With expanding international opportunities and a growing customer base and revenue stream, Volant Products isn’t just celebrating a milestone anniversary – it’s celebrating 10 years of success. The Edmonton-based company originally was founded in 2001 as the manufacturing spin-off of Noetic Engineering Inc., a groundbreaking engineering firm that specializes in the design, evaluation and optimization of downhole mechanical systems for demanding drilling service environments.
“Our objective in creating the manufacturing company was to achieve an efficient vehicle for rapid development and commercialization of Noetic’s patented technologies,” says Bill Roggensack, president and one of the founders of Noetic and Volant.
“We focused on building a reputation with our customers for innovation, service, responsiveness and fair pricing,” Roggensack continues. “Customer loyalty and appreciation for value have been central to our success.”
Tubular Consumable Goods
Volant’s initial focus was manufacturing Multilobe Torque Rings™ (MLT) for casing, liner and tubing strings. Engineered to span the diameter tolerances of the API LTC and BTC couplings, the MLT Ring™ is pressed into the center section of the connection. While being installed, the lobe crests conform to the tapered internal diameter of the coupling threads.
When the connection is properly made-up, the ring rests between the two pin noses, providing a shoulder. This setup prevents over-penetration and provides a significant boost in connection torque capacity.
When used in tubing strings, a shouldering connection enables higher torques for make-up and prevents thread back-offs. In production string applications, for example, MLT Rings™ reduce the potential for turbulence caused by an open J-section and eliminate solids build-up.
In many applications, MLT Rings™ deliver results comparable to premium connections but at lower cost and with readily available American Petroleum Institute connections. This typically results in shorter lead times for acquiring tubulars and a more reasonable cost.
Volant subsequently expanded its product line with complementary tubular consumable goods such as HydroFORM™ rigid body centralizers that can be placed between fixed stop collars, floated between couplings or crimped onto casings for positive rotation to ensure consistent stand-off, especially for deviated or directional wells.
These centralizers are made from a single piece of steel with no welds, and with smooth geometry transitions. They are extremely robust and have a proven track record of installation ease and excellent cementing results.
HydroFORM™ centralizers are available for common casing sizes ranging from 4-1/2 to 13-3/8 inches; rib geometries are adjustable in the manufacturing process to suit a customer’s particular wellbore geometry needs.
Volant’s crimp-on GeoLOK® devices can be crimped onto the outside diameter of casing to enhance load transfer between casing and the formation, relying on a mechanism similar to the way reinforcing bar works in concrete.
Roggensack says that with engineering and applications support, all of Volant’s products can be customized to fit specific customer needs and serve nearly any application.
Casing Running Tools
Although Volant’s tubular consumable goods have experienced strong market acceptance and sales growth, the company is becoming best known for its innovation in casing running tool (CRT) technology. Being able to efficiently use the top drive to make up casing and liner string connections, and then having the immediate ability to rotate, circulate and reciprocate, is critical to preventing stuck pipe and to getting the string to the bottom, Roggensack explains.
Volant’s CRTi™ is a fully mechanical, internally gripping casing running tool. It transfers torque from the top drive directly into the casing body without engaging the connection threads. This allows rotational, hoisting or pull-down loads to be transferred to the pipe without making thread contact, protecting connection integrity. For additional thread protection, safety nubbins can be threaded into the coupling before stabbing the CRTi.
What makes the CRTi particularly unique is that once it has been “set,” torque-activated wedge grip [TAWG™] technology increases the gripping force with the application of hoisting load or torsional load in both rotational directions. Its patented and patent-pending design puts the entire casing running process into the hands of the driller, significantly reducing other rig workers’ exposure to high-risk activities. “This results in an improved overall approach to safety by reducing the number of people involved in one of our industry’s most accident-prone operations,” Roggensack notes. It also reduces the need for costly third-party support, he adds.
Volant’s CRTs differ from competing technologies in that they feature an elegant, yet simple design that makes them easy to use, highly functional and difficult to damage. The fact that Volant’s CRTs are mechanically – not hydraulically-activated – is notable, thereby eliminating extra equipment, relying on driller-friendly intuitive operation and eliminating undesirable consequences of hydraulic circuit failure. “They either work or they don’t, and we don’t have many instances of the latter,” Roggensack says. “That’s the reputation we have seen develop wherever these tools have gone.”
Volant’s products have received international praise and are being utilized by service companies in North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East and Australia. “Getting to the point that you have equipment that meets international standards and acceptance is not an easy task,” Roggensack admits. “We realized early on that the best way to gain hands-on experience, improve tool reliability and reduce maintenance was to run this equipment ourselves.”
Volant wanted to demonstrate first-hand the benefits of its proprietary technology, so it established a services division in 2004 that targeted customers working in challenging drilling conditions, such as those in the steam-assisted gravity drainage market segment for heavy oil production in western Canada. “We saw this as a market we wanted to get into early on with our > > prototype equipment because this equipment is needed to reliably get pipe to the end of the well in a short period of time,” Roggensack says.
“Since then, we have expanded our fleet of rental tools and personnel to deliver casing running services throughout western Canada on a well-by-well basis,” he continues. “Our growth has strongly been dependent on the ability we’ve displayed to recognize needs that require a strong technical understanding. Volant had its first CRT prototype in the field ahead of several multi-national competitors. Our ability to rapidly design, test and evolve this equipment in the field with our unusual business model has probably had the strongest impact on our growth.”
Volant’s ability to grow under difficult market conditions speaks volumes of its potential for long-term success, Roggensack notes. “There are lots of companies that want to be in this business but don’t have the time or money to do the development,” he says. “The intellectual
property arena has become extremely cluttered over the last decade with respect to pipe handling equipment because a lot of people are trying to get into the game. We are a significant player in those very narrow niches. We maintain a strong and ready R&D effort to continuously improve existing products and introduce new ones.”
Being an industry innovator comes with the added challenge of not only marketing its new products, but also educating potential customers on how to use them in their business. “We want to understand the customers’ perspective of their problems, and we want them to understand what the potential solutions to those problems are,” Roggensack says. “We are happy to tell a customer about other companies’ products if that provides a better fit for their needs.”
This creates strong customer loyalty, he explains. “A customer’s natural suspicion is that you are trying to sell them something,” Roggensack says. “When people are being told the truth through a competent educational process, they realize you’re there to help them – not just sell them products. We are not opportunistic; we treat our customers fairly on pricing. Our pricing has been consistent for as many years as we’ve been in business.
“That is atypical for the service industry,” he adds. “But we like to reward customers that make long-term and high-volume commitments by offering substantial discounting. As long as they understand the full value proposition with a balance between cost and results, we remain confident of our competitive position.”
The Future is Bright
To keep up with demand, Volant has recently moved into a large, new, purpose-built manufacturing facility in Edmonton. “We needed more office space and more plant floor space to grow and to update and expand several manufacturing operations,” Roggensack says.
“We are very proud of what we’ve accomplished in the design of our new facility,” Roggensack continues. “It’s a very unusual purpose-built facility with a much larger office component than [what] is typical. We need this to house our R&D and technical support functions. We expect this move will change our visibility in the marketplace.”
Roggensack believes Volant will more than double its current size over the next few years based on the “degree of innovation and forethought that has gone into our products and their delivery.” The company will continue to inform customers of its products’ advantages and look for ways to increase its production capacity and efficiency while holding or decreasing the price points on its products. Volant looks forward to celebrating many more milestones, he adds.