North American Oil & Gas Pipelines

MAY 2018

North American Oil & Gas Pipelines covers the news shaping the business of oil and gas pipeline construction and maintenance in North America, including pipeline installation methods, integrity management innovations and managerial strategies.

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 19 of 43

20 North American Oil & Gas Pipelines | MAY 2 018 "Some people thought that maybe it would take jobs away," Solomon remembers. "We had some product burned and destroyed, or mysteriously put in a tree, but that was all education. We worked with the unions, and they all agreed that it really does get people out of harm's way." Despite facing skepticism and people questioning what he was doing, Solomon says he always had one key person in his life who supported him: his wife, Christy. "The early years were pretty meager," he says. "It's interesting when you think about financing. I went around to different business people, went around to all the banks, and people said, 'What is it, now? Who else does this?'" When Solomon explained that nobody else was using this technology, he found that nobody would lend him money for it. He ended up maxing out credit cards, using their house as collateral, cashing in his 401(k) and other savings to finance the company. "There was a sense of knowing that it would eventually be adopted," he says, "but we were all in." Solomon's previous experience with Johnson & Johnson turned out to be helpful in starting a company that served the pipeline industry. "I always had lots of ideas," he says. "Eventually, I learned a lot of skills about running a division. I had no idea that the wonderful skills and talents I learned in those years would help in building this company called Vacuworx. It prepared me very well, from growing a product from an idea to building a company and building an industry." Seeking the right technology to safely lift pipe without damaging the coating, Solomon looked far and wide. "My thinking was that it had to be something that would not go all the way around the pipe," he says. "It had to work simply, easily and not make a mark. And then, it had to be affordable." After looking at various technologies around the world, Solomon discovered vacuum lifting was the only thing "making any headway," thanks in large part to engineers in The Netherlands. However, there were other challenges Solomon had to solve to make vacuum technology work on a pipeline jobsite. Luckily, timing was on his side. "The nice thing was that there were a number of other innovations that were coming along at the same time," he says, "to the point of when we asked how do we generate power, lo and behold, there were very small engines available. When it was, how do we create suction, well, pumps were improving. We had to make it self-contained. We brought all these components together from all over the world, from Asia to Australia. There was a lot of trial and error, but we eventually settled on the right combination." Growing Large to Small It may seem logical to start smaller and work your way up, but that's exactly the opposite of how Vacuworx has grown its product line. "We started with large diameter because that was what kind of projects were going on," Solomon says. "Once we gained success with the contractors, if they had another job, it led us to a variety of sizes, down to smaller sizes." Vacuworx lifters are self-contained, with lugs that can handle a variety of vacuum pads for different size pipe. Solomon stresses the importance of having the right pad for the pipe. "The whole reason we developed our product line was because of safety, or the lack of safety," he says. "Safety is foundation of this product line. It's important that the pad fits properly." While there is no limit on the diameter size that the Vacuworx lifters can handle, the top end weight limit was originally 20,000 lbs. As pipe has gotten bigger, so have the weight limits on the machines, with 25 metric tons now being the largest of the RC Series models. "It all comes down to the host equip- ment that the lifter will be attached to," Solomon says. "Our customers are trying to match the pipe diameter and weight with the right equipment they need from us, to go with the right equipment they're already using or need for a job. There's no need to spend more money than is nec- essary. That's really what grew into our mantra. It's a faster, safer, smarter way to handle materials." Lifting the Community Throughout his career in the pipeline industry, Solomon has found ways to give back to the industry and to the local community around Tulsa. Not only is he an active member of a number of pipeline and related associations, but he also established the Tulsa Pipeline Expo in 2009 (later renamed The Pipeline and Energy Expo). The event started as way to share the 10-year anniversary of Vacuworx with customers and employees. Although, the official month of anniversary is May, the celebration kept getting postponed. "It was put off until October, and we wondered who would come," Solomon says. "By then, we had become members of the Pipe Line Contractors Association, and it was amazing the number of Tulsa companies involved with similar work." Solomon decided to highlight these companies and show that the rich heritage of oil and gas in Tulsa is still alive and well. At that first year's event, Solomon While the first Vacuworx machines had a weight limit of 20,000 lbs, the company has continued to expand lifting capacities. The largest of the RC Series machines can lift up to 25 metric tons (more than 55,000 lbs).

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of North American Oil & Gas Pipelines - MAY 2018