A better, safer brake for pump jacks has won a Watford City inventor a $2,500 prize during an invention convention held Saturday in Tioga.
The Innovation Competition has chosen Patrick Young of Patloc Safety Systems in Watford City to receive its first award.
Young has worked in the oilfield a number of years as a roustabout. His safety device came about through personal experience working with pump jacks.
Presently, to put the brakes on a pump jack, it takes one person to hammer a moving part into place while another person holds onto a brake handle. The operation can and does sometimes go horribly wrong in oil patches around the country, despite all effort and care.
“Honestly, I just got sick of beating those into place,” Young said. “You know, it’s when a company man tells you they want that engaged for safety, but yet you have to overlook safety for a second to even use the safety tool. I thought it was kind of ridiculous. You shouldn’t have to do that. The tool is there, it’s just missing a few things.”
During the downturn, Young was working for Greg’s Welding in Watford City. One afternoon he took some scrap metal from a shelf and started working his idea into a prototype.
What he came up with so impressed his boss, Greg Dougherty, that Dougherty became an instant champion of the idea and a mentor.
“I cannot believe someone didn’t think of this 20 years ago,” Dougherty said. “I was so impressed with Pat to come up with this. He had it pretty well designed by the time I got involved.”
Dougherty helped Young build an official prototype for his patent application, which is still pending, and agreed to serve as its manufacturer. Not only was a new business was born, but it gave Dougherty’s an edge to ride out the downturn.
“The award money is a good pat on the back,” Young said Monday. “It’s a good attaboy. We have already paid off all our legal fees, and we are in the green right now, so that money will go toward rewarding everyone who has assisted us in getting where we are at today.”
Young has just finished installing the safety device on a Bakken company’s oil wells, and is now getting set to offer his product in states like Texas, Utah, Wyoming and Colorado. But he plans to keep all the manufacturing in North Dakota.
“It was born here, and we are going to make some more jobs available up here,” he said. “Nothing is going to slow us down. It’s going to be a nice little ride.”
Young expects his company will eventually create in the neighborhood of at least 50 new manufacturing jobs.
Meanwhile, he’s working on a new product that he expects to launch at the next Bakken Oil Product and Service Show in October — the same show where he unveiled the Patloc.
“I’ll have my first prototype at the end of September, and it will be a new fire tube design that will easily last up to 30 years, maybe even longer,” Young said. “It’s something really neat. People won’t have to change the tubes out any more.”
Changing tubes on heater treaters is dangerous work.
“I lost a best friend to someone changing out one of the tubes,” he said. “That’s not why I invented this, but it’s going to fall into that same category. It’s just one other thing we can change for the better.”
In addition to saving lives, the device will save money over the long haul, Young said.
“It is a big ticket item, but it pays for itself within the first three or four years,” he said. “I have had more than a dozen engineers on this, and it is working. We cannot find a single flaw in it right now.”
Young said he was impressed with Tioga’s
invention convention, which was started by Dakota Public Relations and Tioga’s economic developer Dennis Lindahl to help spur diversification of the regional economy.
“We hear a lot in the media and from these different local elected officials as economic development directors that we should be trying to diversify,” Lindahl said. “Everyone talks about it so much, the word is getting worn out.”
The convention aims to do more than just talk about diversification. It included round table discussions about problems industries are seeking to solve, as well as discussions with experienced inventors with insight into patent processes and other issues inventors face.
The award money was provided by Williston Economic Development Corporation. Young was chosen by an independent judging panel that included Ann Kvande, Williston economic development: Darren Schmidt, Stat Oil Petroleum production engineer; Carey Doyle, MHA Nation petroleum engineer; Keith Aubin, Enel Green Power North America; Marlo Anderson, Tech Ranch/National Day Calendar; and Sarah Klug, Science and Technology instructor in Tioga.