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Putting the pieces together: Tulsa firm completing $78.5M contract for sulfur purification system in Iraq

By: Ray Tuttle – The Journal Record

TULSA – Placing equipment onto steel girders for assembly in the field is not new. A Tulsa company, however, is using the technology in a targeted approach to create business opportunities, both domestically and internationally.

“It has been out there for a long time,” said Doug Houston, owner and CEO of Devco USAand Devco International. “But to be able to create a design that is operator-friendly and maintenance-friendly – that brings a level of uniqueness to our projects.”For example, Devco signed a $78.5 million contract last year to supply and install a sulfur purification system at a state-run plant in northern Iraq. Devco is part of a family of engineering and technology companies owned by Houston Interests, a Tulsa-based company. Houston Interests also owns River Consulting and S&R Technical Services. Devco operates offices in New Orleans; Columbus, Ohio; and Pittsburgh.

“The contract was for a turnkey installation of a sulfur purification system including submerged combustion distillation, sulfur filtration, and sulfur recovery unit,” said Bevan Houston, Devco director of business development.

Scheduled to ship this month, the purification unit will have a production capacity of 500,000 metric tons per year. It will be possible to double that capacity. The project was done in coordination with CTI Consulting, a technology provider out of New Orleans, and Al Hawarth out of Amman, Jordan.

The purification unit, made up of 56 modules, is being manufactured by Insulation Specialists of Tulsa Inc., or ISTI, at its Port of Catoosa facilities. The initial phase of modules will be shipped from Tulsa to a site near Mosul, Iraq, and assembled. The Al-Mishraq Sulphur State Co., which will own and operate the facility, plans to retail the purified sulfur output in Iraq for domestic use. Sulfur is a key ingredient in fertilizer and is in demand within the agricultural sector.

Producing the modules in Tulsa allows for pre-assembly at the port.

“Being able to assemble them this way allows us to work out any bugs and cuts overall costs,” Doug Houston said.

The key to the modular construction is 3-D design, said Bevan Houston. Devco specializes in pairing a process with the plant, Doug Houston said.
“We often partner with technology providers,” he said. “We take their technology and wrap it into a plant, or taking something that started in one form, and provide a level of technology that changes the form.”
For example, the sulfur purification unit headed to Iraq includes a technology called submerged combustion distillation, Doug Houston said. The unit will take raw sulfur from a nearby mine and cook away the impurities to yield pure sulfur to be used in the production of fertilizer.

Using a similar business model in conjunction with ISTI, Devco moved into the shale natural gas plays in the U.S. Utilizing technology from Tulsa-based UOP Russell, Devco engineered and built facilities that recover natural gas liquid from produced gas. Last year, Devco and ISTI built three facilities. Two are operating in Texas and a third is in Louisiana.

At the same time, Devco is building plants overseas. Last year, Devco sent units to Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan.

“It is a great time, as people around the globe want U.S. technology and equipment, especially in the Middle East,” Doug Houston said. “People are telling us how their countries yearn for the U.S. to play a larger role in business, since the falloff following 9/11.

“Middle East companies are looking for the stability and quality that U.S.-based companies provide,” he said. “We continue to push the envelope for opportunities. With our track record and resume, 2014 will be extremely strong for us.”

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Harsco AXC acquires Owasso-based Hammco Corp.

By: Phil Mulkins – Tulsa World

Harsco Industrial Air-X-Changers Corp. announced Monday it has acquired Owasso-based Hammco Corp., a manufacturer of gas-processing coolers.

Terms of the transaction were not disclosed by Harsco AXC, which is based at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa.Hammco is being renamed Harsco Industrial Hammco LLC, and will report to the parent Harsco’s vice president and general manager Eric Clower.Hammco will provide products for air-cooled heat exchangers used in natural-gas compression and other industries. The two companies will continue operating separately.Hammco, founded in 1971 by the late Charles Helscel, employs about 80 people.Air-X-Changers has built air-cooled heat exchangers since 1954. The company joined Harsco Corp., which is based in Camp Hill, Pa., in 1976.

“Our business deals with the transportation of gas from the wellhead downstream to the end use and the removal of heat from the gas in three areas – upstream, midstream and downstream,” Clower said. “Our air coolers remove heat caused by various industrial processes, including heat caused by compression of gas as it passes through pipelines.”

“Heat is also caused by chemical processing of gas and separation into various components — aided by processing coolers,” Clower added. “Harsco AXC equipment is primarily used midstream — in the pipeline transportation phase and downstream. Hammco equipment will complement the downstream processing of natural gas.”

Harsco AXC operates four facilities in the Tulsa area with 315,000 square feet of dedicated manufacturing space. The company produces a full range of models, types and configurations of air coolers that protect gas compression equipment and control the conditioning of natural gas from wellhead — through compression, processing and delivery through pipeline distribution systems. It sells this equipment to a global market.

Harsco also produces lube oil cooling systems tailored to the needs of turbine operators, and has adapted its designs for use in power generation and other applications. It manufactures cooler replacement parts for any make or model of gas-compression cooler in service and offers a full range of on-site field services.

