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Busy summer ahead for H&G Directional Drilling

With the oilfield, it’s a lot of project-driven stuff. We don’t always know exactly what’s coming up. It sounds like it’s going to be a busy summer and fall. - Brian Kentner

From its headquarters at 270 Commonwealth Drive in Virden, H&G Directional Drilling services a diverse clientele across the prairies.

The company has local roots, starting in 2013 with the acquisition of Pinnacle Directional Drilling by local agricultural producer John Galvin and Darwin Williams, proprietor of Higg Electric and Line Locating. Today, it is a partnership between Williams and Brian Kentner, who serves as Managing Partner and has a wealth of experience in the industry.

Customers include petroleum companies, telecommunications firms, municipal sewer and water and power utilities. Work may include the installation of natural gas lines, flow lines, hydro lines, water lines and fibre optic cables to facilitate high-speed internet and data communication.

“Directional drilling is anything that gets installed underground,” Kentner said. “Anything that can go underground we can put underground. We can go under rivers, creeks, roads, yards that you don’t want to make a mess of, anything like that. It just gets installed, there’s no open trenching. We just have a hole on each end instead of having a trench all the way through.”

While H&G’s primary focus is supporting the petroleum industry, fibre is a growth area the company has tapped into.

“We’ve got flow lines in Virden from well to well or lease to lease,” Kentner said. “We work for Manitoba Hydro, and install fibre optics for Westman Communications Group. We put it from people’s houses all the way to the street. We also do long haul fibre (installations). We just did a project where we put it in from Roblin all the way to Mafeking. We just plow it under about a metre deep, and we drill under all the roads, sloughs, creeks, and all that.”

Although jobs can be done in all four seasons, sometimes Mother Nature has the upper hand. “We’ve been going straight through (the year),” Kentner said. “The rain we’ve been having has been slowing us down, and even last winter with the amount of snow we had it did slow us down a little bit, but we managed to keep everyone working through the winter.”

H&G has been in expansion mode over the last several years, adding both equipment and staff, whose work takes them throughout Manitoba and into Saskatchewan and Alberta.

“We’re going to be creeping up on 30 employees here soon,” Kentner said. “We’ve come a long way in the last five years. We’ve gone from having two drills to running seven now. We also run three hydro vacs, three backhoes, two mini-hoes, a track hoe, and water trucks.”

Employees receive ongoing on the job training and progress as they gain experience.

“There are not really any programs to go to right now to train on how to be a directional driller. We start people as a labourer and then put them to driller, and once they’ve drilled, we put them up to locator. There is definitely room for advancement.”

Recruitment and retention are a challenge.

“It’s getting harder and harder to find employees,” Kentner said. “With the new regulations on driver licensing it’s more difficult for a guy to get a Class 1 license. It just takes more time to find the proper people to do the work, but for anyone that’s looking to get into the industry, there’s always room for new people to start.”

The ability to support the local oil patch has been key to success and growth.

“A lot of the oil field work around here, whether it be the Virden area, down to Waskada or into Southern Saskatchewan, that creates a lot of work for us.”

H&G has been impacted by both the ebb and flow of the energy sector as well as the global pandemic.

“It affected us, especially when the oilfield was slow,” Kentner said. “We have lots of guys around to do all this work and then there’s no work to be done, so at that point during the pandemic, we had to lay off some guys. We tried to keep our main guys going as much as we could. That way, when everything did get going again, we’d have the manpower to go at it. We’re back to full strength now.”

With the worst period of COVID-19 now in the past and high oil prices stimulating well drilling and exploration, Kentner greets the future with optimism.

“It’s looking like there’s (going to be) lots to do,” he said. “With the oilfield, it’s a lot of project-driven stuff. We don’t always know exactly what’s coming up. It sounds like it’s going to be a busy summer and fall. I think the biggest thing that’s driving it right now is the price of oil has gone up. That’s created a lot of new opportunities.”

The monthly Oilfield Report is made possible by the following sponsors
H&G Directional Drilling  |  Valor Labs  |  Guardian Oilfield Services
Tundra Oil & Gas  |  GeoVerra

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