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.
During the winter months in Canada, Jamie Swallow doesn’t mind that his engineering consulting firm also has offices in Houston, Texas. In fact, as snow was falling in Ottawa in April, he was basking in 29°C temperatures in the Lone Star State.
“My wife spends the winter down here,” the professional engineer said with a laugh.
It makes sense that the president of Calgary’s Sulphur Experts Group of Companies would spend a lot of time in Houston as the company’s bread and butter comes from treating gas and recovering sulphur for the oil and gas industry.
“We are an engineering consulting company,” Swallow said. “We work where there are gas processing plants and oil refineries.”
Sulphur Experts was incorporated in 1997 as the engineering division that spun out of a larger company known as Bovar Western Research, which was sold off in pieces in the 1990s.
“We brought all the employees who were in the engineering group with us,” Swallow said.
The group works with gas plants and refineries across Canada and also around the world. In addition to the Texas office, there’s an office in Holland and another in New Zealand, where the firm’s founder and former president, now semi-retired, runs operations. In addition, there’s an administrative sales and marketing office in Barbados and a representative based in Turkey, who will soon be looking after a renewed working relationship with Iran.
When hired, the firm will send its people and test equipment to do onsite analysis, and then it provides engineering consulting services around what it finds.
With oil and natural gas maintaining their status as popular energy-providers, are there any places Sulphur Experts doesn’t work?
“We don’t work in North Korea, Iraq, Iran and Syria at the moment, though we’ll be working in Iran very shortly” Swallow said.
In Iran, most of the work the company will be doing is in natural gas, but for now, the bulk of its workload is in refining, simply because the refineries are making money right now.
“Our mix is 60 per cent refining and 40 per cent gas processing,” Swallow said, and added that sulphur must be removed from natural gas before it can be put in pipelines and it must be removed from refined products before they can be put in a car or airplane.
The company began working with Export Development Canada in 2012 to aid with cash flow and international receivables.
“We manage all of our international business through Barbados and we were using EDC to leverage our international receivables,” Swallow said. “We were the first service company they did this with. They guarantee our receivables, and we’re also setting up accounts receivable insurance for contracts in Mexico, Chile, Spain, Saudi Arabia and UAE.”
He said the export guarantee program allowed the firm to significantly increase its line of credit at the bank, which allowed it to expand.