Contractor Rolls with Oil-Gas Boom: Aarcon Enterprises turns to Peterson for High Volume Chipping

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Pennsylvania company specialty service is clearing land and constructing pads for oil and gas drilling operations.

TRAFFORD, Penn. — When business is booming, a contractor needs a machine that can keep pace with the boom.

Aarcon Enterprises Inc. found itself in that position recently. For the equipment solution, the company turned to Peterson Pacific Corp. for high volume chipping.

Aarcon Enterprises, headed by Aaron Brentzel, is based in Trafford, Pennsylvania, less than 20 miles almost due east of Pittsburgh. The company’s services include general site consultation, commercial and industrial site development, residential and subdivision site development, utility and well pad construction, and athletic field construction.

The company does a lot of work clearing land for rights-of-way, particularly in western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia “where the terrain is very rough,” said Dustin Kerber, who heads up the land clearing division. “it requires a certain kind of equipment to get the job done.” The company works mainly within about a 70-mile radius of Pittsburgh, he said.

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Aarcon Enterprises also serves the oil and gas exploration industry, which has enjoyed a boom in recent years. A specialty service is clearing land and constructing pads for oil and gas drilling operations. A pad may consist of up to 30 acres, noted Dustin. A company typically requires at least a 10-square-acre area to set up its drilling equipment, environmental safety ponds, and associated equipment, he explained.

“We’re one of the only full-service outfits out there,” said Dustin. “We can cover all the bases as far as the earth

moving.” The company also can construct pipelines to producing oil or gas wells,

provide trucking, and other ancillary


Company owner Aaron Brentzel, 41, worked since boyhood for his father, Ron, who operated a contracting business. When his father retired in 2005, Aaron launched his own company. By the time his father retired, Aaron was estimating prospective jobs and supervising them.

His father’s company did a lot of utility-related work. “Then we got into the gas industry,” said Aaron, but the company subcontracted for a lot of the clearing, grubbing, and other work. It grew, adding the capability to provide those kind of services. “We just expanded and are more for ourselves,” he explained.

In addition to its headquarters in Trafford, where it also has a yard, the company has a field office in Bentleyville, south of Pittsburgh, and it is preparing to open another field office in Ohio. “We’ll start working there next week,” said Aaron. The company has about 100-110 employees and 60 pieces of heavy equipment, Aaron estimated.

Aaron is directly involved in managing the company’s on-the-ground services. “I’m more of a field-type person,” he said. He is frequently on job sites and sometimes lending a hand.

As the owner, he also has his pulse on the company’s finances. “Ultimately, every financial decision has to go through me,” he said.

Prior to expanding into services for the oil and gas exploration industry, Aarcon Enterprises primarily did land clearing and site development work for utilities and developers. For example, the company contracts to do land clearing and site preparation work for commercial building projects as well as entire subdivisions.

The land clearing division employs a crew of about five at any given time. “It doesn’t take a lot of manpower to run a land clearing crew,” Dustin observed.

Dustin’s crew uses a chipper for processing tree tops and other brushy material. The company had a chipper for its operations in the 1990s and upgraded to a larger model about a year ago. “It just wasn’t enough for what we were trying to do,” said Dustin.

Aarcon Enterprises needed a machine that could chip more volume faster, said Dustin. He and Aaron considered various manufacturers. They found other contractors using Peterson chipping equipment and made visits to their jobs to see them in action.

“We took a look at the Peterson,” said Dustin. “We liked what we saw.”

Aaron agreed. “From watching it work, it fit what we needed,” he said.

Aarcon Enterprises purchased a Peterson 4310B drum chipper “So far it’s been excellent,” said Dustin.

The company purchased the machine through a Caterpillar dealer, Cleveland Brothers Equipment Co., which has 26 facilities in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, mostly in Pennsylvania. The fact that Peterson is supported by the Cat dealer “is a big deal for us,” said Aaron. He has been doing business with Cleveland Brothers for many years.

Aarcon Enterprises has its own service department that maintains the machine as well as the company’s other equipment.

