Tough industries demand reliable equipment, and few are as tough as the oil sector, especially in the Permian Basin where abundant deposits of crude oil and natural gas are tapped through thick layers of rock. This is where Firethorne Downhole Tools is most at home.
Since the first well was drilled a century ago, the Permian Basin, sprawling across western Texas and southeastern New Mexico, has earned its reputation as a rich source of petroleum deposits. But no matter how rich the deposits, every second is critical, machinery needs to work, and downtime is not an option, even here in the most rugged of oil-rich terrain.
Hailing from Goldsmith just outside of Odessa, Texas, Jesse Waters has been around the oil patch nearly his entire life. After attending high school and going on to renowned West Point Military Academy in 2001, he served as a commissioned officer in the Army before coming back home in 2006. Working for the family business Waters & Waters Services as a truck driver, Jesse took over operations from his dad.
Growing the business over the years, the company merged with Shores Lift Solutions, going from a staff of about 20 to 120 employees, and expanding from Goldsmith to operations in Midland, south Texas, east Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, North Dakota, Utah and other locations.
Selling the combined business to oilfield services company Schlumberger, Waters spent two years with the multinational before leaving to take over Patriot Downhole Tools. While running Patriot, he began doing work with Firethorne and met Craig Monk.
A native of Odessa, Monk is a veteran of the oilfield industry. Starting his career with Weatherford and Triumph Drilling Tools, he left to left to start his own business, Craig-O Services in 2008. Expanding the business before it was sold to HPC Energy in 2014, Monk subsequently created Firethorne Downhole Tools.
The coming together of Jesse Walters and Craig Monk was indeed fortunate, for the two men discovered that their growing companies were remarkably complementary in structure, and they took the first steps towards a merger that would take advantage of the synergies.
For Waters and Monk, the business relationship proved to be ideal. “We [Firethorne] had motors, they didn’t have drilling motors,” says Waters, president of Firethorne. “We were a true motor business, and Patriot was more of a rental and directional-drilling service company.” The two companies performed their first documented partnership in 2019 before formalizing and operating under the Firethorne name in 2020, with Monk serving as Vice President.
For Firethorne, the biggest story by far is the development of its unique motors. Created with the rugged and challenging Permian Basin oil field in mind, the company spent years performing modification and upgrades before unveiling its flagship product, the Permian Tough “PTGen2” Drilling Motor, now in its second generation.
PTGen2 drilling motor
“The motor we have now is a completely new product,” says Waters of the PTGen2. Designed to be still more robust than its predecessor and with upgraded technology, development of the threads took two years. “It was built to be tough, and drill in the Permian.”
With PT representing “Permian Tough” and “Patriot,” the PTGen2 is a beefed-up version of the previous model boasting many innovative features, making it the envy of the industry. Through its oil-sealed bearing pack – a “redundant” sealing system – mud is kept out, while oil stays where it belongs.
To sustain drilling as efficiently as possible, the company maintains “a high-quality fleet of power sections.” Along with quality servicing, the PTGen2 drilling motor boasts proprietary motor threads, created primarily through Firethorne’s partnership with Odessa, TX-based machine shop Mesa Machine. Founded by Waters’ father in 1989, the diversified company started with four employees and has grown to 35. Jesse Waters is now company President.
“You’ve got to have that manufacturing/procurement piece in place,” says Waters, “and we have that primarily through our partnership machine shop, Mesa Machine. They’ve been a key part of developing the thread design and manufacturing the components.”
According to Firethorne, the PTGen2’s motor is held together with the company’s own double shoulder, high torque, proprietary thread. “To test and prove our new thread design, we deployed the motor to drill big, deep, disposal wells in the hardest rock of the Delaware Basin,” the company says on its website.
“After two years of testing, we are confident it is the toughest motor body and driveline thread in the industry.” (You can find the video the company created about the product at https://www.linkedin.com/feed/update/urn:li:activity:6798310260374425600/.)
While design and functionality are critical, so is quality servicing, and having the right, trained people, proper procedures, equipment, and tools – even the finest equipment needs solid maintenance.
Providing customers with the best possible service, Firethorne has its own in-house software, to track all components from cradle to grave. Following rigorous third-party auditing and best practices, all procedures are documented according to American Petroleum Institute (API) procedures.
“All those things come together to make a product and a service the best it can be,” comments Waters. “It doesn’t matter if you’re good at one or two of those things – you’ve got to be good at all of them to have that best-in-class product.”
To ensure product quality, some manufacturing is performed in Canada, while the rest of the motor is made and assembled in the United States.
Along with the Permian Tough “PTGen2” drilling motor, Firethorne Downhole Tools is known for other innovative products and services, including its Surface to Intermediate and Vertical Hole Tool Packages.
Starting with the innovative Firethorne PTGen2 drilling motor in sizes including 9.625 inches, 8.25 inches and 7.25 inches, these packages can be built-out with a combination of Firethorne’s Integral Blade Stabilizers, Drill Collars, Monel Collars, Reamers and other products.
The company’s RSS and Curve Tool Package includes PTGen2 Motor options in 7.25 inch, 6.60 inch, 5.25 and 4.75 inch, while the BHA Iron can include integral blade stabilizers, bit subs, crossover subs, reamers and other equipment, all inspected and well-maintained for maximum efficiency.
Coming a very long way in just a few years, Firethorne has acquired an enviable client list, working directly on U.S.-based projects for large international oil companies like Exxon and Halliburton, along with local Permian Basin businesses ranging from oilfield service providers to drilling contractors and directional contractors. “Anybody who’s responsible for getting a motor in the ground, and responsible for good products, we’re going to work for,” says Waters.
As part of the prosperous future shaping up ahead, Firethorne will continue focusing on segments of the drilling-motor business where the market needs better solutions.
The start of the company, Waters notes, came with larger, extra-reliable motors able to run longer with larger bits. Now, Waters says, “The next piece we’re looking at is having a specialty motor for rotary steerable. We see there’s nobody out there meeting that need right now.”
This development will include a 5.25 inch, sealed, zero-bypass motor with a sealed bearing pack, specifically designed to run with rotary steerable technology.
Every day, President Waters tells us, he asks himself how Firethorne Downhole Tools can perform better than the competition, and how to make the best possible products for its clients. This requires outstanding design, top-of-the-line engineering that keeps pushing boundaries – like Firethorne’s patented drive line and proprietary thread connections – and a solid supply chain.
“We let the product and who we are be the main focus of sales,” he says of the vibrant business, which runs mainly on word of mouth from satisfied customers. And Waters notes that while there is competition out there, others are essentially putting out the same unimaginative equipment.
“Our product is truly our own, it’s not from anybody else. It’s not just bought from someone else selling people a bunch of different motors. We control the engineering, procurement, and the servicing – the whole thing. That is our story, and it resonates with our customers.”