This article, written by Nate Hendley, was featured in the October 22, 2022, issue of Resource in Focus.
Diego Cardona, Chief Executive Officer and Cofounder of Rogue Energy Services gives insight into how a customer-first ethos and emphasis on top-notch performance, matched by a devotion to innovation, has propelled his company with explosive growth in an otherwise conservative and tradition-bound industry.
Rogue Energy Services has grown enormously since it was founded five years ago, thanks to a combination of innovation and an old-school commitment to hard work and meeting deadlines. The firm’s areas of expertise include pipeline and oilfield construction, facility maintenance, and heavy hauling. Oil and gas companies make up its main client base.
“Our specialty is facilities construction. That’s what we live by,” states Chief Executive Officer and Cofounder Diego Cardona. “We’ve done some big facilities, and we’ve done some small facilities. There’s nothing out there that we haven’t done.”
Most of this work is performed in West Texas, specifically in the Permian and Delaware Basins. The Permian Basin contains massive oil and natural gas deposits, and the Delaware Basin is located inside the Permian Basin. Rogue keeps a corporate office in San Angelo, Texas to serve this region and an equipment yard in Pecos, Texas. As part of its overall growth strategy, the company plans to establish a new yard in Carlsbad, New Mexico.
While Rogue Energy Services has done some bitcoin mining projects, the amount of work in this sector is “very, very small compared to the oil and gas industry,” says Cardona, noting that oil and gas is “our expertise. It’s what we do.
”That expertise extends across a wide range of services. When it comes to pipeline construction, for example, Rogue can handle everything from design and engineering to surveying, excavation, and digging. The company likes to establish close working relationships with pipeline clients throughout construction.
It offers other oil field construction services beyond pipelines. The company can dig and install tanks, do rough grading and maintenance on lease roads, and perform maintenance, repairs, and overhauls for compressor stations. Rogue designs and installs oil and gas production well solutions, handling everything from electrical work to instrumentation and controls. Fabrication and welding services are also available for oil field and pipeline clients.
Once a client’s infrastructure is up and running, it provides maintenance and service. The company monitors equipment for problems and performs emergency repairs as needed. Rogue applies protective coatings, stops pipeline leaks, and does sandblasting, mechanical troubleshooting, and facility integrity assessments.
The company has a fleet of vehicles to haul materials and equipment. Additional services include equipment rentals and mapping. While operations are currently centered in West Texas, Rogue promises it can do jobs anywhere.
Rogue Energy Services was officially launched in May 2017 by Cardona and Cofounder Alex Castillo, who now serves as the company’s chief operating officer. From humble beginnings, the firm snowballed.
“We started with only five employees,” says Cardona. “I think, as of the last payroll, we hit 210 employees. We’ve had some big growth.”
As to what is driving that growth, he says it is “a lot of things: good management, good workers, good guys we have in the field… I’ve always been the kind of guy to say, ‘Hey, if you give me your project, we’re going to get in and out. We’re not going to waste time.’ We know that time is crucial in getting these facilities up and running. So, we’re going to do what we have to do to make sure we hit our deadlines every time.”
Its customer-first ethos and emphasis on top-notch performance are matched by its devotion to innovation. This culture helps differentiate the company in an industry that tends to be conservative and somewhat tradition-bound. Determined to follow its path, Rogue developed a unique software program called Field Ticket Manager. The program stores vast amounts of data that clients can easily access.
“I’ve been in this industry for a long time. I realized no software program could pinpoint everything I needed for oil field construction. So, we went and met with a software designer and gave him ideas,” says Cardona. “We wanted to be able to track every little thing you can do.”
Field Ticket Manager was designed to be a technologically advanced energy sector data management solution. “A lot of times, the customer calls and says, ‘What’s my total cost? What’re my total man-hours on this certain project?’ In the old days, you’d have to grab field tickets and go through them. Now, with this software, you can click on their project and their name—boom! You pull up [the information] and have all the hours. You can filter by days, weeks, or months. Whatever you need,” he says.
Thanks to Field Ticket Manager, customers can receive daily invoices and reports. Clients can also monitor projects and keep a running tally of costs. While the program was developed for internal use, Rogue has started licensing Field Ticket Manager to other oil/gas construction firms.
The program is currently getting a bit of a facelift by adding some new features and a few other tweaks. Once the software has been updated, “We’re going to push it hard. At the end of the day, this could benefit many people, especially many first-time business owners,” says Cardona.
Cutting-edge technology aside, Rogue has had to cope with some huge issues that have plagued businesses worldwide. The advent of the COVID virus in early 2020 threatened to derail its upwards momentum. When the virus struck, the top priority was to protect staff. This meant protecting their livelihoods as well as their health.
“My job was to keep everyone employed. Keep them working. Try to get them their forty hours. Try to avoid any layoffs. We did well,” he recalls.
At the height of the pandemic, workers at Rogue “were hearing so many horror stories of other companies laying people off, and they were able to keep working,” he continues.
This dedication to employee well-being is further reflected in the company’s promise of safety. Rogue has a full-time health, safety, and environmental compliance manager and puts a great deal of emphasis on safety issues and training. It has also developed an operator qualification plan that adheres to Department of Transportation pipeline safety regulations. Safety meetings are held weekly, and monthly, risk mitigation training is offered, and hazard risk assessments are regularly performed.
“The last thing I want to do is one day have to call up a family member and say: ‘Your husband or your son is not going to make it home tonight.’ Thank goodness I haven’t had to do that. If we can stress [safety] daily, to where it becomes ingrained, then that’s what we ask for,” Cardona says.
Rogue’s assurance extends into environmental safety as well. The company follows all state and federal environmental regulations concerning oil and gas production and obtains all necessary work permits.
With the firm rapidly expanding, it is looking to hire. Cardona seeks certain traits in potential new hires, saying that the company prefers “guys who are willing to put in the hours… guys willing to go out there and make a name for themselves and grow with the company. That’s the people we’re looking for.”
Looking into the future, he recognizes that the company faces certain non-COVID-related challenges, including workforce recruitment. Finding good quality employees remains “a tough one.” This is particularly difficult, given Rogue’s speedy expansion. Indeed, Cardona cites “managing growth” as another concern, although he is quick to add: “We have a very, very good staff and a great management team.”
Besides its website, Rogue promotes itself via a blog with topics like saltwater disposal during oil and natural gas production, as featured in an article posted in late July 2022, as well as social media and sponsorships.
As a child, Cardona was impressed by how often oil field companies sponsored youth events and children’s athletic teams. Now that he’s become a successful entrepreneur, he is happy to offer sponsorships on behalf of the company. “If I can get Rogue’s name out and give kids the opportunity to play youth sports, that’s a big one with me,” he asserts.
Cardona would love to see the company establish a national presence in the long run. “Over time, we plan on extending into other states… anywhere oil and gas plays, we want to be there,” he says. Rogue may eventually branch into other energy fields, such as solar. For now, however, the company plans to concentrate on oil and gas-related work, as that is what it does best.
“We want to keep growing. This is what we love to do. This is what we want to keep doing. We want to keep [growing into] new markets in different states. We want to keep doing the same thing we’re doing here, but everywhere else,” he states.