Oilfield bringing new opportunities for Tank Service, partners
Dec 1, 2012 12:00 PM, By Charles E Wilson
OCCUPYING just 1.2 acres in the La Porte, Texas area, Tank Service Inc and its three partner companies serve the ISO tank container sector from one of the smallest depot locations in the United States. Two office buildings, two repair shops, and stacks of tank containers and intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) fill almost all of the available space.
Despite the compact location, the four partner companies provide an increasingly diverse range of services. They serve customers with a variety of logistics services including satellite tracking of tank containers. Extensive tank container and chassis modification and customization are offered. Customized pumping systems can be engineered to meet virtually any customer's needs. Tank container repair capabilities include the ability to refinish tank interiors. Chassis maintenance includes emergency roadside service. The partner companies also distribute a broad range of parts and components.
“With a few exceptions, we provide many of the typical tank container and chassis services,” says Russell Harrison, co-owner and founder of Tank Service Inc. “While we don't have room to store customer tank containers and chassis, we are expanding our on-site maintenance facilities.
“We take in a lot of work that other tank container depots want to outsource, which makes us a depot's depot. We perform a lot of equipment customization and modification at this location. This has become a very important specialty for us, and we are able to leverage the expertise of our partner companies to meet our customers' very specific requirements.
“Much of the specialized work right now is for customers with operations in the oilfield sector. We are modifying tank containers to carry specialized oilfield chemicals, and we are mounting them on drop-deck chassis that have been fitted with product pump, meter, and filter packages. We're also assembling container and chassis units for equipment refueling operations.”
In the beginning
Tank Service got its start in 2002 after Harrison left C-Cam, another tank container operation in Pasadena, Texas. His initial focus was on selling used tank containers. With business growing steadily, Harrison bought the current terminal property in 2004 and brought Erick Garcia on board as a partner.
“We wanted a place with plenty of visibility along Highway 225 in the midst of some of the Houston area's largest petrochemical complexes and refineries. Property is relatively expensive in that area, and the small lot was what we could afford. Going forward, we are exploring the possibility of relocating some of our operations to other locations in this area, but we have no desire to move the entire operation.
“Erick took over all of the sales activities when he joined me at Tank Service, and we have steadily expanded the range of products we handle. We are a wholesale parts distributor for Perolo, Fort Vale, James Walker (gaskets), Garnet Technologies (level gauges), Morton Manufacturing (expanded metal catwalks), and ISO Tram (fall protection). We sell new box container and tank container chassis from Cheetah Chassis Corporation, and we refurbish and sell used chassis.”
Tank containers handled by Tank Service range in capacity from 14,000 (3,700) to 25,000 liters (6,600 gallons). Available insulated and uninsulated for chemical or foodgrade applications, the tank containers can be fitted for top or bottom discharge and steam or electric heat.
Both DOT51 and T50 UN portable tank containers are available and can be lined with a variety of materials. Tank Service can make any modifications needed to comply with requirements for the transport of products that are classified as poisonous by inhalation (PIH).
Tank Service also offers smaller aboveground storage tanks for a wide range of applications in the petrochemical, oil and gas, biodiesel, ethanol, asphalt, specialty fuels, foodgrade, and water markets. The company's project management teams oversee every phase of a tank fabrication project from estimating, to production, to shipping and delivery.
On the chassis side, the company offers a full range of chassis style and configurations for any type of operation. Options include lift kits, hose tubes, and other features.
Tank container logistics management is one of the newer Tank Service offerings. “We can arrange local transportation through our drayage partner, Safeway Transportation Inc,” Harrison says. “We can help with international shipments. We send any tank cleaning to CBSL Transportation Services Inc.”
Tank Service also can help keep track of the tank containers wherever they might be going. The company offers SataTrack, a GPS system for worldwide intermodal asset tracking and security applications. Customers can monitor tank container status in real time online.
While Tank Service offers a broad range of products and services, it does so with a relatively small staff. Included in the eight-person team is Briana Klemer, a mechanical engineer who joined the company earlier this year. In addition to handling specific Tank Service operations, the team also helps coordinate joint projects with the partner companies that share the depot location.
