Calgary’s Western Oiltools: An innovative, family-run business’ path to export success

Calgary’s Western Oiltools: An innovative, family-run business’ path to export success

At 6’4, David McAdam isn’t apprehensive when dealing with the some of the more colourful characters in the oil industry. But, he knew something was up when the enormous pumper confronted him. 

“This guy was so big he made me look like a twerp,” said McAdam, President of Western Oiltools. “But his challenge inspired me to come up with a solution to his issue.”

The hulking oil worker didn’t believe McAdam could come up with a way to stop sand from getting into the production blowout preventer (BOP) – a large, specialized valve used to seal, control, and monitor oil wells to avert a blowout. BOPs are critical to the safety of the crew, rig, and environment.

Traditionally, opening up the BOP required killing the well and stopping production. That only happens in a worst-case scenario.

“You just don’t do it,” said McAdam. “So, when I suggested greasing the BOP, I saw his point.”

But, he also saw another solution that would allow the grease to be introduced to the BOP and notably, wouldn’t disrupt production. This led to the idea for a grease-able Ram Block for a Production Rod BOP, which became a revolution in pump jack application equipment by maximizing customer safety, convenience, and efficiency.

What is a pump jack?

Common in oil rich areas, a pump jack is the over-ground drive for a reciprocating piston pump in an oil well. If not enough pressure exists to allow liquid to flow to the surface, the jack mechanically lifts it out of the well.

You’ve likely seen a pump jack before. They resemble drinking-birds toys that “sip” from your glass. But instead of water, these birds dip their beak into the earth.

Oil in the family

Calgary-based Western Oiltools Ltd. was founded around December 2014, helmed by father and son team David and Brian McAdam. Together, they draw on over 45 years combined expertise. 

“My son runs the company,” said McAdam. “I’m the sales guy, out on the road talking to people and introducing the product. My daughter, Kristen, has joined us as well,” he mentioned beaming, obviously happy to be working with his kids.

However, success doesn’t come without hard work. David McAdam started his journey in the oil industry in the eighties, gaining knowledge and global connections along the way. In 2006, he bought a small company and, along with his son Brian, successfully grew and eventually sold it in 2013.

The transaction allowed Brian an opportunity to learn a new skill set and develop his interest in welding.

In early 2015, armed with limited financing, an engineer, and a list of potential customers, the McAdams started Western Oiltools and it immediately took off.

“Our previous clients were reaching out to us for new solutions and innovation,” said McAdam. “This allowed our brand to grow rapidly through one of the most difficult economic climates. Once an oil company tried one of our products, they kept calling back to order more. We are very thankful for the support our customers have given us.”

Innovating is a ball

One example of Western Oil Tools innovation is their Flapperball™ stuffing boxes; an assembly that contains a seal to prevent fluid leakage between the moving parts of a machine. Instead of a spring-loaded flapper as a seal, Western Oiltools uses a ball that will automatically float up and protect any oil from spilling on the ground.

“This is the first change of its kind in 30-40 years and it’s being embraced because people don’t want an oily mess,” said David McAdam. “The well can be clean, safe, and tidy.”

“Our foundational goal in all the products we create is to make our customers jobs safer and easier,” said Brian McAdam. “We are currently nearing the release of a Unitized BOP that eliminates the need for multiple modes of pressure equipment during the life of the well. Workers will no longer be required to constantly change high-pressure equipment, making their lives easier and safer. Clients are already calling it: one-and-done” 

Partnership with EDC

To support the Western Oiltools’ working capital needs and encourage their growth in the U.S., EDC supplied insurance for the company’s receivables in the US.

“This provided risk mitigation and peace of mind when transacting with customers across the border, while also giving the option to provide payment terms to their customers and margin the receivables with their bank’s line of credit,” said Colton Parson, Small Business Account Manager at EDC. “We also provided a $250,000 direct loan with extended payment terms that allowed them to fulfill the purchase orders they had received from the U.S., enabling them to pursue opportunities in line with their U.S. growth strategy”.

“Currently, the North American market has been keeping us busy,” said McAdam. “However, we’re always keen on diversifying our customer base. We have our eyes on other international markets who have expressed interest in our technology.” 

Get more export insights from Brian and David McAdam here.

Categories Mining & Energy

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