Operator Homero Villalba loads a Komatsu HM400 articulated truck with a Komatsu PC650LC excavator, a task performed on many projects in Texas.
(Kirby-Smith Machinery photo)
While oil and gas continue to be the main drivers in the West Texas market, up-and-coming entities are proving to be profitable, according to PB (Permian Basin) Materials LLC CEO Christopher Crouch.
"We are becoming more of an energy center rather than just oil and gas," said Crouch. "Wind and solar are making significant gains. There's also gravity batteries and carbon capture. We probably have the largest AI mining or Bitcoin mining investment in the country. We don't worry about the power going out in West Texas. There's plenty of it, and that's good for us."
All the energy projects — as well as the infrastructure to support them such as roads, utilities and new commercial and residential developments — require a reliable, steady supply of aggregate and concrete products. With a staff of more than 350 people led by Crouch and Chief Financial Officer Philip McWard, PB Materials has been one of the area's leading producers for a decade.
"Initially, there were three separate companies with more than 100 years of experience that, in 2013, combined into a single entity," explained Crouch. "During the past several years, we have made a lot of headway in our product portfolio, dramatically improving the size of our reserves, what we do, and where we do it. We are the largest integrated producer in West Texas."
Diverse Customer List
Based in Odessa, Texas, PB Materials' 17 ready-mix facilities and 14 aggregate operations stretch north through Lubbock, south to Fort Stockton and west into New Mexico. Annually, PB Materials produces approximately 1 million yds. of concrete and more than 4 million tons of aggregate products.
"We have a pretty broad diversity of customers because we have a general contracting community here," said Crouch. "We are also very closely tied to the DOT [Department of Transportation], as well as the municipalities and the marketplace. On the ready-mix side, we're the go-to for specialty concretes and consider ourselves at the forefront of trying new mixes. We are one of the beta [testing] companies for some of the third-party and admixture companies because I'm a firm believer that the pioneers take all the arrows, but the pioneers also get there first. PB Materials is very open to trying new things and being on the leading edge of any technology within any business that we operate."
That philosophy applies to PB Materials' aggregate side too. More recently, it has entered into production of both wet and dry frac sand in West Texas. In total, PB Materials makes 22 products that range from ultra-fine sand to landscaping boulders. In addition to turning raw materials into finished products, PB Materials recycles concrete and asphalt.
"As required, we will work hand-in-hand with customers to figure out what best suits their needs, and we'll make sure that they're getting the right product for their application," said Regional Operations Manager Chad Mikulec, who runs several of PB Materials' aggregate operations. "We have a quality control staff that ensures the highest quality in all cases, whether that's supplying materials to our own ready-mix operations or to the DOT or contractors. In addition to standard products, we do a lot of unique, custom specifications."
Outstanding Service From KSM
PB Materials is focused on providing outstanding service to its customers and expects the same from the vendors it works with. Crouch emphasized that's a big reason why PB Materials and Kirby-Smith Machinery Inc. (KSM) have a solid, longstanding relationship.
"When it comes to equipment, support is critical to us because any time a machine is down, that's potential dollars lost," said Crouch. "Kirby-Smith's service is impeccable. It's quick. They don't let you down."
Crouch noted that KSM's responsiveness, especially from KSM Territory Manager Kevin Demel, stands out the most, which is partly why PB Materials has been transitioning its fleet from other brands to Komatsu over the last few years. Demel and other members of the KSM team analyzed PB Materials' operations to determine how PB Materials could maximize efficiency with properly sized machines. Recent purchases include two HD465-8 mechanical haul trucks with approximately 60-ton capacities.
"We went through several scenarios before making the final decision, and during our conversations, Kevin and others on the Kirby-Smith team reached out to Komatsu's engineering department and some other customers to make sure we had all the information we needed and provided a high level of comfort with the purchase," said Mikulec. "Higher level service like that — in addition to helping us set up data collection through Komtrax that gives us the information we need to make better decisions about maximizing production and efficiency — really stands out."
In addition to the HD465-8 mechanical haul trucks, PB Materials utilizes several other Komatsu machines, including HM400 articulated trucks, PC490LC and PC650LC excavators, as well as WA470, WA500 and WA600 wheel loaders.
"You don't have to have the most experienced operator — a fairly new operator can understand the controls and improve his skills at a pretty reasonable pace," said Operations Manager Joey Offield. "We've had really good longevity out of them. Most of our fleet has over 10,000 hours. KSM gives us a same-day or next-day response. They've worked with us to find the true solution to our issues, not just a band-aid. They work well with us."
Recent mining operations have led to a new commodity for PB Materials to sell: water.
"Our mining process involves moving a lot of water out of our way, and we identified value in it," said Crouch. "We initially started out using it as an environmental tool by cleaning it and depositing it in a nearby dead river, which basically brought it back to life. Now, there's fish, ducks, geese and deer. The environmentalists and Texas air quality folks, they really appreciate what we've done relative to our use of water and how we're helping the river."
Crouch continued, "Even with that, we have excess water, which not too many people in this area can claim. We are working with communities to see if they want to put it through their water treatment plants to process it into drinkable water. We are also working with the oil and gas industry to use it for fracking."
The PB Materials team sees continued growth in the near future as well as for the long term.
"We actually have a lot of wind in our sails, and we've identified more areas and different materials to mine," said Crouch. "We're excited about how things look going forward."
(This story was reprinted with permission from KirbySmith Machinery - Connection Magazine)
This story also appears on Aggregate Equipment Guide.
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