Rhino Oilfield Services: Pioneering Processes With Local Economic, and National Energy, Implications


Rhino Oilfield Services was founded in mid-2012 to construct drill pads and support roads for drilling projects in the Utica Shale development. It is a subsidiary of Rhino Resource Partners, a diversified Lexington, Ky.-based company involved in the energy sector. 

Historically, Rhino Resource Partners focused on coal mining, including operations in Ohio at the Hopedale Mining Complex near Cadiz and the Sands Hill Mining Complex near Hamden. More recently, the company has entered the oil and natural gas sectors in order to develop natural resources found in the Utica Shale

When setting up Rhino Oilfield Services, the company turned to Columbus Equipment Company to help supply its construction crews with machinery. The package included three Komatsu dozers—a D65WX-17, a D65EX-17 and a D61EX-23—a Komatsu PC138 excavator, a Takeuchi TL250 track loader and a Dynapac compactor.

Butch McCaleb, sales rep for Columbus Equipment’s Piketon branch, put the equipment package together for Rhino’s applications. Part of the strategy was to employ small to mid-sized equipment from the Komatsu lineup that still provided the power needed for the projects at hand. “With the smaller equipment, Rhino will realize cost savings, both in the initial purchase costs and in the production costs. Smaller machines use less fuel, so owning and operating costs are lower,” McCaleb noted.

The smaller equipment is also easier to get to job sites, particularly those only accessed by narrow roadways. Rhino spends less time breaking down equipment to get it on and off the job site, thereby increasing productivity.

“The equipment is top of the line and is working well for our operators,” said Jamie Thomas, project manger with Rhino Oilfield Services. “The combination of late-model equipment, and outstanding availability and service from Columbus Equipment Company has led to excellent production and cost efficiencies. We have had minimal downtime.”

McCaleb also suggested that Rhino add the Topcon Positioning System on its dozers, and Rhino has been impressed with the system’s performance with significant cuts in pad installation times. 
“Topcon has dramatically improved our pad installation capabilities,” Thomas said. “Pad design typically requires a 0.5 percent slope. We simply program in the subgrade and finish grades and let the dozer do the work. Due to the technology, we can now work uninterrupted. We have reduced pad installation time by as much as 40 percent. And in this business, time is money.”

Along with speeding up the process, the Topcon system improves the final product, he added. “We are not only able to provide a higher quality product, but also a more cost-efficient service for our customers. 

Savings are recognized across the board, from time to labor to more accurate and efficient use of materials.” With the accuracy of the grading, Rhino is able to control the amount of product needed to do the job correctly, resulting in cost savings.

All the equipment has been performing well, said Marco McVey, crew leader. “The operators love the Komatsu machines. With the new joystick controls, they aren’t moving around all day to reach different handles, so it’s easier for our operators to go long stretches in the cab. That helps productivity, because they can go for longer and they feel like going longer.”

“I’m real happy with this equipment,” McVey said. “Komatsu excavators offer excellent speed of control, and they are very well balanced. They also seem to hold up well.” After initial adjustments by Columbus Equipment, the D61 and D65 dozers have offered plenty of power for the company’s applications.

“I’ve run a lot of brands and, in my opinion, service makes the machine. Columbus Equipment absolutely keeps them going,” he added. “I’ve worked with heavy equipment most of my working life and have experienced pretty much every dealer out here. Columbus Equipment Company is by far the best in terms of service. They are impeccable. They have a lot of knowledge, and no matter what branch you deal with, they are good people.”

Rhino has a service contract with Columbus Equipment, and “Columbus Equipment works around our schedule. If we are real busy with equipment and they need to do service, they wait for rainy days to work on it. They work with us to do service at a time that is convenient for us,” Thomas said. “Butch McCaleb follows up on things. He has been very proactive in making sure the equipment is in good shape and the service is kept up. As a small company, we like to see the attention we are getting,” Thomas added.

In its first year, Rhino Oilfield Services completed five drill pads and an impoundment camp, working for Gulfport Energy and Eclipse Resources in Harrison, Guernsey, Belmont and Monroe counties. A typical project might include a 300-foot by 400-foot pad with a 20-foot-wide, 1,600-foot-long access road. The company cut well over 150,000 cubic yards of dirt in the first five months of 2013.

While the pads are typically built on former pastureland, each project is different, McVey noted. “Some days are long, because the cut and fill is different on each pad. Some might be 11,000 yards while others are 40,000 or 50,000 yards.” Rhino is set up with two work crews, who can work together or in two shifts, depending on the timeframe for the project.

Rhino Oilfield Services sees plenty of growth ahead in the Utica. Gulfport Energy alone plans to drill 55 to 60 wells in 2013, Thomas noted. “We are encouraged by the continued development of the Utica Shale in eastern Ohio. The company has good relationships with the surrounding communities based on the area’s coal roots. The growth has provided much needed economic stimulus to local residents, farmers and communities, with an influx of resources and new barns, buildings and stores being created; to local industry, including related segments such as heavy equipment and other support services; and to the state of Ohio. We are proud to be a part of this effort.”

Contact your Columbus Equipment Company sales rep today for more information.