A LIFT FROM COMPRESSION
Mark D. Caskey, president of Steel Nation Steel Buildings, a Washington County company that constructs gas compression stations for energy companies, is no stranger to having doors slammed in his face.
In fact, when he pitched the idea to build such stations to energy companies six years ago, that’s all that happened.
“We tried to talk to every big midstream company, trying to get our foot in the door,” Mr. Caskey said. “We’d knock on their door, they’d meet with us and they’d say, listen, ‘You’ve never built a gas compression building before. We’re not going to be your guinea pig.’”
Gas compression stations, he explained, gather gas from wells. They also separate and cool the gas before transporting it to major transmission lines.
In 2008 when Steel Nation opened, the company focused on building prep plants that wash and separate coal for coal companies.
But after a friend from oil and gas company Range Resources took him to a drill site, Mr. Caskey realized he could take his talents to the natural gas industry.
“He showed me a compressor station, which was just a tin can. That tin can was very loud, very hot … it was just an obnoxious building. At that point, I realized I could take all of the things we learned through coal and try to make these buildings quieter, safer and cooler,” Mr. Caskey said.
Finally, Moon-based Atlas Energy gave Steel Nation a shot.
“We bid on a real small project, a single-compressor engine out in Indiana County,” Mr. Caskey said. That job turned out to be the breakthrough the company needed.
“In the next two months, we received eight more contracts,” he said.
According to Mr. Caskey, the private company has more than doubled its earnings since it opened. He did not release specific profit figures.
In terms of total revenue, he said, “We’re getting up into the tens of millions now. We did less than $1 million in 2008, and will bill between $22 million, possibly $27, million this year.”
Full-time staff has also doubled since 2013. Steel Nation now has nine employees whose main duty is to design and manage the station projects.
Instead of using erectors to construct the stations, Steel Nation gets extra workers through subcontractors, Mr. Caskey said. “To have full-time erectors, we’d need to lay people off every couple of weeks and that’s hard on staffing,” he added.
Steel Nation has done more than 600 projects since launching, according to Mr. Caskey. It has worked with companies such as MarkWest Energy, Williams Energy, Range Resources, Chesapeake Energy and Access Midstream. In addition to Pennsylvania,the company has built stations in West Virginia, New York, Michigan, Ohio and Texas.
According to Mr. Caskey, compression station prices can range from $100,000 to $2 million.
“The bigger companies want to build the really nice compressor stations because they’re in it for the long haul,” Mr. Caskey said.
Steel Nation might not be around if not for the growing industry.
“We wouldn’t be in business if it wasn’t for natural gas,” Mr. Caskey said. “Because of the demand for our type of buildings, our solutions, natural gas is a no-brainer for us.”