As Tom goes on to point out, it is certainly true that the share of UBH International’s business that goes to the oil and gas sector is greater now than it has ever been before: “Today the company is constantly encountering new players within the market, businesses and organisations that have picked up on just what it is UBH International can do for them, as it continues to build on the work it has already conducted on behalf of numerous high profile players in the well service sector.”
From its humble beginnings as United Boilers in the 1940s to its highly lucrative partnership with CIMC of China in the late 1990s and beyond, UBH International is today recognised as one of the world’s leading specialist manufacturers of transportable tanks for bulk liquids and gases. An expert in the transport of these materials, the company’s tanks are purpose built to handle hazardous or non-hazardous substances, high purity and cryogenic gases, chemicals for the oil industry and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).
“One of the core strengths of UBH International, one that has helped bring it considerable success in recent decades, is its engineering capabilities,” Tom continues. “The in-house team behind this area of the business is made up of highly qualified, technically efficient individuals who, through the use of technology and their own know how, are perfectly equipped to absorb and understand the requirements of the company’s customers, tailoring equipment from its core business areas to meet their demands.
“A tank container, though probably not thought of in such a way by a lay person, is actually a pressure vessel. Because UBH International’s engineering experts understand this the company has been able to branch out from standard services like the straightforward transportation of liquids or the providing of exploration and production logistics. Areas where UBH International has started to carve out a new niche are the supply of tanks for the onsite mixing of products and the manufacture of mudgas separators, a piece of kit that is widely used in the oil and gas industry, though not one which is at all familiar in UBH’s traditional field of bulk liquid logistics. This is just one example of UBH International entering an area of the industry where it is not traditionally known, tailoring solutions to meet specific client needs.”
One area that has seen a particularly strong upturn in demand over the last 12 months is the requirement for cryogenic tanks, something that is seen as being driven primarily by the shale gas market: “The North American shale gas market has certainly fed demand for nitrogen tanks and this is only expected to increase further as this method of gas extraction gathers pace in regions like Eastern Europe and South East Asia,” Tom highlights. “The company has certainly witnessed and experienced the benefits of this and it is one of the things that have helped keep it insulated somewhat from wider economic difficulties it could have suffered from.
“Another major driver in 2012, which wasn’t something that characterised the industry as recently as a few years ago, is the process of drill cutting recovery and recycling. This is an area of the business that is very much the order of the day, one driven by the fact that these cuttings are required by law to be transported back to shore before being decontaminated and recycled. So the need for equipment to carry out this process has also had a significantly positive effect on the company’s growth.”
Conscious of the need to stay ahead of the curve in order to meet the ever changing requirements of the industry, UBH International is a company that is acutely aware that what may be niche today can become a global commodity tomorrow: “What the company endeavours to do is upgrade and improve its existing products, particularly when it comes to efficiency and safety,” Tom enthuses. “Equally as important to UBH International, as an employee-owned company, is its quest to deliver entirely new products and solutions that enable to it to move forward and stay ahead of the competition.
“Improved craneage is a key area in which the company is investing at present to allow it to handle higher pressure vessels. Many high specification gas vessels are made of quite thick materials, because of their high-pressure contents, and are therefore much heavier than other types of tank. As these vessels became heavier the company did reach a point where it feared it may have limitations in what it could safely handle, so that was something it wanted to address. The response to this has been to invest in higher capacity, overhead cranes. Meanwhile, on a modular level, there is constant investment going into improved welding kits and similar equipment, while the company has also made it a priority to invest in health and safety equipment.”
Looking ahead at what the next few years hold for the company, one of the key features in Tom’s eyes will be geographic expansion: “As well as continuing to build on its existing representation in key markets like the US and the North Sea, UBH International is also looking to establish itself in regions of growing interest such as Australia and South East Asia. It is clear for all to see that the oil and gas industry is expanding at a rapid pace in these locations, therefore it is a goal of the company to now get a foothold in these areas, develop relationships with key customers and continue its legacy of being the very best at what it does.”
UBH International Limited
Services: Intermodal tanks