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Tulsa-based First Process Steel is sold to Texas firm

By: Phil Mulkins – Tulsa World

Two brothers who own a Fort Worth metals firm announced Monday they have acquired Tulsa fabrication and cutting firm First Process Steel Inc. for an undisclosed sum.

Eric and Ryan Letz, owners of Willbanks Metals Inc. in Fort Worth, said they acquired First Process to add opportunities with the heat exchanger and oil field equipment manufacturing businesses at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa. First Process, founded nearly 20 years ago by Dan Newton, is a steel fabrication site specializing in plasma cutting and steel-shearing machines.Ryan Letz, WillBanks Metals CEO and president, said Newton plans to eventually retire “but will remain with us for two years acting as strategic project manager.”Newton’s son-in-law, Brad Swearingen, will remain as general manager. In fact, the new owners also plan to keep the First Process Steel name and the 53 employees now working in the office and plant at 2678 N. Harvard Ave.

“This acquisition will greatly enhance our family of steel companies and our service offerings as well as open up a new geographic presence,” Ryan Letz said. “We couldn’t be more excited to welcome First Process Steel — their employees, customers and all their partnerships — to the Willbanks Metals family.”

He said the purchase was made “to open up a new opportunity in oil and gas equipment and heat exchanger manufacturing — a new geographic market for us — and furthers our goal to distribute steel in that area (north of Texas). Diversification is the key to success in this business and we sought to diversify in this new market with some new manufacturers, for us to move forward.”

The CNC (computer numerically controlled) cutting machines at First Process are capable of precisely cutting 6-inch steel shapes from 12-by-60-foot plates, according to the company’s website. Its primary customer is Valmont Industries, maker of the towering, welded steel power poles that hold major transmission lines.

Newton talked to the Tulsa World 14 months ago about his business success. He credited Tulsa’s strong manufacturing base and remembered heeding an advisory group’s warnings that helped First Process avoid some of the pitfalls of the Great Recession.

“Do not beat yourself up over mistakes,” Newton replied when asked about the most important lesson he learned as an owner. “Just know that mistakes provide us with great opportunities for correction and growth.”

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Harsco purchases Hammco

By: Ray Tuttle – Journal Record

CATOOSA – Harsco Corp., in a move that allows the diversified global industrial company to expand into a new market, reported the purchase of Hammco Corp. on Monday.

Hammco is an Owasso-based maker of coolers for the natural gas and petrochemical processing industries. Going forward, it will be managed by Harsco Industrial Air-X-Changers, or AXC, which is a unit of Camp Hill, Pa.-based Harsco. Harsco Industrial Air-X-Changers employs 435 people at its facility at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa. Hammco will become a unit within the Harsco Industrial division known as Harsco Industrial Hammco LLC.Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, said Randy Benson, AXC vice president of sales and marketing.“This will be a nice complement to our business,” Benson said. “We will able to expand into a new area.”The strategic initiative to purchase Hammco took about 18 months, Benson said.

“This is an opportunity to expand as we saw that the process market was an underserved market for us,” Benson said.

Hammco, which employs 80 people at a facility on 16 acres in Owasso, will provide products that complement those of AXC, Benson said. AXC makes air-cooled heat exchangers used in natural gas compression and other industries.

The Harsco facility, one of four in the Tulsa area, operates inside a 315,000-square-foot manufacturing facility at the port.

AXC products are used worldwide, Benson said. The equipment protects gas compression equipment and controls the conditioning of natural gas from the wellhead through compression, processing and delivery through a pipeline distribution system. AXC also makes lube oil cooling systems for turbine operators and has adapted its designs for use in power generation and other applications.

The two Tulsa-area companies will operate separately, Benson said. Both companies will support their own product lines with a separate engineering and sales organization. Officials from both companies will report to AXC Vice President and General Manager Eric Clower.
Hammco, founded in 1971 by Charles Helscel, makes air-cooled heat exchangers for the natural gas and petrochemical processing markets.
Harsco Industrial Air-X-Changers has been an air-cooled heat exchanger manufacturer since 1954.

Parent Harsco’s common stock fell 51 cents per share in trading Monday in the New York Stock Exchange, closing at $27.47 per share. The stock, using the ticker HSC, is a component of the S&P MidCap 400 Index and the Russell 1000 Index.

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Tulsa Port of Catoosa Shipping Nears Annual Record

By: Phil Mulkins – Tulsa World

The Tulsa Port of Catoosa reported Thursday outbound shipping tonnage was on track to set a “best year of all time” with 2,467,600 tons through November, nearly equaling 2012’s record tonnage with December still to add, said David Page, Chairman of the City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority.

November’s total was 233,519 tons of cargo shipping through the Port.Outbound shipping rose substantially due to increased movement of soy products and fertilizers, totaling 173,562 tons last month, the highest outbound total since July. Of 127 barges moving through the port in November, 35 carried soy products.

Hiring at the port also continued to increase, among the 66 industries within the Port’s industrial park, a 2,500-acre complex. The Port employs more than 4,000 people, a record number for the facility.

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