When J4 Oilfield Services fractures a well, the company sends 85 to 95 barrels of highly corrosive 100 mesh sand through its pumps at pressures ranging from 6,000 to 9,500 psi. Fracturing Manager Colton Willis describes it as “just about the most violent environment you can imagine.”
So when the Texas-based company began replacing the valves and seats in its pumps with inexpensive brands, it didn’t take long for the true costs to emerge.
“In the downturn, everyone started going to cheaper vendors,” Willis says. “We were looking for any way to cut costs.”
J4 tried valves and seats from four different vendors, experiencing all sorts of issues. Some averaged as little as 13 pumping hours. Others didn’t seat tightly enough, causing damage to expensive fluid ends. Willis even saw chunks of metal coming out of some products and urethane coming apart.
“Pulling seats and valves is one of the most time-consuming aspects of pump maintenance,” he says. “Increasing the number of times we had to change out these products led to more downtime and lost revenues.”
J4 has a long, successful history as a Cat customer, operating engines, transmissions, power ends and fluid ends. That’s why it didn’t take the company long to agree when Cat® dealer Holt Cat presented the opportunity to participate in a performance trial of Cat valves and seats. And it only took about a month for J4 to decide to make the switch to the Cat products a long-term solution.
“It was a real quick decision once we had the data in hand,” Willis says. “The Cat valves and seats are lasting three times longer than the best-performing previous products. We’re able to use two to three valves for every one seat. Everything about them is designed for maximum efficiency and longevity.”
Willis also says safety is one of the biggest benefits of the switch. In an industry driven by safe performance, avoiding accidents directly affects the bottom line.
“There’s a safety hazard every time we have to send guys out in the field to replace these products,” he says. “Having them out there less often—that’s really the greatest cost savings. It reduces our risk.”
Working with Holt Cat, J4 has been able to document the benefits of the performance trial, and Willis hopes to use that data to help retain and grow the company’s customer base. Demonstrating the application of cutting-edge technology helps separate J4 from the competition—and Caterpillar’s advances in valves and seats are a prime example.
“I can take this data and show my customers just how efficient our operation is,” Willis says. “That means they’re more efficient, too, and that’s extremely important in this business.”