“We're growing by about one person a year,” Harrison says.
Tank Service added its first partner company at the depot location in 2008. This has been a great strategy for expanding the scope of our operation,” Harrison says. “We look for partners with complementary operations and product lines.”
Serving the United States, Canada, and Latin America, Power Transfer Products supplies a variety of pumping, metering, and filtration systems and other equipment related to the handling of liquid products. Specific products include Dixon high-volume transfer pumps, Total Control Systems meter, Velcon filters, and Heli-Fuel modular helicopter refueling systems.
“Joining with Tank Service has been a winning arrangement for everyone,” Tijerina says. “Tank Service was very successful at selling and servicing portable tanks, but they did not have a consistent way to supply pumps and meters as part of a complete package requested by some customers. We've been able to help provide these customers the specialized equipment they need.”
Next to set up shop at the Tank Service depot was Reel Intermodal Services LLC, a full-capability chassis repair and roadside service provider that was established by Martin Martinez and his wife, in 2001. They relocated the company to the Tank Service depot in 2009.
Reel Intermodal Services works on all types of box chassis and tank container chassis. Maintenance work ranges from routine service to chassis brake, air, and electrical systems to full refurbishment and modification of chassis. Six service trucks enable mechanics to provide on-location chassis repairs (including welding) throughout the greater Houston area.
“We do a lot with the local chassis pools,” Martinez says. “We also get a lot of road service calls, including flat tires and wheel and suspension repairs. Wheel seals aren't lubricated, and the wheel assembly fails. Drivers sometimes forget to lower the landing legs or to raise them. It keeps us busy 24/7/365.
Since arriving at the Tank Service Depot, Reel Intermodal Services mechanics have been overhauling and modifying chassis in a cramped single-bay shop. That's about to change. A new 2,000-sq-ft shop should be completed during the first quarter of 2013.
Maintenance activities expanded further in 2010 when Custom Tank Innovations LLC launched operations at the depot. The specialty tank repair and custom fabrication shop was started by Jeff Coleman with investment help from Tank Service. The company occupies a 3,000-sq-ft shop.
Coleman is a code welder and had worked with Harrison at C-Cam. Coleman and his two employees provide a wide range of tank container repairs and modifications. The shop is in the process of obtaining an ASME R-stamp for code tank trailer repairs.
Specialized tank equipment at the shop includes the Robogrind system, a high-precision unit for grinding and polishing the inside walls of tank containers. Custom Tank Innovations received the first Robogrind franchise in North America and currently has one unit in operation.
The computerized machine is capable of achieving plus or minus 10% of the thickness target when grinding down pits or polishing away stains in the inner shell of a tank container. Robogrind can achieve uniform minimum metal removal of 0.05 mills around the entire circumference of the tank in a single pass. Grinding and polishing precision is critical due to the slim tolerances in shell thickness in today's tanks.
The diverse partner team has enabled Tank Service to capture some exciting oilfield business in recent months. “Some of these projects take considerable engineering and design work, and we're proud of what we have been able to accomplish by working together,” Harrison says.
Companies working in the oilfield are coming to Tank Service for stainless steel tank containers on dropdeck chassis because the total system can cost in the range of $20,000 less than a new tank trailer.
“We're putting many of these units together for companies hauling chemicals and other liquids used in oilwell fracking,” Harrison says. “We're doing a lot of modification work on these units. Essentially, we are turning a tank container and chassis into a very specialized piece of oilfield equipment.”
Projects often call for expanded metal decking at the rear of a dropdeck chassis. Pumps, meters, and filters are mounted on the deck. On the tank containers, some customers have requested overturn protection, wider safety ladders, and ISO Tram fall protection on top. Many of the oilfield tank containers are fitted with Garnet level gauges.
Harrison says he believes the future is bright for Tank Service and its partners. Together, they a broad range of depot services that can meet the needs of virtually any tank container operator.
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