National Boom Trucks Change Landscape of Equipment Used in Gas and Oil Fields

boom truck

National Crane is changing how work is done in the U.S. natural gas and oil fields with simpler, more secure, and cost-effective solutions. On the Marcellus Shale natural gas fields in Pennsylvania, Levelland, Texas-based Renegade Wireline Services is using two National boom trucks – an NBT45 and an NBT50 – to insert wireline cabling and related tools into several natural gas and oil well sites.


In the past, straight-mast forklifts handled the majority of work on gas and oil fields, but the work was cumbersome. Operators were forced to move their lift trucks for every lift, rigging and un-rigging the winch mechanisms each time. Now, crane operators are able to rig a boom truck for several lifts from the same spot, which is more efficient and saves time and money.


“We need all the cranes we use on the gas and oil field to have at least 125 feet of main boom so that we can place tools into multiple wells without having to move the truck,” said Rodney Offield, manager of the Pittsburgh, Pa., branch of Renegade. “The cranes also have to have a high load rating at the boom tip to handle the intense weight of the multi-ton rigging and cable-hoisting operations.”


The NBT45 has a 45-ton capacity and a 127-foot, five-section, full-power boom. The NBT50 has a 50-ton capacity and a 128-foot, five-section, full-power boom. Both machines have the option of being equipped with shorter, four-section power booms, but the extra reach is crucial to Renegade’s workflow strategy.


Offield says that in the oil and gas business, jobs come suddenly, and his company must react immediately. That means jumping in the boom truck and heading to a job site right away. Renegade's National boom trucks that are mounted on chassis that comply with federal bridge laws, enabling the cranes to travel without highway permits.


“Bigger cranes are subject to federal size and weight laws in Pennsylvania–if we used truck cranes that had similar capabilities to these boom trucks or bigger cranes, we’d have to have a person in-office filing permits each time we wanted to cross state lines or drive over a bridge,” he said.


Additionally, Offield says boom trucks are not bound by overweight and permitting regulations that restrict the hours or days spent driving larger machines in Pennsylvania. For example, a larger crane may have to be parked on a job site from Saturday afternoon until Monday morning due to overweight and permitting regulations. However, National Crane boom trucks mounted on road-legal chassis that can be driven 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


“Often times, I get a call at 3:00 am or 4:00 am, and we need to leave immediately,” Offield said. “If I didn’t use the NBTs, it would not only cost more time and money, but I could lose out on potential jobs.”


To improve job site security and communication among crews, the control levers are outside of the back window. Operators have to engage the clutch pedal, and then turn their bodies to sit sideways and operate the winch. In boom trucks, the controls are right in front of the operator. This operator’s setup doesn’t just make lifts easier, it helps improve communication among crews. With straight-mast forklifts, the load could be in front, behind, or on either side of the operator, causing visibility issues. In a boom truck, the load is directly in front of the operator, making it much easier to see. The better view makes the picking of loads less dangerous and allows the operator to have full eye contact with his ground crew.  


Athough Renegade already owns two NBT45s, they are currently renting two additional boom trucks from Stephenson Equipment Inc., based out of Harrisburg, Pa., that are working at the Marcellus Shale sites. Both National Cranes are mounted on Peterbilt 367 trucks that are built to meet federal bridge regulation.