Black Gold Pump & Supply, Inc. provides parts, products, and services for companies in the oil and gas sector. The aim is to make oil and gas extraction more productive, efficient, and safe.
With the Company marking its fortieth anniversary this year, Black Gold has big plans to double revenue and expand. Its strategy is a winning formula that blends higher standards of design and manufacturing and builds with real-world industry knowledge and a strong commitment to customer needs.
“We’re problem solvers. If there’s a product that doesn’t exist, we can go in, find the root cause of failure, engineer a solution, and make a product designed for our customer’s needs,” states Vice President Ryan Bair, who is also the son of founder Mike Bair. Mike remains President today and owns one hundred percent of the Company.
Black Gold’s head office and manufacturing facility are located in Signal Hill, California. In addition, the Company maintains branches in Taft, California; Artesia, New Mexico; and Brisbane, Australia. Products are all made in Signal Hill and then distributed to these branches for assembly and inspection.
The manufacturing hub includes a busy machine shop stocked with computer numerical controlled (CNC) lathes and mills, among other machines. The Company manufactures its pumps and products; Black Gold uses manufacturing specifications from the American Petroleum Institute (API).
API provides “drawings, specifications, and we make [products] according to their tolerances. Some products we make to a much higher tolerance, aerospace tolerances,” explains Bair.
Using these specifications as a framework, Black Gold adds proprietary features to enhance its products. The Company boasts multiple industry certifications, including ISO 9001:2015, API monogram certification, and API 11AX which is similar to ISO 9001 but centered on oil and gas-related manufacturing. The monogram designation entitles the Company to use API symbols and logos on its products.
The Company makes insertable, tubing, and specialty pumps, as well as pump accessories and components, and downhole and production tools. It also provides engineering, failure analysis, well design and optimization, pump training, and machining services.
“Pretty much anything that has to do with sucker rod pumping and production wells, we have a product or a finger on the pulse,” Bair states. Sucker rod pumps produce fluid using mechanical properties to lift fluid to the surface.
He describes the Company’s hydraulic tubing anchor as one of its “most popular and unique products. It’s something that has grown our Company and allowed us to expand internationally and domestically.” A hydraulic tubing anchor “is a completely automatic tool that utilizes the weight of the fluid column in the tubing string to power the piston in the anchor,” according to the Black Gold website.
Hydraulic anchors made by Black Gold are easy to install and extract, do not require surface manipulation, and provide strong holding power for maximum pump efficiency.
Its products and services improve oilfield safety, says Bair. The Company’s product lines make downhole failures less likely, reducing the need for sometimes risky workover jobs, services, and environmental damages. The Company also offers clients production well analysis and pump failure analysis to eliminate failures in the future. These services are often complimentary for clients who purchase Black Gold pumps.
Black Gold sells through distributors and channel partners domestically and Internationally. The Company has established a strong presence in multiple states and around the world. “We pretty much do all the Latin American and South American region. We do work with all the oil producers there,” says Bair, noting the exception of Venezuela, a Latin American nation that might have vast amounts of oil but is also very politically unstable. “We’re also heavily involved in Australia and New Zealand,” he adds.
For now, everything the Company does is oil and gas related, although that might change down the road. Black Gold is looking into expanding into green energy sectors like wind, solar, hydroelectric, and geothermal, Bair says. Such a move would be part of a future manufacturing diversification strategy.
However, Black Gold has done extremely well by focusing solely on oil and gas. This year, the Company celebrated its fortieth anniversary. Decades ago, Mike Bair was working for a major oil manufacturing company when he sensed a growing need. At the time, manufacturers were unresponsive when clients complained about pump problems with their oil wells. Customers were frustrated, to say the least. With prompting from a few oil companies, Mike established Black Gold Pump & Supply. The Company, launched on April 1, 1982, soon proved a hit.
From the start, it aimed to provide solutions as well as pumps and related products. Customer concerns were taken seriously, and Black Gold was willing to design products specially to meet specific customer demands if necessary. This client-centric attitude was matched with a cautious but steady approach to doing business.
“Our business model is a little different than most. We’re not looking to get all your business right away. We always say, ‘Give us ten percent of your field.’ It’s easy to manage and show a cost analysis. It’s easy to see right away that ten percent of the field is doing better [so the client gives us] ten percent more,” explains Bair. The process continues, leading in some cases to Black Gold taking responsibility for most or all of a client’s wells.
Real-world industry knowledge has also been key to the Company’s success. Some Black Gold employees have firsthand experience working on oil rigs or for oil production companies. This experience, in turn, leads to more practical pump designs.
“We know the oilfield tolerances. We know well dynamics. Our customers feel confident because we do the homework,” states Bair. “We pride ourselves in knowing how to talk to an oil company because we understand how to run and manage an oil lease, which creates better customer service because we get the pains and struggles.”
He contrasts this approach with pump manufacturers that rely solely on computer models for design purposes and lab tests for quality assurance. “I don’t care if it worked in NASA’s lab. Does it work in a gassy, corrosive, sandy environment? Did you make a product that’s easy to install, easy to remove?” he says. “It’s hard to spend thousands of dollars on something that only works on a computer monitor.”
The pandemic presented a massive challenge to the Company. It was considered an essential business and allowed to stay open, but times were tough. “It was a struggle. Our sales dropped eighty-five percent for three to four months—from mid-March 2020, April, May, going into June,” Bair recalls. “We held our cards really tight. We have a really good crew—amazing people. It’s hard to get people like that back, so we said, let’s hold off [on eliminating positions] as long as we can. The business will slowly come back.”
By July 2020, Black Gold had kept its workforce intact, and business began returning to life. The temporary dip in sales gave it a chance to pause, reflect and refocus. Health and safety procedures were enhanced to keep workers virus-free. The Company also used the downtime to revamp its website and improve sales and shop processes.
Black Gold has thirty-five employees at present, an increase from about thirty-two this time last year, and did not have to lay anyone off because of COVID. “We take care of our employees, and when times are tough, they really take care of us. They understand the sacrifices we all have to make. [Getting through COVID] was a really a big team effort, not just management,” states Bair.
COVID continues to cause concerns, however, in the form of global supply chain disruptions. While work has increased dramatically since the early days of the pandemic, the Company could be even busier if only it could receive consistent deliveries of materials and parts, says Bair. Supply delays caused by the pandemic are not likely to be resolved any time soon either. He figures it will take about eighteen months for worldwide manufacturing and transportation operations to return to normal. The Company is, however, already planning for the day when supply chain woes cease.
Annoying as the supply issue might be, Bair is highly optimistic about the future. “The goal is, in five years, to double our revenue from where we are now. We’ve been planning our expansion process for the last four to five years. The more we expand, the more product lines we invent,” he states.
This process is shaped by Black Gold’s status as a family company. “We are a family-owned business. We don’t look for investors; we try to do everything internally. We give our employees good benefits and will grow our business in an organic process, not an irresponsible one where we’re bleeding cash,” says Bair.