Nighthawk soars in Texas oilfields
May 1, 2005 12:00 PM
A tanker rig pulled by a bright blue Peterbilt 379 tractor turns off a country road onto a dirt track leading to several oil wells and a couple of collection tanks. It doesn't take the driver long to transfer crude oil in the collection tank to the trailer.
For Nighthawk Transport Inc, this scene is repeated dozens of times everyday at various locations across Texas. The Houston-based company has found steady success since its expansion into oilfield services in 2002. Thirty tanker rigs are in operation hauling crude oil and waste liquids, such as salt water.
“Nighthawk has been around since 1995, but we've only been involved with the oilfield sector for about four years,” says Glenn Miller, director of the oilfield operations. “We saw good opportunities even before world oil prices jumped and production activity surged in Texas. When prices approached $60 a barrel, drilling activity really picked up for both crude oil and natural gas. Things are very active.
“In one recent operation, our customer drilled 10,000-feet near Matagorda Bay on the Texas Gulf Coast. It took only four weeks to drill. We were on the site to help with hauling waste, which included hauling salt water and petroleum-based mud. We had two vacuum tankers assigned to the job around the clock. Once the well is producing, we haul the crude oil off the site.”
Prior to the move into oilfield hauling, Nighthawk had specialized as a waste transporter. Industrial waste hauling remains an important part of the operation with 15 tractors and 15 van trailers based in Arkansas. The operation handles a variety of packaged and bulk wastes, including coatings and oils.
The company took its first step into the oilfield by providing salt water hauling and vacuum truck service in the Midland, Texas, area. “A well can generate up to eight barrels of salt water for each barrel of oil,” Miller says. “In addition to transporting salt water, we haul condensate from gas wells and do some oil spill recovery for our customers.”
Oilfield wastes are handled carefully. For instance, Nighthawk has several salt water disposal locations, all of them approved by the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil industry in Texas.
On the crude oil side, Nighthawk started hauling crude oil near Brookshire, Texas, and has five rigs based there now. “We're moving about 1,800 barrels a day from oil leases around Brookshire to Flex Tank Services,” Miller says. “Another five rigs haul crude oil to a pipeline near Denver City in West Texas. With the increased drilling, we've got another five or so rigs running in south Texas.”
A typical crude oil rig in the Nighthawk operation will haul three loads a day per driver. A rig will cover about 300 miles a day — 1,500 to 2,000 miles a week. In most cases, drivers are home at the end of the shift.
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