WESTLOCK — Members of the Westlock and District Chamber of Commerce learned about the past, present, and future for Westlock’s Wabash Mfg Inc. general manager Dave Mortensen during the association’s monthly lunch meeting July 18 at the legion.
Mortensen began with an overview and history of the company., that’s been operating in Westlock since 1981 and is located on the west side of town. It currently employs about 90 tradespeople, support staff and administrative staff. Founded by Ernie Hunt, Wabash Oilfield Services, as it was originally named, specialized in the manufacture and repair of oilfield equipment and later, focused on plant fabrication of custom-designed, oilfield-oriented truck-mounted tanks and related equipment.
Today, Wabash is known as a world leader for its high-quality, fluid-hauling tanks, trailers, mining-support equipment, rural fire tender units and other custom-manufactured solutions.
“Our first products brought to life in Westlock were essentially, conventional oil field truck tanks, water tanks, fuel tanks,” said Mortensen. “With the success of these types of trucks, the conventional oil field trucks came the next level … the specialty high pressured trucks, the vacuum trucks. These (are) trucks that require special certification and special engineering.”
Eventually that success along with that of the company’s oil field and dangerous goods transportation tanks also aided in the company’s expansion and it evolved and went from repairing those units to building them, noted Mortensen, adding “with lots of engineering and lots of time, we did what we could do to make these things more comfortable at -40 below.”
“We understand the oil patch and the Alberta hardships,” he told chamber members, pointing to examples of units still in operation in deep pit mines in the Northwest Territories and a couple in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia. Mortensen talked about how their equipment and trucks are “built for the bush” including fuel and lubrication units used in remote locations as several years ago they were picked by Shell Canada to help develop the world’s first articulated liquified natural gas refueler and “it was a success.”
Moving to the present day and beyond, Mortensen talked about the fully modular vacuum truck systems now in use is “a very world marketable piece of equipment” which was the company’s next goal “to try and get a bigger market than just the Alberta oil field.” Mortensen spoke of the present and future work with the rail industry, manufacturing units for both Canada and the U.S., and about new initiatives with overseas markets, and noted they will hire and train more employees in the coming years as they continue to grow.
Another highlight included mention of a military contract bid the company worked on for six years, which would have seen them supply a fuel module for the bush to supply tanks and helicopters with fuel. Although they were not successful with the bid, there was a positive spin to the project.
“Those two signs, (CSA TC B625 and ISO 90001:2015) that B625 is what is required to build this tank which is a very specific tank for hauling dangerous goods (by air, land or sea),” he said. “We have now achieved the B625 and are the only company in Canada to ever achieve that, so we can design, build, manufacture, and repair B625s. There are lots of them built in the world, but they’re all built in Europe and Korea.”
Wrapping up he noted the company’s community involvement over the years and the difference they have and will continue to make in Westlock, noting the
most accurate and enduring term they’ve learned in 42 years is “team effort.”
“The individuals who have toiled alongside each other to make, market and maintain the products we provide are who brought us to this point,” said Mortensen, adding they are grateful for the support from Westlock and neighbouring communities. “I think we can make this 100-year company. That’s the goal.”