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Elevating Energy Services: The STEP Energy Services Solution

May 2024 edition of Business in Calgary, and Business in Edmonton.

By 3 May 2024 6 min read

In the ever-evolving landscape of the energy sector, a few companies manage to stand out not just for their technological prowess but also for their commitment to excellence, safety, and client satisfaction. One such company that has been making waves since its inception in 2011 is STEP Energy Services.

Founded by President and CEO, Steve Glanville, Bailey Epp, and Regan Davis, STEP was born out of a vision to fill a gap in the energy sector for a service company not just concerned about bottom line but instead deeply invested in delivering client service and cutting-edge technical expertise. Initially, this vision was aimed at revolutionizing the coiled tubing market in Western Canada.

However, the founders knew that having the latest technology wasn't enough. The true essence of STEP’s success would hinge on its people; a team of dedicated professionals committed to executing their tasks safely and flawlessly every day.

Since those early days, STEP has not only solidified its presence in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin but has since expanded its footprint across major oil and gas plays in the United States, including the Permian Basin and Eagle Ford Shale Play in Texas, the Bakken Shale Play in North Dakota, Uinta-Piceance in Utah and the Niobrara-DJ Basin in Colorado. The expansion into the hydraulic fracturing market in Canada in 2015, establishing a coiled tubing presence in the U.S. in the same year and then expanding into the U.S. hydraulic fracturing space in 2018, are testaments to the company’s drive to innovate and lead.

Last year, 2023, saw STEP grow and change in many ways. The company introduced new technologies, focused on process improvement and emissions reduction strategies and realized remarkable efficiencies throughout its North American operations.

“A key factor in last year’s success was our focus on nurturing our workforce, who we refer to as professionals rather than employees,” says Glanville. “Additionally, we made great strides in environmental stewardship through a capital program which upgraded a large portion of our fracturing fleet to low-emission assets. Using proprietary operational procedures, we can deliver industry-leading diesel substitution rates, which helps our clients reduce the amount of diesel they consume, displacing it with cleaner burning natural gas, during their fracturing programs. It’s become a really efficient operation."

He continues, “It basically comes down to two primary drivers: the best trained people and the best assets. To achieve this, last year we invested over $50 million in optimization capital and about $100 million in capital expenditures. This included upgrading frac pumps to low emissions engines, which, after nearly a full year of operation, have delivered exceptional results and savings from both a cost and emissions intensity perspective.

“Additionally, through our disciplined operational procedures, we continuously monitor every minute – every second – and maximize the time we have to perform our services. Just a few years back we managed to pump for 14 hours each day. Now, in collaboration with our clients, we've extended that to approximately 20 hours daily. This represents a significant boost of around 30 per cent in pumping efficiency.”

The true essence of STEP’s success would hinge on its people; a team of dedicated professionals committed to executing their tasks safely and flawlessly every day.

Despite these successes, STEP faces the challenge of an aging population of field professionals and the difficulty of attracting young talent to what many perceive as a sunset industry.

"We're facing an aging population, with the average age of our STEP professionals being 39,” says Glanville. “There's a misconception that we are a sunset industry, on the brink of going out of business. This simply isn't true, and that narrative needs to change. We need all sources of energy, as was made evident in January during the cold snap and potential blackout due to lack of power. We are committed to providing clean, economical energy. It's crucial that we integrate this understanding into our education systems, from high schools to post-secondary institutions.”

The narrative of Alberta’s energy industry is something deeply personal to the CEO of STEP.

"I am a proud Albertan. We have world class resources and egress opportunities that can reach all parts of the world. We have the best skilled labour and trades professionals anywhere in the world, from heavy duty mechanics to engineers. Albertans have this drive and ability to never settle. We are always continuously improving and that is a mindset we need to show the world.”

Glanville offers insightful reflections on the company's role in addressing one of the most pressing challenges of our time – climate change.

“Unfortunately, the concept of climate change is polarizing, but it doesn’t matter what your opinion is. Industries are evolving, and companies who have begun to modernize their businesses and incorporate decarbonization strategies into their operations will fare better than those who do not. One of the most practical and effective ways to participate in reducing greenhouse gas emissions? By promoting cleaner burning fuels. We take it for granted, flipping a light switch or turning on your stove with a button. But there are approximately 2.5 billion people around the world who lack access to clean cooking fuels and rely on wood, kerosene, coal, cooking with wood or even dung. The Canadian advantage is about providing that cleaner burning fuel source, reducing net global greenhouse gas emissions and creating opportunities for tens of thousands of Canadians in this industry. We can, and should, be an example to the world.”

Looking to the future, Glanville expresses a desire for STEP to play an even more significant role in Alberta's sustainable energy landscape.

"I would like to see more opportunities for our services sector to participate in provincial or federal grant funding, which would have the added benefit of modernizing and decarbonizing both our conventional and renewable energy sectors even further," he shares, highlighting the importance of support and investment in technologies and practices that reduce environmental impact.

STEP is no stranger to partnering with the organizations and institutions that help promote Alberta’s clean, sustainable, ethically produced energy. As such, STEP continues to partner with ATB.

"ATB has always been a great partner of ours. We are celebrating our 13th year of business, and we are very excited about that. It has not been the easiest journey. We value the support of ATB; especially going through the tough times of 2020, they have always had our back. STEP has had cycles of great cash flow and times when things are difficult. Having a partner like ATB, who are also experts in our industry, who understand the ebbs and flow of our sector and who are believers in strong management teams like the one at STEP, has been crucial. Their support has been invaluable.”

Steve Glanville President and  CEO, STEP Energy Services
"Our ATB banker, Amish Patel, is awesome and ATB’s CEO, Curtis Stange, cares about our industry a lot. As a CEO, he understands what Alberta can do and he supports progression in our sector"

Steve Glanville

President and CEO, STEP Energy Services

STEP is not only celebrating a milestone of 13 years. The company is also celebrating being named to the Great Place to Work list. STEP puts a tremendous amount of work into nurturing its community of professionals who are united by a great corporate culture, core values and dedication to delivering exceptional service and so this achievement, for Glanville, is very important.

As he reflects on STEP’s journey he also looks ahead to an exciting future, not just for the company but where Alberta’s energy sector can make a difference worldwide.

"I see us participating in other industries like geothermal, participating in the paradigm shift. The world needs all sources of energy and we are an energy services company. Alberta can really deliver such value to the world. Premier Danielle Smith has done a great job in promoting this. We do it better than anyone else, from safety to community engagement to emissions management and reduction. And I'm not just touting STEP. I mean our whole industry.”

STEP is a great example of Albertan innovation, resilience, and strategic foresight now and into the future. 


From the May 2024 edition of Business in Calgary, and Business in Edmonton. Shared with permission.

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