Center Rock: Chilean Mine Rescue Firm Set To Launch World’s Largest Low Profile Canister Drills

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Founded by Brandon Fisher in 1998, Center Rock Inc. Manufactures and distributes a complete line of air drilling tools and products. At the company’s two state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in Berlin, Pennsylvania, they manufacture and stock products that are used by leading oil and gas drillers, foundation and construction companies, well drillers, and quarry & mining contractors across the globe. Center Rock’s facility is dedicated to the manufacture of bits and hammer parts, while the other facility is dedicated to the
manufacture of specialty products including but not limited to LP canister drills and heavy steel fabrication.

Center Rock was launched into the global spotlight during the Chilean Mine Rescue in 2010 when the company and two of its members played such a pivotal role in the rescue.  The historic event which took place on August 22, 2010, in which the world was shocked to find out that 33 men trapped in a San Jose, Chile mine were alive in a safe room – 17 days after the mine collapsed. Brandon Fisher (CRI Founder) and Richard Soppe (Senior Sales Engineer) travelled and worked side-by-side with the rescuers in Chile until everyone was brought to the surface.

Immediately upon being contacted to participate in the rescue, the entire team of personnel at Center Rock leapt into action manufacturing product specifically for the rescue including a special LP® Canister Drill and Rescue Basket.  The was the miraculous rescue of all 33 Chilean Miners, safe and sound.

This rescue incident was successfully carried out through the intervention of Center Rock – an advanced drilling technology company located in rural Pennsylvania- in CORE PA region of Berlin.

As we proceed on our tour on the Mining , Oil and Gas facility in  the Core region of Pennsylvania, our team stopped by at the Center Rock facility to see the birth place of one of the world’s largest Low Profile Canister Drill still in the making. Orient Review Editor MARGARET NONGO-OKOJOKWU spoke to Mr. David Pietrzykowski, CEO Center Rock Inc., gave further details about his company and what they do. Excerpts.

 OER – Kindly tell us about yourself please?

David – My name is David Pietrzykowski and I am president, CEO of Centre rock. I was born and raised in Massachusetts. I attended the University of Oklahoma where I received my BS in Petroleum Engineering. I worked for Ingersoll-Rand for 15 years and most recently Atlas Copco for 10 years. I joined
Center Rock as President and CEO in April of 2015.

OER – Briefly tell us about your company?

David – Center Rock designs and manufactures a complete line of percussive rock drilling tools. The company was founded in 1998 as a servicing company for oil and gas contractors as well as providing products and services to the domestic US foundation drilling customer base. Aside from standard mono hammers and bits from 3.5” to 36” in diameter, Center Rock also produces LP (Low Profile) canister drills from as small as 12” for HDD work to the largest ever built 132” LP hole opener. Center Rock is the “proven world leader in canister drill technology”. Other specialty products include; ROTO LOC casing advancement systems, Hydro Jaw breakout units, Wassara hammer

What we feel is that we bring a kind of unique approach to manufacturing where we don’t come up with products that is done by every producer, what we do is that we like to differentiate ourselves by producing speciality products. So for unique situations, we come up with tailored solutions to help customers draw up rock sockets for whatever their application might be. Actually, Center Rock prides itself in delivering tailored drilling solutions to its worldwide customer base. In addition, we have a staff of sales individuals are recognized as some of the most experienced consultants when it comes to drilling holes in rock and overburden. Lastly, we have the technical support to ensure that our products are applied properly and are safely drilling at the highest level of productivity.

OER – Am quite sure a lot of people would like to hear about the historic Chilean mine rescue mission which took place in the year 2010, could you tell us about that?

DAVID – It was an excellent opportunity to take the expertise and products that we already had in our portfolio and apply them to what was a disaster down in Chile. We were so very fortunate to have good individuals that can respond very quickly to a situation; we were fortunate to have manufacturing people that are willing to put in the extra effort and produce products in a wreck of time, so we were very nimble,  very quickly approach the problem, find the solution, get the products down there and get people on the ground to make sure it is a successful venture. The Chilean mine rescue helped put Center Rock into the global spotlight and ensured a more recognizable brand.

OER – Indeed it was quite a historic moment for everyone in the world. Tell us about your involvement in the oil and gas industry?

DAVID – What we do is that we primarily cater for the contractors that drill for Utica, Marcellus Shale, so Ohio, West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania area are the small areas that we cover directly for the oil and gas industry.

We sell and rent tools directly to the drilling companies that work in the Tristate area. At this time, we are expanding our reach to gain a foothold in the global underbalanced drilling market segment. We provide the hammers and bits that they would use for underbalanced drilling and gas drilling. Advanced engineering of Center Rock’s Low Profile Canister Drills provide a cost effective solution for drilling excavation requirements up to 144” 3658 mm in diameter. Our drills have been used by some of the nation’s largest building, roadway, utility and mining contractors to quickly drill holes to the exact size required by their specifications.

