In June of 2014, Clane LaCrosse was announced as the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year in the Southwest Region “Cleantech” category. Three months later, though, on a plane heading to Southern California for EY’s national EOY awards event, LaCrosse knew his water-management company Bosque Systems LLC—and the oil and gas industry it depends upon—were in deep trouble.
Oil prices were about to drop precipitously. The days of 80 percent compound growth—which he’d enjoyed since founding the company—were ending. “Imagine, everything you have just been rewarded for, you have to flip upside down,” recalls LaCrosse, Bosque’s president and CEO. “On the plane returning home, I thought: ‘We are going to have 80 percent attrition, not 80 percent growth.’”
LaCrosse, 44, says he started the Fort Worth company in 2007 not from some passion or keen interest in oil and gas per se, but after studying the market and deciding to apply a “business-model” approach—in other words, scaling up and replicating his approach with multiple clients. Hydraulic fracturing in the Barnett Shale was requiring, and producing, millions of gallons of water. “All the operators had these new massive amounts of water,” recalls LaCrosse, a graduate of the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University. “What do you do with it? Dispose of it? Recycle, reuse, store?”
Today Bosque Systems, a diversified oil and gas “fluids” management service company, handles the recovery, transportation, storage, treatment, and recycling of water used for fracking. And it promotes environmentally responsible, “green” practices throughout its processes—hence the EY “cleantech” designation.
LaCrosse says the area called “Mid-con”—that’s short for Mid-continent and includes Oklahoma and Texas’ Permian Basin—accounts for 80 percent of the nation’s oilfield-services work, and is Bosque’s sweet spot. The company also does work in Texas’ Eagle Ford shale and in Colorado. Its current clients include such brand names as XTO Energy, Hunt Oil, Noble Energy, Newfield Exploration, and EOG Resources.
Since the oil bust, the oilfield services industry has been forced to reduce costs and focus more on efficiencies. “In Oklahoma, we [recently] processed 14 million barrels of fluids with 68 employees,” LaCrosse says. “Four years ago, we had 110 employees [there] and did a third less work.”
At the peak of the oil boom, Bosque had a total of 650 employees. But now, that figure’s been reduced to about 300. “You have to make those tough decisions, or everyone loses,” LaCrosse says.
Though its rapid growth may have abated, Bosque enjoyed a 33 percent increase in sales from 2016 through the end of last year. Its measured growth has come about partly because global giants that once were competitors have shut down their water-management divisions. As a result, Bosque has gained market share during the downturn.