Rolfson Oil – Grit, Resilience & Determination

Rolfson Oil specialises in delivering fuel to the oil field. Find out what they are doing to stay innovative while growing beyond where they were 36 years ago or even last year.

Rolfson Oil is making a name for itself in the oil industry while building on the foundation that started the company. Founded by Bill Unser and Royce Rolfson in 1985, the company started out in Watford City, North Dakota. Rolfson Oil began primarily providing fuelling services to the agricultural sector. In 2011, Rolfson Oil was purchased by the current leadership team including Chris Frain, Rolfson Oil’s CEO, and Patrick Malley, now the company’s COO.  By continuing the unwavering foundational priority of customer service, Rolfson Oil has grown from four employees to over four hundred. Another essential ingredient of this transformation is the hunger for non-stop growth and innovation.  From increasing its customer base to the services Rolfson offers, this company is continually evolving.

One challenge came in 2014. “The oil prices dropped causing a sector slow-down.  We knew we had to make some adjustments.” Frain recalls.

“First, it was necessary to move into other areas of operation. We took advantage of the slow-down to establish an operational presence in Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas setting ourselves up for growth as the market returned,” Malley tells us. “The oil industry started to come back in the middle of 2016 and being established in those areas accelerated our growth.”

Rolfson Oil remained committed to the business principles that had previously driven their growth.  The first principle is customer service.  Upper and middle management, as well as the team in the field, all have equally important roles in the structure of their business. “The way we hire, the culture of ownership, each employee’s excitement – this is what drives us,” Frain shares. By ingraining the importance of customer service in all roles throughout the company, they have been able to establish a partnership with almost every energy company in the oilfield.

With a proven belief in boots on the ground, you will find Rolfson’s upper management team constantly in the field. “We’re driven by being innovative and finding ways to be a partner of choice,” Malley says.

In addition to customer service, the second principle is Rolfson’s decision to exclusively serve the oil field.  This commitment has given them the edge in the market. “We’re the only large fuel provider that is 100% oil field.  Our customers know, we do not service other sectors.  It gives them peace of mind that we will service their needs.” Malley tells us.

Being Innovative

Change is a constant in the oil industry.  If your business is not adapting to the needs of your customers and the industry, someone else will. One of the most complex challenges that many in this industry face is the rapid development of technology.

“In the last couple of years, a lot of companies, including Rolfson, have put money and resources into bringing their operating platforms up to speed,” Malley explains.  Rolfson Oil has worked hard to change from low-tech operating systems to real-time, innovative systems that all communicate on the back end.

Adapting to accommodate and leverage the latest technologies has proven essential this year more than ever with the advent of the COVID-19 crisis.

The pandemic has been a dilemma that none of us could have predicted, but Rolfson Oil has yet again turned this business negative into a positive.

COVID-19 has affected everyone. Oil was one of the hardest-hit business sectors,” Frain says. “We consolidated facilities, re-worked the entire IT platform, including communication with every remote piece of equipment, and trained our employees.”

This process prepared Rolfson Oil for the next wave of change. At the same time, they were continuing efforts to be an invaluable partner to their customers, Rolfson Oil has continued to realize the importance of having strong, strategic partnerships of their own during this pandemic.

“We now have partnerships with Exxon, Husky, Petro-Canada and VanWyk. We’ve been intentional since the beginning of COVID-19 about asking ourselves how we could save ourselves money while also saving our customers’ money,” Malley says.

 Looking Toward the Future

As Rolfson Oil looks toward the future, its engineering department is focused on the carbon revolution.

“The carbon-neutral initiative for oil companies is a long-term goal, but also an immediate challenge,” Frain tells us. “It involves something new for everyone. There’s no handbook.”

The challenge of creating a carbon-neutral future has also spurred Rolfson Oil itself to transition from being a fuel supplier to an energy supplier.

“Fuel has been the lifeblood of our company, but now we’re looking at the utilization of field gas, solar panels and batteries for production sites, fracks and rigs,” Frain explains.

Rolfson Oil has also invested in an e-aircraft, as well as other green technologies that will help them deploy innovative practices in the oil field.

“Transitioning from a diesel supplier to an energy supplier is our priority. Fuel will become a small part of Rolfson’s future,” Frain says.

“We project that our fleet will convert to natural gas by 2022,” Malley adds. “We’re becoming an energy company.  The product and revenue source that has put bread on our table since we started is being replaced.”

Whether adapting from a significant market downturn or a worldwide crisis, one thing is clear, Rolfson Oil will continue to lead this industry. With the same grit, resilience, and determination, there is no limit to the contributions this dynamic company will make moving forward.

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