Academy Petroleum Industries

Reliable standard and custom products for the oilfield industry
Written by: 
Jeanee Dudley
Produced by: 
John Carioti

Academy Petroleum Industries (API) has been in business since 1985. Established by Duane Nelson and Garry Brown, the business serves oil companies throughout Canada and beyond. API is headquartered in Edmonton, Alberta, and employs 75 people.

Duane and Garry founded the company after working together for several years in the same industry. After the economic downturn in the late 1970s, both were laid off from their jobs at Galaxy Machine, another fabricator serving the oil industry. Duane worked in international sales while Garry was a foreman for the business. They combined their skills in the new venture, building API with a philosophy of service, innovation and hard work.

Leveraging existing relationships, the partners managed to launch a successful business catering to major oil producers throughout Canada. Today, API has grown significantly in size, capabilities and market share. While a majority of contracts are still with businesses in Canada, the company has also provided oilfield components for producers overseas.

Academy Petroleum Industries

Strong leadership

Duane and Garry are still actively involved in the business as partners and shareholders. API has grown into a second generation of family-ownership and -operation as both partners’ sons are now involved. Andrew Nelson, Duane’s son, is a shareholder and serves as manager of purchasing and sales. Garry’s son, Cory Brown is foreman of the operation.

While API has grown significantly since opening its doors 30 years ago, the business still operates as a small company. Family ownership lends to an atmosphere of teamwork, fostering innovation and creativity in an industry where thinking outside the box can be vital to success.

Innovation comes naturally to the dedicated staff. Set apart by experience and deep resources, API has several employees who have been with the business for 25 years or more. “Our general manager started working here two or three months after Garry and my father founded the company,” explains Andrew. “He is getting close to the 30-year mark. Then we have machinists who have been here for 20 years or more. We take a lot of pride in the long-term relationships we have with our employees. Every year have a holiday party for our staff and give out awards for employee anniversaries, and make RSP contributions for them.”

Driving innovation

The bread and butter of the company is API’s standard product line with a special focus on snubbing units. “Our products meet a number of licensing criteria, meeting designations 6a, 16a, 16c and 17d, which is an offshore license,” Andrew elaborates. “We have a vast array of products we can build in that respect. We also have our own line of snubbing units, which we have developed over the course of 15 years.”

The company recently developed a line of snubbing annular blowout preventers (BOPs) to licensing criteria. “After hours of testing, our B.O.P. has its own monogram, which is a pretty big feat,” says Andrew. “We are pretty proud of that.”

The company’s work also includes a number of complex, custom products for customers. API builds wellhead equipment for major producers, such as FMC, Halliburton, Weatherford and others. “We strive to serve as a one-stop shop for our customers,” he elaborates. “We design this equipment in-house with our engineering department, put it on paper and make it a reality. From start to finish, we can build anything our customers want if it is possible.”

While to some extent, Andrew says the market is always changing through technological advances, the business deals with the same basic equipment. “The difference in technology is how we go about addressing the problems our customers have,” he notes. “Machining gets more intricate, metals get more exotic, with wear resistant materials and other factors.”

Continued growth

Because of the company’s ability to adapt to these changes, major oil companies trust API with complex work. Andrew and his colleagues have brought the impossible to life through engineering, innovation and a little bit of luck.

“One of the most memorable projects for me was this big conductor pipe cleaner we built for a rig in the Baltic Sea,” Andrew elaborates. “They would tie into conductors in the bottom of the sea floor – these are existing holes they drilled 15 years ago and capped off. There are these threads in the bottom of the sea floor for 15 to 20 years so when they want to tap into them, they have to clean them off.”

“What we built was like a big bottlebrush – a total custom project,” he continues. “We designed it and built it even though this is something we had never done before. On paper, we know it should work, but we didn’t know how this project would turn out. This was for FMC offshore. They took gamble because we said we could do it and it was very successful, we were really happy about it.”

The FMC project has been one of several offshore projects where the API team has shined. Andrew and his team hope to get into more of this type of work as time goes on. Over the coming years, Academy Petroleum Industries is building up those relationships and providing turnkey solutions to complex quandaries in the oil industry.

Strategic Partnership(s): 
Encore Metals
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