Innovation as an Everyday Goal

MCR Oil Tools

Tackling the global challenge head on, rather than hoping to merely survive it, can often place companies in an even stronger position than before. The oil industry was no different than many others that suffered during the global recession; during the worst years of the downturn, fewer new oil reserves were being tapped than ever before. This was coupled with a decline in exploration and appraisal drilling. The landscape was bleak and what was required was forward thinking in order to create innovative ways of ensuring productivity and cost effective practices.

MCR Oil Tools was established in 1995. Like many other successful businesses, it rose from a previous incarnation, learned from its experience and emerged all the better for it.

Today, MCR Oil Tools offer industry-leading innovation in the field of pipe recovery, with the safest and most effective means of severing pipe in the industry today. The company has a leading research and innovation department and focuses on discovering and harnessing new and exciting methods of servicing the industry.

Challenges in the early years

Mike Robertson set up the original incarnation of the company in 1983. Like many start-up companies, Mike felt that there was a gap in the market and that he had the expertise and, most importantly, the ideas required to fill it. “In 1983, the downturn hit. So I, along with all the other engineers in the company I was working with, was put out on the streets. I went to a neighboring oil-well service company and explained to them what I could do and asked them if they were interested in participating. They were and they put up the money to develop the tools and build some tools that I had already developed. That led to a production contract.” This formed the nucleus of what would become MCR Oil Tools in 1995. Mike was designing, building, and selling tools that were tested and were of a high standard. However, these early years were not without challenges. “Building the facilities to test the tools was a big challenge. I was able to find a 12-acre patch of land with a small building on it, which I converted into a test facility. I designed and built a pressure vessel, put the machinery in the building, and set up the test chamber to do my own development work. Once I was able to get that set up, the biggest challenge was the use of funds wisely in order to develop a product that could be marketed.”

Branching out into production

MCR Oil Tools initially focused on research and design of products for sale in the oil industry. However, as a result of an inability to locate manufacturers capable of building the products to the desired level of quality, Mike decided to introduce a production arm to the company. This itself led to a shift in the whole company as MCR was forced to refocus the way it managed its operation.

“About 14 years ago, I bought my first equipment and began manufacturing in-house,” Mike explains. “I couldn’t get the quality of manufacturing that I required to ensure that all the parts were right. So I was kind of forced into manufacturing my own tools, but it does control the quality of the product. This changed the whole focus. Being a manufacturing company is much different to being in research and development; they are two different entities. Once you develop something, then the next challenge is to manufacture it in such a way that it is economical and that it is built for service. This required more space and more buildings which was a real challenge.”


Heightened security in modern society has thrown up a difficulty in the oil tools industry. Where, in the past, explosives may have been used in oil and gas wells, the transportation of these explosives is becoming more difficult and an alternative solution is high on everyone’s agenda. It was this backdrop that led Mike to develop the PowerStik. This product, with a global patent, is a non-explosive power stick that produces high quality energy downhole for various tool operation.

“About six years ago, a customer of mine came to me because Italy is really clamping down on explosive products in the country. They were requiring something that would take the place of an explosive power charge. So I embarked on creating a non-explosive power generating process to replace the power charge. We have successfully done that and we are putting them out in the marketplace as we speak. We have set up our manufacturing operation and are in full manufacturing mode on the PowerStik. The demand for these devices is quite high.”

The Phantom Plug

Another highly innovative product that MCR is preparing for market is a Dissolving Magnesium Plug System, or Phantom Plug. This is a downhole device that sets in tubing or casing to offer a temporary barrier in the well. The Phantom Plug can be dissolved with a MCR torch/timer system that attaches to the plug, allowing the operator to dissolve the plug downhole at any time. Or, the Phantom Plug can be eradicated with a MCR torch system post-operation utilizing e-line or slickline conveyances.

“I developed that in 2006. I was approached in 2006 about coming up with an idea. It was developed, tested and field trialed very successfully. We are now working on a manufacturing operation in the UK to build those plugs. Major oil companies very interested in using our Phantom Plugs in Kazakhstan, Trinidad, Africa and some other remote locations.”

Collar Axe Technology

It is with the Collar Axe, however, that MCR is most strongly demonstrating its future in designing for the oil industry. This product has the potential to change the way oil drilling is supported on an industry wide level. The Collar Axe can now cut stuck drill collars under any temperature or pressure condition. This procedure was, until now, extremely difficult if not impossible and the product will be used by every drilling company and oil company interested in ensuring that their future wells will be completed on time and on budget. “The Collar Axe technology is processing through the final qualification tests at the moment. As soon as that qualification testing is completed, the Collar Axe System will go into about ten different drilling locations around the world”.

With almost 60 products in varying stages of development at present and over 20 new tools being marketed this year alone, it is accurate to say that the future of MCR Oil Tools is in good health. With a forward thinking mentality and a refusal to put limitations on what it can develop and create, it is of little surprise to hear that the company has set its sights on revolutionizing a highly contentious industry. “The use of fracking in the oil and gas industry is a major disaster and our Shale reserves are badly in need of a savior; MCR technology provides solutions that will allow the industry to explore other avenues and shake off the negative press that continuously surrounds it. Fracking is a big political football at this time and we have technology that we feel will eliminate the need for fracking in the future,” shares Mike. “Our method would not require the injection of high volumes of water. A small frack job can involve as much as 6 million gallons of fresh water; these millions of gallons going into an oil or gas well change the geology and alter the geological structure under towns and cities. We will not do that and there is really no necessity to do that.”

With a track record that has demonstrated an amazing talent for innovation and creation, it is deeply encouraging to know that MCR Oil Tools has now chosen this route for the future of the company. Not content with changing the face of pipe recovery, MCR has now set its sights on ensuring that geologically safe practices are the future industry standard in the oil and gas industry.

May 7, 2021, 11:53 PM EDT