Alberta business with a global footprint

The designer, manufacturer and distributor of casing cementing equipment has been headquartered in Edmonton since it was founded in 1963. Complementing a 132,000 square foot Canadian facility is a 41,000  square foot manufacturing plant in Weatherford, Texas. Customer service and product support centres are located in several countries as diverse as Mexico, Dubai, Russia and Singapore.

Expansion plans are underway to open manufacturing facilities in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and South America. Its global presence is augmented by a network of qualified agents and distributors based in 42 different countries that provide regional customer service and product support.

Gerald McLaughlan, President of Top-Co, says, “We operate in a niche business, supplying special tools for cementing casing in oil, gas and geothermal wells, and in some cases, deep water wells. There are four major global suppliers of these products, including Top-Co, servicing an international market of more than $900 million.”

The company manufactures a full line of products for usage in the casing cementing sector, including stage cementing equipment, cementing plugs and heads, inner string cementing equipment, centralization tools and float equipment.

Centralizers are used to center casing in the wellbore, enabling operators, when pumping cement, to completely surround the casing with the slurry, ensuring a high integrity cement bond. “These tools come in various shapes, sizes and specifications to address different well profiles,” explains McLaughlan. “For example, you would use a different type of centralizer in a vertical wellbore compared with centralizing casing in horizontal extended reach wells. Accordingly,

Top-Co supplies ‘fit-for-purpose equipment’ that addresses different needs of producers.”

Float equipment contains a high performance check valve preventing backflow of drilling mud and cement into the casing. Once casing is in place the separation of two hydrostatic columns of fluid and maintenance of differential pressure is achieved using float equipment while sustaining the goal of preventing back flow of fluids into the casing.

“Float equipment becomes an integral part of the casing,” says McLaughlan. “The valve allows cement to pass through until pumping is finished when the valve closes ensuring cement does not rise through the casing and return to surface. We manufacture and distribute these unique tools to all active oil and gas markets around the globe.”

The headquarters in Edmonton and a location in Houston, Texas also serve as research and development (R&D) centres. In the R&D centers Top-Co engineers work on solutions to producer problems encountered when drilling and cementing oil and gas wells.

“Today producer emphasis is on drilling and completing horizontal and extended reach wells” says McLaughlan. “When running casing in these wells significant friction or drag is encountered. Oil and gas companies are frequently challenged to have casing reach bottom.”

The R&D labs are focused on finding solutions to these type of specialized problems. R&D endeavors are supported by a state-of-the-art flow loop test facility that was designed and built in Edmonton, commissioned three years ago at a cost of over $3 million. “We can simulate well conditions using this testing device,” explains McLaughlan. “When we are testing tools, we can simulate the exact condition tools will encounter when operating in an oil or gas well. We can dynamically test, electronically monitor and log test data and initiate tool modifications to achieve design performance.  This process removes and/or mitigates the usual risks associated with the field introduction of new products.”

While already spread across continents and servicing all hemispheres where there is a search for oil and gas, Top-Co’s vision is to expand its global base even further. “We provide our clients with unique solutions to problems encountered, primarily through our applications engineering initiatives, a specialized service introduced over the past year,” says McLaughlan. “The next major strategic move is to establish engineering “solutions” and support centers coupled with manufacturing facilities outside of North America to be closer to our clients, to curtail product delivery cycle times and reduce freight costs.”

Top-Co’s revenues are geographically diversified with 40 per cent of the company’s business in Canada, 20 per cent in the United States and 40 per cent offshore. The goal is to increase the U.S. and offshore positions to a combined 75 per cent over the next three to five years. McLaughlan adds, “We have expanded our sales/service/distribution platforms to three locations in the US, four locations in Mexico, Dubai, Singapore, Moscow, Rotterdam and soon Bogota. Before the close of 2012 we plan to be manufacturing in at least three other countries.