Renowned for its highly technical approach to every project – no matter how big or small – ZAP Engineering and Construction Services is a full-service engineering and construction management firm, with a major emphasis on the oil and gas industry. Founded in 2001 by Steve Tzap, ZAP was established after its founder saw a need in the market for a process-centric engineering firm to support the industry.
“Steve really wanted to approach things from a heavy process perspective to provide engineering solutions for operators,” explains ZAP’s Vice President of Business Development, Shane Wilson. “He grew the business from one person to the 150 people we have today, spanning all major engineering disciplines. Following Steve’s lead, we still have a process-centric focus today.”
With an emphasis on engineering, ZAP brings its technical expertise to a variety of EPC projects. Thanks to its full EPC capabilities, the company is able to perform all design and engineering in-house, before project managing contractors and vendors in the execution phase.
“We are unique, I believe, in the larger EPC space,” Shane says. “When we are bidding on EPC projects, we tend to be competing with construction companies that have an engineering group to support their construction efforts. On the other hand, we are primarily an engineering company that leverages our engineering experience, as well as our ability to manage and schedule EPC projects. We do not have a construction arm; we contract all of that out, so it forces us to do complete and accurate engineering, while scheduling and planning very detailed scopes of work for our contract partners. When we execute an EPC project, we track the development daily, with a tremendous amount of KPIs and metrics, to ensure that we react quickly to any issues. It’s been a very successful philosophy and approach for us.”
Serving both midstream and upstream markets in the oil and gas industry, ZAP’s processing engineering department continues to be the largest group within the organization, so it is no surprise that the firm shines most brightly on heavy process, highly technical projects preferred by the company’s founder. Capable of servicing a wide range of requests, from small process related studies to large turnkey ventures, ZAP’s first two EPC contracts arrived in 2010, transforming the firm from a pure engineering business into a full-service provider.
“In 2010, Frank Lousberg – now company President – encountered a client that felt the cost to design and build their compressor stations was not competing with some of their rival companies,” Shane relates, “so they came to ZAP and asked us to do some front-end engineering and design with a total install cost estimate for the two stations.
“Frank found that ZAP could build these compressor stations and still meet the company’s specifications, for significantly less than it had been costing them in the past. At that time, the most senior person in that organization turned to Steve Tzap and asked him if he would perform EPC work for that cost and Steve agreed. A commitment was made and we executed both of those projects on time and on budget. That was really our primary entry into the EPC space and we have continued to foster that capability as we have grown over the last ten years.”
ZAP’s growth over the last decade has been substantial and even included a two-year period where the firm tripled in size. Shane believes the rapid expansion is the result of numerous factors.
“As the US oil and gas market has expanded over the years, we have ridden that wave in some regards, so that has definitely helped our business,” he states. “We’ve also applied our skillset to other industries, so that has allowed us to grow as well. Part of our business strategy right now is to diversify. We believe that we’ve honed skills in the oil and gas industry that is directly applicable to other sectors too, particularly those that are highly technical and process-centric. I think it all comes from the foundation of our core values as a company and bringing in real talent. I am currently working around some of the smartest, most driven people that I have encountered in my career.”
Adaptable and agile
Strong client relationships have been vital to the company too. As ZAP has strengthened connections with some of its core customers, the firm has been offered opportunities on increasingly large projects and broadened its capabilities as a result. Many of the company’s current clients have been ZAP customers since the business started in 2001.
“Fostering relationships with our clients has been the growth engine for our business and I think that will continue to be the case,” Shane reports. “Our focus is not on getting more business from new clients, our focus is really on grasping an opportunity to execute a project, showing what we can do on a small scale, and then from there, we usually take on more and more responsibility for that company.”
“Due to the size of our business, and with the leadership we have in place, one of our coolest advantages is we are a highly adaptable and an agile option for our clients,” adds Mechanical Engineer and Business Development Manager, Evan Anundsen. “Every project is a little bit different and, on the whole, we are very good at being able to turn on a dime or make a quick change to handle whatever the client needs.”
Serious about safety
Among ZAP’s current projects is the construction of a cryogenic gas plant in North Dakota. Contractual obligations held by the client mean that ZAP has been forced to act quickly throughout the development, but the company is well on track with the complant’s aggressive schedule. A hallmark of the way ZAP runs its EPC projects, proactivity has played a key role in the North Dakota scheme’s success.
“We want to do as much front-end engineering as possible on our EPC projects,” Shane reveals. “We were shortlisted by this particular client and when they called us in for a final interview, we let them know that there were four mechanical designers in our office working on their project as we spoke and the client was really surprised. Our reply to them was, ‘in order to hit your schedule, we cannot lose a single day’. I think that really speaks to our customer focus. We will always do everything in our power to ensure their success, which, in turn, ensures our success. We are willing to take calculated risks in order to achieve our goals.”
One area in which the company is not willing to take risks is Health and Safety. Earlier this year, ZAP, along with its partners at Schwob Energy Services and MMR, celebrated 50,000 safe man-hours for a series of compressor stations in Southeast New Mexico. The achievement is evidence of ZAP’s treatment of safety as not only a priority, but a core value. “We relate quality with safety,” Shane declares. “Safety is one of the top things we vet when we are evaluating potential contract partnerships with a construction company or a vendor. It’s something we take very seriously. All our engineers go through safety training and I think that we set that expectation from the first day they walk into our office. It goes all the way up to our President and CEO, where they are seeing everything from reported near misses to first aid data, so we are tracking leading indicators when it comes to the safety of all of our construction projects. Again, it goes back to our client focus. They are operating, managing, and running gas plants, compressor stations, and wellhead facilities; safety is paramount to them, so it inherently becomes paramount to us.”
Driven by its long-standing client relationships, process heavy approach, and core values of accountability, mutual respect, quality, and execution, Shane expects ZAP’s growth trajectory to endure well into the future. Though the company will continue applying its skillset to the oil and gas industry, Shane believes that other sectors could also benefit from ZAP’s expertise and that, as a result, diversification is inevitable.
“There has been some growth in the mining and minerals processing industry, so we are working on more and more projects in that area,” he remarks. “A number of the leaders in our company have a background in comthe minerals processing sector, so that seems a logical fit for our expansion. We’ve been increasing those capabilities, as well as looking into other areas of the energy sector.”
ZAP Engineering and Construction Services
Products and services: Detailed engineering, design and construction management