Quality Wireline runs three slickline units

Estevan – Perhaps a change in government will result in things picking up?

That’s the hope of Chris Ball, operations manager of Estevan-based Quality Wireline Services Ltd.

“We are specifically slickline. The difference is we have a thin stainless steel line which we run tools on,” said Chris Ball, operations manager, on Aug. 22.

At the end of that long wire they run a series of mechanical tools like tubing plugs, mechanical tubing perforators, gauge ring runs and the like.

“We also run pressure and temperature recorders,” he said.

This are electronic gauges that store its data in memory, as opposed to sending data down the line.

“We run tools in, sit on bottom for one to two hours, then we make stops on the way out,” he said.

There’s one simple maxim that applies here. You can’t push on a rope. “We rely on gravity. We can’t push it down,” he said.

The wire they use is 2.74 mm thick. While a thicker braided wirelines can push a bit, their slickline cannot.

“We have about 6,500 metres on the truck. We cut off about 10 metres every job,” he said, explaining that is to ensure fatigue does not become an issue, and you end up fishing for the tool.

But fishing is one of their capabilities, to a point. While a slickline isn’t going to be able to pull a rod string, it can be used to retrieve smaller fish downhole. Quality has some tools to that end.

(The Schlumberger oilfield glossary refers to “fish” as “anything left in a wellbore.”)

Their line is cable of about 1,600 pounds of pull. It runs through a 30-foot lubricator which is positioned above the wellhead.

“We have hydraulic jars at the end. There’s a lot of banging involved,” he said of one application.

Asked how business is going, Ball replied, “Right now, it’s hit and miss. We’ll be busy one month and not the next.”

It’s been like that for a few years now.

Their work is mostly on the service side, but they do some work related to drilling.

“We have three slickline trucks and one five-ton picker,” Ball said. He’s been with the company 15 years. It was established Sept. 11, 2000.

While a lot of people in the patch start as a rough neck, Ball said, “I was a bartender at the Taphouse.”

He got to know the owner, Mike Muir, and was hired. Muir passed away Dec. 10, 2014. Ball said he was well known around the community as “Quality Mike.”

“I’m still learning all the time, and I had one of the best teachers with Mike,” Ball said.

Quality employs six people including the current owners, Cynthia Muir and D.J. Hamelin, Mike Muir’s sister and daughter, respectively.

“We were up to about 13 staff during the boom,” Ball said.

That 50 per cent reduction in staffing is consistent with the broad trend Pipeline Newshas observed in most oilfield services companies in the region compared to 2014 levels.

Their operating radius is generally within a three-hour drive of Estevan, on the Canadian side of the border. They do go as far as Shaunavon to the west, and Virden, Manitoba, to the east, but most of the work is in southeast Saskatchewan.

A typical job will see them about four hours from shop-to-shop, with two to three hours on location. But there are jobs that will take all day, where they punch a hole, sit and wait.

Asked about the rest of 2019, Ball expects it will be about the same, hit and miss. “We as well as others are looking forward to what happens in this federal election,” he said.

He’s pretty blunt about wanting a change in government in the upcoming October election. Ball drove one of their units in the convoy that rolled through Estevan in late December last year.

“There’s people quite upset about that’s going on in this country and how unfairly we’ve been treated,” he said.

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