This Canadian success story is part of this week’s oil and gas sector series.
To learn more about export opportunities for companies in this sector, please read Canada’s oil and gas sector – demonstrating value brings international opportunities.
Canalta Controls is a classic Canadian story of a family business that adapted when the market switched gears and, in doing so, happened into a whole new business line.
The original Canalta Controls was established in 1986 in Red Deer, Alta., as an electrical and instrumentation contractor for Alberta’s oil and gas industry. But oil and gas is a cyclical business so during slow times, in order to keep employees on the payroll, the company started repairing and refurbishing oilfield-related instrumentation and valves.
“In the mid-90s, we made a strategic shift into producing new manufactured items, including solutions for natural gas measurement and field-gas process heater controls,” said CEO Mike Clark, whose father founded the company in 1986. “That’s how we morphed into becoming the manufacturer we are today.”
The main product is a natural gas measurement device — a meter used for the fiscal transfer and allocation metering of natural gas for industrial settings such as pipelines. It now has products for both onshore and offshore applications.
“Whenever natural gas is travelling from the well head into field-process equipment, the distribution lines or refineries, for example, our meter can be used,” Clark said. “It’s instrumentation that’s built into the line. It’s used anywhere you need to measure the volume of natural gas passing through the pipe.”
Becoming a manufacturer also meant the business sightlines expanded outside of Alberta’s oil fields and even outside the country.
“We had initially made contact with various American companies at exhibitions — one big one was the Global Petroleum Show in Calgary,” Clark explained. “We started small, but our first sales came soon after into the United States.”
The company has truly gone global since then.
“Our headquarters remain in Red Deer, but we now have a direct Canalta sales and supply-chain presence in the U.S., Argentina, the U.K., Singapore, India and South Korea,” Clark said. “We have some near-term plans for expansion into the Middle East and Brazil, but over the last year or so, just like everyone else, we’ve been forced to review our options.”
In addition to the bricks and mortar global sites, the company has agents and distributors across all major oil and gas regions in the world. Indeed, more than two-thirds of Canalta’s business is now outside of Canada.
“This is partly because of our international growth and also because of the slowdown in North America,” Clark said.
The company has worked closely with EDC over the years, mostly for accounts receivable insurance.
“We started working with EDC pretty early on,” Clark said. “It gives us the security and confidence to enter into contracts with new potential clients and new regions and markets. You don’t always know who you’re dealing with, but EDC will qualify them for you. That gives us confidence and peace of mind.”