various political and economic reasons. The uptick is in our opinion due to supply trying to catch up with demand, which is reflected in current commodity prices.
Nunnenkamp: The pipe transportation and stringing business has been declining. Initially, the COVID-19 pandemic halted operations. However, the long-term decline has been caused by the change in governmental policies that has made pipeline construction very difficult. The owners of the oil and natural gas companies cannot use the revenue from increased oil and natural gas prices to build more critical infrastructure due to the governmental policies regarding permitting on these projects.
Another issue facing the industry has been misinformation on pipelines. The public opinion has come to the conclusion that pipelines are unsafe and not effective ways to transport oil and natural gas compared to alternative energy options. However, these statements don’t hold value as pipelines have continually proven to be the safest way to transport these resources over alternative measures. Additionally, pipelines continue to evolve with the development of safer techniques and materials so they last much longer and are extremely safe over the course of their existence.
Where are you seeing the most demand in today’s market?
Mykyte: There is a strong demand for LNG and this is popping up along the coasts, particularly in the Gulf.
Nunnenkamp: Most of the demand in today’s market is for lower oil and natural gas prices to supply the products we rely on like cell phones, heat for our homes, gas for our cars, buses, airplanes. Numbers support the fact demand has returned to pre-pandemic levels and yet our country can’t supply the product to alleviate the strain on our economy because of the governmental policy constraints.
How can transportation/stringing providers optimize their business amid a downturn?
Mykyte: It is very difficult due to the specialized equipment needed to transport over-length pipe. Fortunately, we downsized at the right time, and have had a lot of success in retaining market share over the downturn.
Nunnenkamp: There are a few options in the form of diversifying and working to meet other needs within the industry. Most importantly, I think it is imperative to notify those not in the industry how important the pipeline industry is to our everyday lives, as well as our country’s long-term independence and security to minimize the downturns.
What best practices do you follow to ensure a project is successful?
Mykyte: Communication is key. We establish relationships early on any project and ensure we are all on the same page performing safely and efficiently. Our main priority is ensuring our customer’s satisfaction.
Nunnenkamp: Quality personnel and equipment that will handle the job safely and efficiently and great communication between our customer and our company.
How are supply chain constraints impacting your business? How do you overcome those challenges?
Mykyte: We really must plan and communicate early with clients. The days of being on a job within two weeks of a phone call are over. From stocking up on tie down straps, to upfitting trucks with in-cab cameras, it all takes a lot more time than it did in 2019.
Nunnenkamp: Supply chain has created issues in the form of keeping equipment and crews up and running on a consistent basis. Qualified personnel, equipment, parts and materials are harder to come by these days out in the market. We keep a host of qualified, long-term employees on our payroll year around to ensure we offer the best service even during a down turn. We also own all of our equipment, trucks and trailers to be able to mobilize on a moment’s notice to handle any sized project.
What trends are you seeing that are impacting the market in the near-term?
Mykyte: The driver shortage is real. This along with the aging workforce in general are going to cause a lot of issues when the work the predicted projects in 2023 get going.
Nunnenkamp: As we have discussed previously, the governmental policies are trending in the wrong direction for our industry. The mid-term elections could be a great swing point to get our country headed back in the right direction.
Tips for Success
What is one tip you would provide customers to ensure a pipeline project’s success?
Mykyte: Engage with a reputable vendor early and get everyone on the same page regarding needs.
Nunnenkamp: Hire qualified, safe, and long-standing companies that have shown the ability to handle many projects within their history and they do it with the right passion and energy to ensure a successful project.
What is one tip you would offer for using technology to enhance transportation/stringing operations?
Mykyte: Technology is a huge asset for us. We use GPS to track our trucks whereabouts and speeds, we use ELD’s to simplify driver’s duty times and ensure compliance, and we use in cab/exterior cams to monitor drivers. This gives us an edge when working safely and communicating with clients.
Nunnenkamp: We have seen a growth in the use of electronic devices within trucking fleets that help ensure trucks are running at peak performance and drivers are getting the appropriate rest.
What is one tip you would offer to maintaining a qualified workforce?
Mykyte: Treat people with respect and give them great tools to perform their work.
Nunnenkamp: Communication is key. It is important upper management is aware of the capabilities and just as important the limitations their employees have and making sure they are put in the best position to be successful.Tags: July August 2022 Print Issue