Professional Non-Destructive Testing and Inspection

Written by Robert Hoshowsky

Back in February of 2014, SMOB Services was born. Business partners Bront Bird, Luke Bird and Steven Sheffield were able to realize their goal of creating a safe, smart and highly-effective company to provide a range of non-destructive testing (NDT) inspection services to the Permian Basin of West Texas and the southeastern part of New Mexico.
In less than two years, the company has grown to approximately sixty highly-skilled staff and continues to expand while attracting well-known and respected oilfield companies including Energen, Diamondback Energy, Inc., Apache Corporation and Encana.

“We were already looking into the sector because there is a high-frequency rate,” says Bront Bird. “We do a lot of these jobs three times, every time they drill a well. We like the high-frequency of jobs, and it just worked out.”

Purchasing an existing company that was formed in 2006, the trio set out on creating their vision. SMOB Services’ team of experienced professionals is committed to serving Midland, Odessa and the entire Permian Basin. The company works for some of the largest and most respected oil and gas companies, pipeline businesses and drilling contractors in the world.

It carried over about ten master service agreements made with the previous company and has grown to 72 master service agreements in a very short time. The history of the former company was a solid benefit; it was tracked through ISNetworld, a global resource that connects hiring clients to safe, reliable contractors.

In its online contractor management database, ISNetworld has a range in information on health and safety, quality, procurement and regulatory data. The database is designed to meet internal and governmental record keeping and compliance requirements. Subject matter experts review and verify information for accuracy, relevance and timeliness.

Companies are connected to reliable, sustainable and safe contractors and suppliers worldwide, which “allows these organizations to use ISN as an integral part of their management systems”. As a result, gas and oilfield companies seeking SMOB’s services would see its solid insurance records, company history and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordable incidents. “Buying another company meant buying all that history, so it helped us considerably,” says Bird.

SMOB Services provides a range of non-destructive testing (NDT) inspection services to companies engaged in the Permian Basin. NDT is increasingly used in a variety of industries. Unlike some older testing methods, it does not permanently alter items being inspected, such as pipes in the oilfield. Through different techniques, including magnetic particle or remote visual inspection (RV), NDT is highly effective in systems engineering, medicine, mechanical engineering and other fields, saving customers time and money.

Among SMOB’s services are casing clean drift and tally, drill pipe inspections, tubing inspections, bottom hole assembly (BHA) inspections and drilling rig and equipment inspections. Endeavouring to be the best clean, drift and tally company operating in the Permian Basin, SMOB has built-in quality assurance systems to ensure all jobs are performed professionally, on-time, precise and with optimal results at all times.

“You have to be 24/7 in our industry,” says Bird. “We answer our phones – no matter what – at all hours of the night. But that’s one of the things that we take pride in. We tell all of our employees, our managers and everybody else, that we hold them to the same standard that our customers hold us. So we tell our customers we will answer the phone at three o’clock, and we expect the same. It works well, and it is a model that has helped us a lot. At the end of the day, everyone expects from each other what the customer expects from us. It makes the customer happy, and all of us do our jobs better.”

The company’s Level II inspectors are adept with American Petroleum Institute standards, category III and category IV mobile drill pipe inspections. Offering twenty-four-hour-a-day services such as blacklighting, refacing and rattling, the inspectors work to customer needs and schedules. Inspection reports are comprehensive yet clear and easy to understand.

SMOB Services handles inspections either in the company yard or in the field using API 5CT standards for casing and tubing as well as standards dictated by customers to ensure that all tubing is correctly cleaned, drifted and electromagnetically inspected.

SMOB’s experienced Level II certified inspectors arrive punctually at client locations for bottom hole assembly inspections and conduct a range of reviews including heavyweight drill pipe, collar, mud motors and fishing tools to ensure there are no cracks or inconsistencies and that all BHA components are intact.

SMOB regularly takes on cleaning rigs, tank and pits, using the best available equipment. Other inspections, such as drilling rig and equipment, typically see SMOB’s skilled crews performing “sandblasting, painting and MPI inspections on all rig components, including bushings, bails, catwalks, elevators, links, quills, slips, spiders, tongs, top drives and more.”

Even at the inception of the company, safe work practices were a must for SMOB. Management and employees are actively involved in maintaining in implementing proper safety procedures and policies at work sites, a commitment that benefits both the company and its clients. To further enhance its reputation for safety, SMOB holds bi-weekly safety meetings covering a range of safety-related topics. Meanwhile, the company’s upper management reviews and amends safety procedures on an ongoing basis with third-party safety vendor, The Centre for Integrated Safety Management (CISM).

All OSHA logs are kept up-to-date and the online account for ISNetworld is maintained by SMOB management and CISM. Random drug tests are administered through a certified third-party vendor and any incidents, accidents or near-misses are thoroughly investigated. Employees are trained to perform a stop work procedure if necessary.

Bird says the area of operation within three hours of its base in Midland, Texas, serves as a central hub and a location for all its primary vendors. “We’re about to go through a stage of rapid acceleration,” he says of the company, “and we will at eighty-five to ninety employees by year-end, but likely closer to one hundred. That is the plan, and that is what we are on-track to do right now.”

Experiencing significant growth in just the past few months, company president Bird says much of SMOB’s recent success is the result of excellent sales and hiring managers with the necessary knowledge and skill sets to work with customers.

“We now have a core group of guys for every division that we really think will help us succeed,” he states. “At the end of the day, you can sell as much as you can, but you’re not going to keep work if you don’t do it successfully. And usually can’t do it successfully if you don’t have good people driving the train. It all goes hand-in-hand, from sales to management operations down to doing the job, dispatch – everything.”

Already on the path to success, the company sees itself with 200 to 250 staff within the next two years and branching out into other locations in South Texas and Oklahoma. Bird says that if oilfield industry demand continues, SMOB Services will likely open a branch in New Mexico, which it already serves. Already, the company is taking on projects further afield. It will start on a pipeline project in Louisiana in the coming months, which will likely last for half a year or longer.

SMOB Services looks forward to working with existing and new oil and gas customers today, tomorrow, and long into the future while remaining humble. Bront Bird serves as company president, Steven Sheffield as vice president and Luke Bird as chief executive officer and the company says titles are a necessary formality. “The only reason I have a title is for signatures but we’re really just three owners with no one taking any precedence over the other,” says Bird. “We’re not really big into titles here at SMOB.”



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