The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 7, 2012

The right size for right Price

Pipeline inspection business’ goal: Take care of its existing customers

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

DOVER — Audie Price set out after high school to run a farm and hire himself out as a welder. Little did he know back then he’d end up running a pipeline inspection company doing business in several states.

“When I got out of high school, I got into welding,” Price said.

He contracted himself out for welding jobs and, during that time, met a lot of engineers. One thing led to another, and in 1995, Price was asked to do inspection work.

“I wasn’t really thrilled about it,” Price said. “I figured I’d do the one job and go back to my welding.”

But what he had gotten himself into to help out ended up growing.

Oil and natural gas companies kept calling him to do more inspection work. Eventually he hired employees to help with the demand and then took on welder testing and certification tasks.

Audie Price Inspections incorporated in 1999 but remains in family hands. Audie is president; his wife, Brenda, is vice president; his daughter, Julie Walker, is office manager; and Julie’s husband, Charles, oversees welder testing and certification.

Work comes primarily from Oklahoma and Texas, but the company also sees jobs from Kansas, Arkansas and states farther out.

Oil and gas pipelines fall under the governance of the Department of Transportation’s pipeline safety division. Inspection jobs require copious documentation, Price said.

“You do a little old job, and you’ve got binders and binders of documentation,” Price said.

The inspectors have to make sure all is in compliance and completed safely. They set the welding procedure for the work and maintain documentation.

For a single job, the company can send a chief inspector, assistant chief inspector, certified welding inspector and perhaps two more under him, material inspector and six to eight utility inspectors.

The company had a peak year in 2003, when it doubled its revenue. Business peaked again in 2011, with revenue doubling yet again. It currently has 200 employees.

Natural gas pipelines make up a bigger share of the customer base than do oil pipelines.

Company revenues were about $25 million in 2011. Nevertheless, the business still operates out of an office behind the Price family home in a pristine setting in rural Kingfisher County. Surrounding the home and office is the land where Price and his family operate a cow and calf operation with a herd of more than 200.

Price said his plan for the future is to continue taking care of his existing customers.

“It’s just about as big as I’d care for it to be,” he said.