Heavily entrenched in the oil and gas sector, a water treatment plant in landlocked Alberta took a hit when the market bottomed out in 2014. It was an economic storm weathered by successes in innovative process designs and engineering, something that was lacking elsewhere in the world. French company, Orelis Environnement, recognized an opportunity to invest and grow globally with the help of Calgary-based Clearbakk.
Dan Huras, CEO of ClearBakk Energy Services, says the company of twenty employees has grown steadily since its inception in May of 2011. "But in 2014, being so heavily concentrated in the oil and gas sector, like many, the bottom dropped out of our market. We lost 75 per cent of our revenue in the next year. We went through layoffs. Not an uncommon story. We had peaked at about 45 employees, but cut back to 15 over a period of time as we dealt with the market crash.”
Huras explains the history of Clearbakk proved it was a company with a solid mission and met immediate success, "our first fiscal year ended June 2012, we met our targets and we made money that year. The next two years we grew at about 30 per cent revenue per year. I think the year before the crash we were up to about $16 million in revenue.”
Leveling out in 2015-2016, the company took on a new investor and is now on track to return to profitability this fiscal year with revenue up 200 percent from its lowest point, setting precedence that Calgary companies are worth investing in.
Huras explains that their investor's biggest markets are in Europe. "They do have an office in China, but they lack presence in North America.They tried unsuccessfully to open and staff offices,” says Huras. “So they looked to us, a company with an established presence, with current customer lists, and a variety of processes already set up for success. They viewed us as a springboard to go after the North American market. Using our oil and gas connections, they invested in our company and took advantage of our presence in Western Canada. We are now looking to expand their market into the United States from our Calgary location."
Huras points out that Calgary has a heavy head office presence in Canada, and oil and gas companies are viewed as very successful, high-standard companies in Alberta. He says, "If you’re servicing the oil and gas market in Western Canada you need a certain level of expertise. Canadian oil and gas companies are viewed as pretty technologically-advanced in the industry. A lot of the technologies developed here have applications elsewhere as well, particularly in water treatment. If you’re a Canadian company operating in this sector, you’re attractive to those looking to get access to your technology and know-how." Huras believes these qualities is what attracted the overseas investor to Clearbakk, "They looked to us for expertise because we have it."
ClearBakk handles everything from drinking water to sewage treatment to industrial water. It treats water for a purpose.
“If somebody has groundwater they want to turn into drinking water at a remote camp, we can do that. If they have industrial water that’s coming out of a process, whether it’s oil and gas, mining, anything like that, they need to treat it so they can either reuse it, or safely discharge it. We do that. We do it all in packaged systems. Since our customers are generally in remote locations, we are designed to accommodate that,” says Huras.