Piling Canada

A Cut Above

Alberta’s NuWave Industries makes waves around the world with its mobile waterjet and radius track cutting services
Written by Paul Adair
March 2023

NuWave’s waterhets have several safety and cost advantages when compared to conventional cutting methods

An issue with a client’s soil conditions in 2010 prompted welders Tim Sharp and Troy Illingworth to create a novel solution: using waterjets to cut a well from the inside to remove a wellhead. This idea led to the creation of NuWave Industries. 

“[Illingworth] and I were just sitting in our office, and thought, ‘There [are] waterjet tables, so why can’t we just make a portable unit that goes inside a well?’” said Sharp, NuWave’s CEO and president. “Then we just figured that this was something we could do with water, so we drew up some pictures on a piece of paper and went from there, and we’ve been fairly successful since then.”

Originally founded to keep the waterjet cutting services separate from the mechanical side of the business, NuWave Industries is an offshoot of Alberta-based
T & T Oilfield Services Ltd., a 25-year-old mechanical services company offering well abandonments through conventional methods. However, NuWave’s success over the past decade took over T & T, and while the company still provides some mechanical services, its primary focus is waterjet cutting.

NuWave employs about 30 people and operates out of Marwayne, Alta., which is located approximately 40 kilometres north of Lloydminster and has a population of 564. Nevertheless, NuWave far exceeds its small-town roots and stretches around the globe. To meet the growing demand for its services – ranging from surface well abandonments, pipeline and pipeline road crossing abandonments, pile cutting, mobile waterjet, radius track cutting and more – the company maintains a satellite office in Pierceland, Sask., as well as south of the border in Bakersfield, Calif., and Midland and Houston, Texas.

“Our guys are always on the road putting on the miles because our equipment is so portable [that it allows] us to cover [many] areas,” said Sharp. “We’ve expanded our presence in the United States and have even done projects overseas in places as far away as Türkiye. Here in Canada, we’ve done work from [Newfoundland and Labrador] to the coast of British Columbia and then up north in the Northwest Territories.”

The waterjet cutting process

NuWave’s abrasive waterjet cutting tools are among the most efficient on the market and easily slice through single or multiple casings. The cutting tool is introduced into the production casing inside the well or pile. It rotates at 360 degrees and uses a mixture of
high-pressure water – up to 45,000 pounds per square inch – and natural abrasive sands and granite to complete the cut. The stream of abrasive water quickly erodes the material, creating a clean, burr-free cut that doesn’t require any additional treatment.

NuWave’s mobile high-pressure internal hydro-
cutting tool allows piles to be cut at depths below grade in
spaces where traditional heat-cutting cannot be used.

“You do the 360 degrees and shut everything down, pull the tool and grab hold of the cut-off piece with an excavator, and then do a little bit of wiggling to pull it out of the ground,  just like pulling a carrot from the garden, and you’re left with just the hole. NuWave then installs a cap and backfills the hole,” said Sharp. “It doesn’t matter what kind of pile you’re looking to cut; whether your pile is square or round, driven or screwed, we have a variety of tools to accommodate the shape and size of anything we come across.”

The waterjet cutting process has several safety and cost advantages compared to traditional methods. The hazards that come with heat and explosives are negated through water abrasives, and piling companies do not need to expose their workers to confined spaces to cut by hand. The process is also much faster, leading to reduced customer costs. 

“If you were to cut a pile or well in the conventional way, it could take you three or four hours – at least,” said Sharp. “But with the NuWave process, that same job can take just 15 minutes, and we can cut 30 to 45 [piles] each day. We are hearing that, in the mining sector alone, our process has saved companies millions of dollars.”

Competition is welcomed

NuWave is the North American pioneer of the waterjet cutting process and offers its clients the benefit of years of research and development that has gone into honing the craft. However, the company’s success and its waterjet process have inspired many copycat companies looking to take a piece of the action. This growth of competition is something NuWave embraces, and the company is confident in what they bring to the table.  

“The competition for what we do is always there, but we have the know-how, we have the fleet and we have the professionalism, reliability and integrity backed by years of experience,” said Sharp. “We have built a reputation for being one of the best companies out there doing this and our clients have come to appreciate our ability to complete any project we take on.”

NuWave’s reputation for excellence was tested in 2016 when it was tasked with bringing its waterjet tools to Türkiye during an active military campaign. The logistics of moving its tooling and workforce overseas was a tremendous challenge that was completely out of the wheelhouse for NuWave. Nevertheless, the company completed the intricate project and came home with a satisfied customer and memories to last a lifetime.

“Working while a war was going off around us was something we could never imagine we’d have to deal with,” said Sharp. “We were supposed to be there for a week-and-a-half to cut some very deep wells and ended up staying for a month. But our cutting tool ensured that the job was done safely and without putting anyone in harm’s way, so the client was extremely satisfied with the result.”

Safety first

Safety is always a priority for NuWave, and the company is proud of its admirable safety record. They ensure that all employees are kept in the loop regarding jobsite safety by conducting regular forums, whether through informal tailgate meetings or more structured health and safety meetings held every quarter. The company has also established a working group of managers and employees to reinforce safety practices at NuWave and help uncover areas for improvement.

“People don’t always want to bring their concerns up directly to the owners, so we set up this committee to allow people to freely voice their concerns,” said Sharp. “It’s just another way to make sure that everybody feels involved in the safety side of things, and if there are some actionable ideas brought to us that make the job safer, we’ll always consider implementing them.”

Harnessing the power of erosion, the abrasive stream of water creates a clean and burr-free cut
NuWave’s versatile waterjet cutting tool meets customers’ needs and cuts a variety of pile types, sizes and shapes
With efficient waterjet cutting, NuWave cuts up to 45 piles per day

Concerns about the environment

When it comes to the environment, NuWave doesn’t just talk the talk; they walk the walk. The company is committed to becoming an industry leader by being on the front-line of environmentally friendly solutions. This includes adopting greener options for fleet vehicles to cut down on gas emissions, exploring the use of more efficient and sustainable processes and equipment, and staying ahead of evolving environmental regulations so it can support its clients’ green initiatives.

As part of this commitment, NuWave has recently started working with the Canadian environmental, social and governance company GreenWorks Environmental Partnership Inc. to measure, document and analyze the current environmental impact of its operations.

“Because we preach that our process is very green, we strongly believe that working with a company like GreenWorks is a great opportunity for us,” said Sharp. “This is the direction our industry is moving, and that’s why we’re choosing to spend the money on improving our footprint now rather than later.”

NuWave’s future

Looking ahead, NuWave will endeavour to push the envelope with what water jetting can accomplish and expand its services into other sectors, such as marine, disaster management and civil infrastructure. The company will also rely on its employees to learn what makes the job easier, and then develop the tools they need to reduce injuries and lower customer costs.

“We are always looking for new ways to innovate and come up with ways to improve our processes,” said Sharp. “It seems as though over the last few years, we’ve come up with something new each and every year, something we fully expect to continue in the years ahead.” 

Photos: courtesy of NuWave Industries

Category: Profile

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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.

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