In shale boom towns like Minot, N.D., rapid growth is not unusual. But for a company to grow from nothing to a top service provider in 19 months is unusual and shows a high level of skill in its founder. “I started First Choice in May of 2010, and it was very quick when I left my previous company,” recalls Tyler Beaulieu, First Choice Energy Services LLC operations manager. “I had nothing lined up. I had hit a wall mentally and wasn’t happy anymore. For where I was at, I just felt like I wasn’t going to be growing anymore, so I quit.”
During the course of interviewing for jobs, Beaulieu heard from an associate about an investor interested in the Bakken Shale. The investor had heard good things about Beaulieu and decided to invest in a new company with him at the helm. Their next task was to decide the type of company to create. “It really came down to the fact that I had always done ‘flowback’ work,” Beaulieu points out. “That’s my strength – let’s play to it, and after a lot of hard work, we managed to get things lined up.”
Beaulieu now considers his company one of the top flowback providers in the Williston Basin. Its main focus is on production testing providing frac flowback, plug drill-out and well control services.
Well Control and Flowback
With the huge boom in shale plays, well testing has developed into what is called flowback. Beaulieu enjoys the drama of watching the percentage of oil in the flowback water increase.
First Choice Energy offers vacuum trucks in the Williston Basin that are equipped to push and pull fluid and contain an internal auger. The company offers units that combine pressure washing with dry steam to clean up jobs or complement its hydro-vac services.
“Once the oil and water is hauled away, you’ve got sludge and sand, and that has to be disposed of properly,” Beaulieu explains. “We got into that to support our main flowback line. It gave us that competitive edge against the majority of flowback companies in the basin. We have our own mechanics and our own shop. It’s not like we bought a few trucks. We have full-time drivers and two fully developed product lines.”
Beaulieu believes that employee skills make all the difference in a company like his. “We have really great personnel,” he insists. “In my opinion, we have per capita the best people for the flowback companies in this area. We invest pretty heavily in having our guys classroom-trained because we do work on a balance beam when it comes to the clients we speak to in the industry.”
First Choice Energy Services employees must be able to work with field-level employees or university-trained engineers who have never worked in the field. “We need our guys to communicate effectively with both levels,” Beaulieu says. “You can’t just be booksmart or good in the field – you have to be both.”
That skill level is what Beaulieu believes will keep First Choice Energy Services growing in the future. “Do we want to be the largest, or do we want to be the best?” he asks. “We want to be the best. I think we have achieved that in the last year. Our reputation is what we’re focused on. We want to keep growing, but keep it at a level that keeps our product quality strong.”