Boots & Coots – been there, done that and can do more
T he first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the words “Boots and Coots” is their renowned oil field fire fighting expertise. Of course, that description is so true, even today. They continue to be known for being the best in the world in quelling major fires in oil fields internationally. But their roles in the energy industry have expanded. They have found it necessary to provide other related services for the oil and gas industry.
In 2010, Halliburton ac- quired Boots & Coots, a company that provides necessary services for oil and gas wells. This initiated a new business line combining Halliburton’s existing coiled tubing and hydraulic workover operations with Boots & Coots’ pressure control and intervention services.
Before the Halliburton purchase, Boots & Coots already had a presence in Pleasanton, to serve Eagle Ford Shale activities. Halliburton proceeded to invest in commercial real estate properties in Pleasanton, part of which were used to build a nice, large office complex for Boots & Coots.
I’m bringing you my interview with a famed fire fighter with the title of Senior Well Control Specialist with Boots & Coots. Richard Hatteberg has seen it all from fighting fires in Venezuela to Kuwait. Then I’ll bring you Boots & Coots’ local connection, T. J. Love, a graduate of Jourdanton High School, who’s Field Technician with the firm.
Love, who grew up in Jourdanton, graduated in 2003. Shortly after, Love began a four-year tour of duty in the Marine Corps.
Fourteen years before the formation of Boots & Coots, Richard Hatteberg and Raymond Henry joined the Adair team. These two veteran Boots & Coots/International Well Control senior well control specialists are some of the most experienced, active oil well firefighters in the world. The roots of the critical well control industry can be traced to the late 1930s when Myron Kinley organized the first oil well firefighting specialty company. Not too many years later, he took on Paul Adair, who went by the nickname, Red. Red Adair learned the firefighting business alongside Kinley, the man who began it all only a few short years earlier.
Leaving the security of Kinley to form the Red Adair Company was no easier for Adair than it was for Boots Hansen and Coots Matthews, who left Adair years later to form Boots & Coots.
I asked Hatteberg to relate the beginning of his part in the involvement of fighting and quelling the fires in Kuwait.
“Well, I eventually got to Kuwait. I was hung up in Venezuela for about three months fighting a fire. A little later on I was told of some problem going on in Kuwait and really didn’t know much about it. I flew into Germany where, shortly after, I was given instructions to get on a plane and head for Kuwait. I just said, ‘yes sir’.
Continuing, “Right when I got there one of the guys took me by automobile down to see what was going on, and I actually got tears in my eyes. I couldn’t realize that somebody set all of those wells on fire. Over 700 wells - it was a huge mess. I’d never seen anything or dreamt of anything like that before. But at least by the time I got there we had half a decent place to stay. The guys who first went in there, they used things like baby wipes to take somewhat of a bath. Those baby wipes were used because there wasn’t any fresh water. Where all of the oil people were staying, they would try to clean up with a little bit of the water that was kind of brackish from the oilfield. There was no fresh water from the ground in Kuwait and that was the big problem until we got the water supply thing worked out.
“When we saw what was over there we realized that there was no firefighting equipment around or anything to deal with these wells,” continued Hatteberg, “That’s where we started. We determined what firefighting equipment we needed and had it delivered by aircraft.”
When entering the burning oil fields, there was the constant danger of encountering land mines that had been placed in areas around the oil wells. The military had to clear the area before the fires could be put out. “I felt like we were at the mercy of God. Fighting was still going on in Iraq and that presented an ever-present problem and worry,” added Hatteberg. The Kuwaiti oil fires started in January, 1991 and were finally extinguished in November, 1991. What the firefighting group initially thought would take 10 years to accomplish, they took only 10 months to put out over 700 fires.
Asked about what he’s doing at the present time, Hatteberg replied, “I just got back from Venezuela. They had a fire down there and I spent some time fighting that. I’ve enjoyed working in Texas and the United States better than anywhere in the world. Every place has a good side and a bad side, but in South Texas I feel more at home than elsewhere. It’s been a few years since I’ve been around the Pleasanton area. Four years ago I was in the Three Rivers area south of Pleasanton on a small job.”
Thanks in part to what Richard Hatteberg and Raymond Henry brought to the firm, Boots & Coots knows what to do when it comes to well control. This has given the firm sort of a “heads up” in their services that are tied to pressure control.
Hatteberg said, “One more thing – Boots, Coots and I were in Libya in 1965 and the latter part of that year we were featured in about a five or six page spread in Life magazine. I guess that was my ‘claim to fame’.”
I would say that Hatteberg, when you look back at his past, fighting very dangerous oil well fires, can honestly, in its entirety, be his “claim to fame.”
Now we come to the present. Here in Pleasanton, you’ll find a young man, T. J. Love, from Jourdanton, who is actively pursuing his career with Boots & Coots. Referring back, he’s a Jourdanton grad who has moved up in the firm.
Love said, “After serving my duty in the Marine Corps, I saw that Boots & Coots had opened a business location in Pleasanton. I applied for a job, starting with the firm at entry level just prior to their becoming a business line of Halliburton. I started in the shop, then moved up to inventories control. Right now, I’m a Field Technician,” continuing, “Boots & Coots was expanding a lot after Halliburton bought us. They saw the quality in having Boots & Coots and found it to be a good addition.”
Love continued, “In recent years, Boots & Coots had expanded their operations from just well control to prevention and oil and gas services related to wells under pressure. As the industry got more advanced and drilling in unconventional plays increased, Halliburton recognized our value and bought Boots & Coots.”
“Presently, we have 25 employees in Pleasanton. All of our employees will float to wherever we’re needed. Our Longview, Franklin, Houston or Lafayette, Louisiana personnel work down here in the Eagle Ford for us when we’re busy. At the same time, we’re called on to provide the same help in their areas of oil field activities when they are confronted with an overload of service activity. Everyone ‘floats’ to wherever needed. We all help each other out,” said Love, “I’ve been to both the Longview and Houston locations.”
Love said, “Practically all of our 25 employees are from the local area. If a person wants to, he can make some dollars and create a future for himself. From our location here we have been deployed to the extent of the Eagle Ford play. We’ve been to the area near Eagle Pass and all the way down to Laredo and even down south as far as the McAllen area. From the Pleasanton yard, we’ve run jobs to West Texas in the Odessa area. To the east, we’ve been to the Karnes City area and Victoria.”
Boots & Coots has amassed a highly specialized team of degreed engineers, experienced in all phases of drilling and production operations. During a live well emergency, they have three goals – minimize response time, mitigate damage and maximize safety.