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Gimme shelter: Manufacturing custom enclosures in the Bakken

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Despite the current drilling slowdown and oil price decline, the U.S. shale boom continues to be a draw for ancillary businesses that are seeing opportunity in the growing needs of the shale revolution. Although the explosive growth has subsided, many companies are realizing that the drilling hasn’t gone bust, rather it’s slowed to a pace that allows the surrounding areas to breathe and evaluate how to provide services for a global industry.

Founded by Richard and Claudia Cossette in 1983, custom tarp manufacturer T.R.S. Industries is attempting to capitalize on this slowed momentum by offering customized products faster than their out of state competition. T.R.S. had humble beginnings in the home garage of Richard Cossette’s father, where they first started patching tarps for semi-trailers. Soon after, accompanied by their sons Richard, Shane and Bob, the Cossettes nurtured the company and fostered its continued success, eventually moving to the Fargo Industrial Park in 1989.

Over the years, the company continued to grow into a larger operating space. Last year T.R.S. settled into its latest expansion with an addition that increased its manufacturing space to 69,000 square feet. Housing all the employees under one roof, customer needs are addressed more efficiently, says Richard Cossette, founder and president of T.R.S. The company has since shifted from its modest beginnings to making everything from boat covers, wind tamers for semi-trailers, lumber and steel covers, to the latest endeavor of entering into the oil and gas industry, working with operators and outfitting rigs and refineries with custom made products, protecting workers from the elements.

“We’re a company that can switch gears really fast. That’s what has made our business interesting,” Cossette said. “Most of the companies that are currently supplying covers for the oil and gas industry are located out of state but we have the ability to complete an order in a matter of days and ship the product within a day rather than having the customer wait two to three weeks for it to arrive.” Cossette said the majority of companies in the North Dakota oil patch are still relying on products made out of state, often shipped in from California, Colorado and Utah. T.R.S. boasts the ability to deliver their custom products to a client within a day.

The customization of the products offered is essential to an industry that operates in some of the most extreme conditions, especially in areas such as the Bakken where rigs operate 24/7 despite wind chills of 40 degrees below zero in the winter or temperatures of 100 degrees in the summer. T.R.S. has taken care to select materials able to withstand the environmental extremes as well as the corrosive materials from the oilfield that the tarps might come into contact with.

T.R.S. utilizes high quality materials capable of withstanding the harsh conditions found in the field. Choosing to forego the commonly used high density polyethylene (HDPE) material, T.R.S. has opted for the more durable XR-5 fabric, a synthetically reinforced geomembrane. The XR-5 fabric provides higher strength at a minimum thickness and is not subject to cracking due to environmental stressors. Additionally, the fabric is able to withstand long-term ultra violet exposure, high temperatures and oxidation.

The XR-5 fabric available to T.R.S. is also rated to have a high thermal stability, meaning it eliminates the need for changing temperatures to be considered in the design phase. The material retains its dimensions in a broad temperature range, making it even more resistant to the cracking commonly found in HDPE materials. It is also highly puncture and tear resistant and can withstand long-term exposure to corrosive hydrocarbons without sacrificing the material’s structural integrity.

Using the contacts made from various trips out west, Richard says they’ve been able to team up with various contracting companies and are continuing to expand their presence in the oil patch. During a recent visit, through sources close to Jack Ekstrom, Vice President of Corporate and Government Relations for Whiting Petroleum, Cossette was able to receive several contacts for doing business with the major contracting companies in the area, potentially securing their position in the region. “In the coming months we’ll be securing these contracts, and up here, the seasons go by so fast that soon companies will be preparing for winter and looking for covers for their operations,” Cossette said.

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