May 2015 Oil & Gas Product News Article

This article is the cover story in the May/June 2015 issue of Oil & Gas Product News –

Ensuring Assets are Ready for the Future Through Equipment Renewal

Pressure pumping machinery can be better than new thanks to today’s remanufacturing processes

In the current market, remanufacturing is not only necessary for sustainable production practices, but it also makes the best business sense to leverage existing assets. With nearly 20 million horsepower in pressure pumping equipment in North America, there are literally thousands of units that will eventually wear out. Depending on conditions and hours worked, these units need remanufacturing every four to six years.


Bringing these assets back to life through remanufacturing is a fraction of the cost of buying new—but not all remanufacturing processes are equal, especially when “remanufacturing” can mean little more than a facelift and light repair work.

There can be confusion in the industry over the grey area between remanufacturing and refurbishing. Refurbishers clean, repaint, and bring equipment back to operable standards, whereas remanufacturers take this process further by disassembling and reassembling equipment, rebuilding majors, and restoring the product to its original specifications. There is a wide variance in the outcome and standards, as one remanufacturer may upgrade technology and offer a warranty, while another completes only the necessary repairs. But some companies are developing innovative processes that set a new standard in remanufacturing.


R4 Equipment Renewal is a Calgary-based company that remanufactures pressure pumps for hydraulic fracturing and purposely uses the term “renewal” to differentiate their remanufacturing process. R4 has made it their mission to show that renewed equipment can far exceed its original product specifications—for approximately two thirds of the price of buying brand new. The company partners with oil and gas service companies to renew, and more importantly, standardize fleets of pressure pumpers.


Economic Benefits

The economic benefits of remanufacturing are well-known by many global companies, such as Volvo, Liebherr, and Caterpillar, to name a few. Cummins is yet another industry leader, with nine global remanufacturing facilities and approximately $1 billion in Cummins ReCon sales for 2013. These companies have proved remanufacturing’s capabilities by maximizing customers’ productivity and helping them increase return on investment.


The immediate benefit of conventional remanufacturing is the ability to refresh existing equipment with less capital than buying new. R4’s renewal process builds on the same principles as other leaders in remanufacturing and accomplishes something different than simply refreshing equipment—it takes an old piece of equipment and essentially gives a new unit back to the customer.


At R4, the renewed version of a 2007 pressure pumper is no longer recognizable as the worn-out machine that it was when it rolled in the door. R4 President Richard Cote has spent the last 26 years in the manufacturing industry, and according to him, “This is not just a repaired or remanufactured product. This is reinvented—it far exceeds its 2007 specifications in terms of safety, performance and operations—and it carries an as-new warranty to back it up.” So how is this better-than-new performance achieved?


A well-planned process is essential to remanufacturing operations, and R4’s comprehensive and standardized process is meticulously planned. They follow a systematic process that begins with thorough inspection and testing as part of the first of its 4 R’s, the initial “Review” phase.


During the intensive “Renewal” phase, the majors—including the engine, transmission, and high pressure pump—go to R4’s OEM partners to be rebuilt to as-new standards. New parts for the units themselves are sourced from R4’s business partner, Propell Oilfield Equipment, the leading manufacturer of hydraulic fracturing technology in North America. In the meantime, R4 works on the platform, for which they have developed a revolutionary conversion strategy within the industry.


The following “Reassure” stage of R4’s process involves testing and documenting the equipment, while providing ongoing status updates. R4 then provides a full documentation package, complete with an as-new warranty during the final “Reinforce” step.


Operational and Safety Benefits

During the remanufacturing process, there is an opportunity to upgrade technology while equipment is disassembled. R4 is an example of a company which is seizing that opportunity and shaking up remanufacturing possibilities by introducing new technology during its renewal process. Many key features stand out on the R4 renewed pumpers, which are not found on conventionally remanufactured pressure pumps.


To improve safety specifications, R4 replaces the pumper’s ladders with safety stairs, rails, and a work platform for easier access to complete routine maintenance. A sliding, adjustable fender allows workers to easily service valves and maintain the pump.


The sliding fender, in addition to all other components, is attached to the chassis using unique rail-clamp technology. Instead of being welded to the platform, each part, from tool storage boxes to the integrated control stand, is securely bolted on and easily adjusted. For future-thinking customers, rail-clamp technology gives them the ability to remove or add components later—making for quick repairs and upgrades. It is a win-win technology for the customer and R4, as rail-clamp brackets are also faster and simpler to manufacture and install, contributing to a faster turn-around time.


R4 also makes future-ready provisions for the customers via a flexible new control panel, for which customers can load their own software and configure it to meet their needs.


Further additions, including a drive-shaft guard that protects workers, engineering and mounting methods which reduce total vibration on the unit, and accessible filters, all simplify maintenance and add value to the R4’s renewed unit. Evidently, R4 plans all remanufacturing additions with the future in mind.


Environmental Sustainability

Remanufacturing equipment in order to extend its life not only makes economic sense, but it keeps parts out of the waste stream longer. Through reuse or recycling of parts, remanufacturing reduces negative environmental impacts. Repurposing equipment and using conversion technology so that it works just as well, and with the same features as a new product, is sustainable production at its best.


Businesses which remanufacture their equipment send a strong message to the marketplace about their environmental commitment to green and sustainable equipment practices. Many remanufacturers, including R4, recycle all worn-out parts removed from the original pumper. Cummins’ 2013-2014 Sustainability Report states that their remanufacturing operations reclaim about 50 million pounds of parts and components annually, preventing these worn-out products from ending up in landfills. In doing so, they also avoid creating around 200 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year.


Environmental sustainability can be built not only into the end-product, but into the process as well. For example, R4 designed its facility with a unique collection system that captures all fluids, filtering them through an oil separator and evaporating the water. This process ensures that in the event of an accidental spill, it is contained within the building so that the environment outside the building is unaffected.


Remanufacturing Reinvented

With many companies offering customized remanufacturing packages, how does a company like R4 differentiate itself? For Cote, the formula by which R4 sets itself apart is this: “It’s how we put together the platform that we’ve developed, converting equipment to current technology. We partner with companies to remanufacture fleets and ultimately improve their operational efficiency”.


In other words, if a well service company employs several different pumper platforms, R4 will convert them to a standardized group which uses the same readily-available parts and components.


Taking on entire fleets for renewal and executing the right formula also requires a team and facility capable of following through on these promises. A tour of R4’s impressive 50,000 square foot facility makes it clear that they have just that.


R4’s dedicated remanufacturing facility includes an indoor twin-sided test stand which tests two pumps simultaneously, and is regarded by many customers as one of the best test stands in North America. It was precisely designed to improve safety, visibility, noise levels, and data collection during testing. The data collection system captures information from all critical mechanical circuits to identify opportunities to improve the equipment and prevent costly failure before it occurs. After renewal, thorough testing provides data to show that the pumper meets or exceeds its original performance.


R4 has big plans for renewal. Cote anticipates that in time, the conversion strategy and technology they have developed will be applied in other equipment markets.


One thing is for sure: R4 customers will not recognize the equipment they started with. Above all, according to Cote, renewal is about leveraging existing assets: “We take an old asset and make it new. By renewing a fleet to the best platform, the customer becomes future-ready.”


Bob Fugger

Branding and Communications Manager