Build It, and They Will Come… Relationships, Operations, but mostly Tools

Viper International Drilling and Well Services
Written by Leon Bracey

Viper International Drilling and Well Services is a company founded on the principles of fulfilling commitments and doing a job right. With extensive expertise in oil drilling services across the globe, the team at Viper International Drilling and Well Services is committed to being the best at what they do in the oil and gas industry.
Company President and CEO Mark Harbert spoke with Business in Focus about Viper International’s projects and how the company has grown since its inception.

Harbert has over 35 years of experience in the oil and gas industry, gaining experience in the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas, and decided to branch out on his own after years of working for various companies. Harbert developed and patented a tool called the Curve Reamer, which is designed to run based on curve and lateral of oil wells. Its design has been successful in both hard and soft formations and numerous operators have benefited from running the Curve Reamer. Eventually, Harbert started selling additional tools. Originally operating Southern Oilfield Services in 2010, Mr. Harbert started Viper International Drilling and Well Services and dissolved Southern after expanding to additional markets throughout the world.

Based in Houston, Texas, Viper International Drilling and Well Services specializes in turnkey drilling and oil lease partnerships, offering services ranging from drilling to oil tools, directional, consulting, and engineering. Under Mr. Harbert’s leadership, the company has grown to include operations in Nigeria, Alberta, and South Texas with future expansions into South America and Mexico. The company recently acquired new office facilities in Houston to consolidate the various Viper companies under Viper International Drilling and Well Services. Currently, the team has plans to set up its own in-house motor shop to handle valves and parts.

Thanks in large part to the Curve Reamer, Viper International Drilling is known for its proprietary tools which meet the needs of customers in the initial drilling process. These tools make a perfectly gauged hole and wash out all cuttings smoothly, leaving no bumps or ledges.

“We work with these companies and align them with Innovative Measurement while Drilling (MWD) services out of our offices in Houston,” Harbert explains. “Lots of multibillion dollar corporations who think they have a handle on oil industry try to squeeze little guys [like us] out. But we can offer operators more, from downhole tools to pipeline to refinery. We serve as a one-stop shop. A lot of our competing companies are in the rental market on a per-job basis; here at Viper, we contract as exclusive seller, saving companies money because we do all jobs and take care of them across the board.”

A primary goal of Viper International is to help lower the cost of drilling operations by offering operators, contractors and service companies contract pricing on all downhole equipment and services. Harbert believes that working with operators and contractors to develop appropriate, customized terms can help them decrease costs and increase production in order to remain competitive with world markets and keep the American Oil and Gas industry thriving. Recent developments to this end include Viper signing a Memorandum of Understanding joining RAPP Drilling Tools Supply Co Inc. Viper is also in negotiations with a Calgary-based energy exploration company to supply their 1000 HP and 650 HP drilling rigs for a long-term project in Alberta, Canada.

Additionally, the company boasts a new line of Viper High Performance downhole drilling motors. Viper is known for manufacturing special tools to tackle specific challenges, and will work with clients to design proprietary tools for their particular needs.

Due to Harbert’s extensive experience in the field, he understands the needs of oil and gas companies and how to service them. “I’ve been where the operators are,” he says. “I’ve been an operator or consultant, and a downhole oilhand. I know what they’re looking for, what they’re going through, so I serve them by knowing what they need. You can get anyone to sell you oil tools, but unless you’ve run a rig, done operations and service, it’s hard to guess what they want… These oil operators like that there is a one-stop shop; we’ll take care of you.”

Taking care of Viper International’s customers means providing them with a number of tools including the Viper HP Mud Motor, Drilling Stabilizers, subs, float valves, and casing scrapers, as well as reamers and hole openers.

Thanks to its partnership with RAPP Drilling Tools Supply Company, Viper International supplies a variety of equipment for oil rigs, drilling, workover, and production, and this has led the company to be recognized as one of the leading firms in this field. RAPP is involved in the trading, buying, and selling of new and used oilfield equipment and instrumentation related to the oil and gas industry.

Services offered by Viper International include section milling, under reaming, lateral reaming, fishing services and straight hole drilling motor services. Viper’s field engineers have been trained to do the best work at the lowest cost to the operator, and Viper’s philosophy of cost effective drilling methods has led to an increase in exploration and production and lower costs passed on to the consumer.

Equipment, of course, is only part of the equation, and Harbert’s expertise in the field has impressed upon him the importance of relationships. He feels that building strong friendships and relationships is a key component to helping a business grow. “I met one CEO who needed help with parted casing in South Texas,” he explains. “We started talking, discussing projects and became friends. By developing a personal relationship, we were there for him when his company was in a bind and he needed help. We designed a tool just for him. Also, I spent seven years in the Middle East and built relationships there. So people that I deal with in my company are people I met in different areas around the world. If I meet someone who needs people in their area, we know what they need and what to do to serve them.”

The team’s ability to form strong relationships has helped Viper International grow incredibly fast in its short history. The company is also registered with the Ministry of Oil in Iraq, enabling the company to work in that country. “Thanks to our relationships, we are aligned with great companies like Innovative MWD, and an endorsement from the state of Texas from governors for future endeavors,” Harbert shares.

Viper International’s commitment to saving their clients money has led the team to expand operations throughout the world. Besides the Eagle Ford Shale in Texas, other locations include the Texas Panhandle; Halkirk, Alberta, Canada; and Nigeria. Recently, Viper International signed a deal with an oil company in China as well as PEMEX in Mexico and BP Iraq. “These overseas companies chose us instead of other companies because of the way we conduct business and the way we look at things,” says Harbert. “Because of how we structure ourselves, those customers will be ours.”

Due to ongoing concerns with ISIS in the Middle East, Viper has scaled back in the region and Harbert is sending drills to its operations in Nigeria and supplying rigs and drilling tools for PEMEX in Mexico. Additionally, Viper signed a $6 million contract with Tianhe Oil Group as its exclusive distributor in North America.

Another major partnership the team has is with Hilcorp Energy. Viper helped design an open-hole gravel pack with the company to increase production in oil wells that were originally thought to be tapped out. “We do our best to design processes that solve problems. With Hilcorp, they had old wells from 1940s and 50s that they couldn’t get production out of. By studying the well with our guys, what made three barrels a day now makes 30 to 40 barrels a day.”

Future plans for the company include the release of a new reaming tool product called the Medusa, which Harbert describes as a ‘Curve Reamer on steroids,’ which will be introduced this month at the Ark-La-Tex (Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas) Oil Field Expo in Shreveport, Louisiana. The 2nd-generation reaming tool will process work twice as fast as the first-generation reamer.

Viper International Drilling and Well Services has rapidly grown since the days of Southern Oilfield Services due to its hands-on approach with clients and its ability to customize products for them. Thanks to this, Mr. Harbert feels his company meets an important need in the global Oil and Gas sector. “We’re not out here to be the biggest or the brightest,” he says. “We’re here to be the best. We have the right people in the right place, and the knowledge to handle any tough situation on a drilling rig. If no one else can do it, we can.”



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