OER – What exactly do you do for them?

DAVID – What we do is that we provide hammers and bits that are used for oil and gas drilling so they will put their conductor pipe in with the 24 inch system of ours and then they would go to a 17 and half inch bit typically 12 in three quarters and 12 in three eights and then finish with an 8 inch class product.

OER – How do you source your raw materials?

DAVID – We’ve got a sourcing department and we work for the major mills here in the US so that they can provide us with the highest quality steels so that we can ensure we get the highest quality product to our customers to ensure we don’t have any problem associated with metallurgy etc.

OER – So all these equipments we see here you produced them yourself, like an OEM?

DAVID – Yes, we are an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers). As you saw we manufacture these products in the other building and the building you visited previously is where we make our hammer parts and the bits. So this is the fabrication area that you are in.

OER – Ok tell us about your latest product in the works, talking about the Low Profile Canister Drills?

DAVID – What we are building currently is a two full-face LP’s, a 72 inch and an 84 inch. We are building two-hole openers which will have a nose on them, which is 84 inch. Then the outside will be 108 inches in diameter and then you will go one more size to 132 inches in diameter. Two hole openers and two full-faced canister drills is the order going through right now. That is an 11 foot diameter rock socket and it is massive.  The low profile canisters drills themselves are quite unique. There are a couple of competitors out there that have tried to make these tools, but the population of tools that we have in the world, no one comes close. Just like we mentioned earlier, primarily this had been used in construction. Now we are using this in mining; horizontal directional drilling, and to drill utility pole holes. We are taking that technology and extrapolating it into many different market segments. We are able to extrapolate the Low Profile Canister Drills to any size that the market demands.  Really, what makes our tool unique is, we have gone through the learning curve. We have been building these now for almost 20 years, so over that time we have refined the design to the point where we get the appropriate longevity out of the component, and the performance that the customer’s looking for. It comes down to tailoring solutions for our customers. We do not build products and put them on the shelf and expect everyone to just use what is available. We like to find out. What is the job? What are the parameters of the job? What is the unique environment that you are in and the challenges and obstacles that you are facing? Then we look to design something specifically for the customer. That ability to be nimble and move on a design, on an immediate basis, gets us the type of flexibility that most big companies do not have. While they will still be in meetings, for weeks; we will already be done building it. For us, what we are concentrating on is taking this technology and spreading it into other niche markets.

OER – You mentioned that it’s going to be the largest in the world?

DAVID – As far as we know it is the largest that has ever been produced. So we are excited about extrapolating this product to meet a lot of different market requirements we talked about; construction work is primarily on but we are also into mining now, we have a utility market, we have a Horizontal Directional Drilling so we have taken that product and just extrapolated and put different niche market and what we are excited about it; how it is being received in the market and the customer base.

OER – Tell us about your JVs, would you be interested in joint partnership with companies want to gain from your expertise?

DAVID – I would say we get approached much more than we reach out to people because of our experience and what we have achieved and we have people that approach us that would like a joint venture with us because we have an idea of a different way of drilling. That is how we normally get approached. Someone on the outside wanting the expertise.

OER – Do you think Africa; or even Nigeria could be an option where you would want to look into for such works?

DAVID – Well any country, we don’t discard any country. The entrepreneurial attitude out there is unbelievable some of the ideas some people come up with so I listen to everything and then we make a business decision on whether this is something we would love to partner on because we do have our sustaining engineering and our own products and won’t want to dilute so much and we do have some nice new products we are driving on our own which I would call state of the art.

OER –What would you want to look out for if a company wants to come and do such with you what are your criteria?

DAVID – It would have to be something new and different because we really have the expertise there because when it comes to hammer drilling there isn’t much we don’t know how to do, we do have engineering stuff and we have tremendous number of year and experience. So what we look for is new ideas coming out of the box because we won’t have thought about it because it is so far from what we do every day and that is what normally happens in the world. Someone that isn’t immersed in every day comes up with a new unique idea and if that individual approaches us with a unique idea we would be very interested to listen to him and work with him and bring his idea to fruition.

OERIn this case the Nigerian government is looking to get companies (OEMs) to come into the country and domicile some of these technologies, banking on indigenous companies and getting them to work together. So what I am asking is will you be willing or available to come in and impact this knowledge to Nigerian companies  are doing something similar but probably on low-key?

DAVID – I have just put an international salesman January and that is one of his roles. He is going to be in South Africa very soon, India, Hong Kong etc and he is making his way around various countries to see if our technology would be embraced and we can add value. So that is something we would be certainly willing to do.

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