The company has only been running the machine for a few weeks, but Dustin already is pleased with its performance. “It’s an outstanding machine,” he said.

“We’re very happy with it,” said Aaron.

The Peterson 4310B drum chipper is a self-propelled machine mounted on tracks. Dustin’s crew uses an excavator to feed material to the chipper.

“If we’re doing a gas pad, I’ll set up on one spot,” said Dustin. When the machine is being used on right-of-way, Dustin will maneuver it throughout the job site as needed.

Although both hardwood and softwood trees are present in the company’s working region, it counters a lot of hardwood timber, noted Dustin. “There’s a lot of tulip and ash, but mainly a lot of cherry and oak,” he said. The trees average 24 inches in diameter, he estimated.

Oak is “very tough,” Dustin acknowledged.

“It’s hard on the machine,” he added.

Oregon-based Peterson Pacific Corp. is a manufacturer of whole tree chippers and debarkers, horizontal grinders, and blower trucks and trailers. The company’s 4310B drum chipper has a capacity of 50-150 tons per hour, depending on species, chip size, and moisture content.

It is suited for high volume production processing a wide variety of feed material, from brush and small feed stock to logs up to 24 inches in diameter.

The Peterson 4310B drum chipper is powered by a Caterpillar 765 hp engine. It utilizes a 36-inch diameter by 44-3/4-inch wide drum with either 6 or 12 knife pockets. Traditional babbitt type knife systems are standard. Chip length can be set from 1/8 to 1-1/4 inch depending on rotor and knife configuration.

The Peterson 4310B drum chipper features a hydraulic clutch, sloped feed deck for ease of feeding the chipper, and wear resistant AR 400 wear surfaces on the drum pockets and shell. Optional material sizing grates further reduce oversize twigs and branches in the chips, and an optional chip accelerator helps with loading. The end load spout is standard, and an optional top loading spout is available.

Peterson’s Adaptive Control System provides self-diagnosis for faulty sensors and open circuits. Fault indicators make troubleshooting easy. The control panel features an LCD display that provides the operator the complete engine and system parameters to simplify set-up and efficiently run the machine.

(For more information about Peterson or its machinery products, visit

Aarcon Enterprises does not market or sell any of its chip production. Instead, the chips are put to work for land-clearing customers. The chips are used as material in making Silt Sox for erosion control. The Silt Sox is a tube of fabric material that is filled either with wood chips or compost and is used in a way similar to silt fencing. It allows water to pass through but traps sediment. The fabric tubes, 25-50 feet long, are used on job sites to control erosion for customers. Ninety percent of chip production is used in this manner, according to Dustin.

The logs derived from any job are disposed of according to the desires of the landowner. Some want to keep them for firewood. “Every landowner wants something different,” said Dustin. “if they want them removed, we remove them.”

The company also recently entered the firewood business. “We’re just getting into it right now,” said Aaron. It has a Timberwolf firewood processor but has ordered another machine from Timberwolf to replace it in order to increase production. “We’ve already picked up some new clientele,” said Aaron.

If a landowner does not want the logs from the timber on their property, they are hauled to the company yard to be processed into firewood.

Sawmills occasionally buy some logs, but rarely, according to Dustin. However, the company’s priority is removing the wood from the job site as quickly as possible so its excavating equipment can do the site preparation work.

“If we have a pile of wood sitting on our job…it’ll actually end up costing the company more money,” explained Dustin. “Our goal is to get in there and move the dirt as quick as we can.”

“We can’t come in and move our dirt,” said Dustin, if the company is waiting for a sawmill business to come in and haul out the logs.

The land clearing division also is equipped with a Komatsu 430 feller-buncher, John Deere 785 grapple skidder, Komatsu PC300 track hoe with Rotobec grapple, a Tigercat 480 mulcher, and a Volvo 460 excavator with stump shear.

The oil and gas exploration industry is booming, Dustin acknowledged. “Yeah, it’s crazy. It’s just crazy around here right now. It’s seven days a week.”