Broach in the News
G. C. Broach
The G. C. Broach Company is a unique, independently owned organization of experienced professionals whose ultimate endeavor is the design and construction of direct-fired process heaters.
The company was founded and incorporated on December 27, 1960, by G. C. “Clayton” Broach on the premise that the dependability and performance of any heater are directly equated to the quality of the engineering techniques employed in the design and construction of the unit. And, that most causes of operational problems and failures should be identified and eliminated in the basic design of the equipment.
Nearing a half-century of successful operation, the company that was started by Clayton and his wife, Louise, is still going strong. Employing seventy to one hundred people at any given time, the G. C. Broach Company has reported annual sales that averaged $8 million to as great as $20 million and boasts a large customer base. Impressive considering that Clayton and Louise, along with their three small children, sold the family home in April of 1960 to finance their new heater company.
G. C. Broach is no stranger to challenge and hard work. Born in October 1928, he went to work in a print shop at age fourteen to help with living expenses for his sister and widowed mother. At age fifteen, he met Louise Cue, the woman who would be his wife only four years later in 1947. He served in the military from 1946 to 1948 and 1950 to 1951 and, in 1954, earned a B.S. in Business Law from the University of Tulsa.
Only six years later, the Broach’s rented a two-bedroom home for $75 a month, while Clayton ran his fledgling company from a glassed-in back porch. One year later, the G. C. Broach Company was large enough to begin renting office space near downtown Tulsa at Fifth and Peoria.
By the mid-1960s, the G. C. Broach Company became a major supplier of Refinery, Gas Plant and Oil Production Heaters. In 1965 a fabrication shop was built in Tulsa to allow the company to offer a completely in-house turnkey project. An additional location was also opened that year in Paris, France. After a five-year run, Broach Paris was closed after it was decided to centralize all operations to its Tulsa offices.
Broach’s manufacturing complex was designed and built exclusively for the construction of process heaters. Located on fifteen acres, the plant is served by the Union Pacific Railroad via the company’s three private rail spurs. A completed unit can be withdrawn from an individual assembly bay door onto a track mounted transfer car, which is aligned with a rail spur and the unit is withdrawn from the transfer car onto the rail car. The shop floor and the transfer car are both rail car height so the unit does not have to be lifted for loading. This system minimizes the possibility of any damage to a unit during loading and affects a net saving to the customer by eliminating expensive lifting costs.
The company’s central geographic location in mid-America gives quick, easy access to all parts of the nation and the world with transportation choices ranging from rail, truck or barge transportation. One of the unique features of the facility is that all manufacturing functions are performed under one roof, in environmentally controlled conditions, so that weather is not a factor in scheduling. Consistent, thermostatically controlled temperatures and uniform lighting are maintained throughout to provide year-round control of product quality.
In the 1970s the Broach Company extended its design scope of supply by furnishing skid mounted heat medium systems, including pumps, expansion tanks, piping and controls (all fully piped, wired and shop tested). The Adjunct Loop Air Preheat system was developed and patented in nine countries by GCB during this period. With this system, the oil is circulated through a convection coil in the top of the heater to absorb heat that would normally be wasted into the atmosphere. After absorbing this heat, the oil is circulated through an exchanger in the combustion air stream to heat the combustion air, thereby putting the otherwise wasted heat back into the furnace. To this day, the Adjunct Loop proves to be a superior air preheat system.
During 1974 the office location was moved to its current address at 7667 East Forty-sixth Place. After this move, sons Christopher C. and Brian R. Broach joined the company. Christopher will celebrate thirty years of service since graduating with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Tulsa in 1979 and Brian will celebrate thirty-one years with an extensive background in Mechanical, Chemical, Thermal, and Petroleum Engineering.
The 1980s became known as the “Death Valley Days” for the industry as a whole. Oil prices soared, production plummeted and heater businesses began to fail. Additionally, the 1980s marked a shift to process heaters that required a higher degree of engineering and emissions control. Some special designs and innovations that emerged from Broach during those years include the EZ Mount Light Pole, which is a prefabricated stationery or removable pole that is used on walkways and docks in industrial locations. Another design was a Lean/Master Lead/Lag Transmitter that provides the Lead/Lag function in forced draft combustion systems, providing the best approach to prevent combustion upsets during load swings.
In 1984, Broach took a gamble on a large project with All-American Pipeline which was building a pipeline that required thirty-five heaters from Los Angeles, California to Baytown, Texas. The project was enormous and the possibility of winning the project was remote. Nonetheless, Broach committed personnel to work on it for over a year without a promise of an award. It was affectionately called the “Kite in the Wind” project; Broach won the project on Valentine’s Day, 1985. It was the largest single order for a process heater company given during those “Death Valley” years. They were able to keep local vendors alive when no one else was busy.
A third son, Roger C. Broach, vice president, joined the company during these years after earning a B.S. in Business Administration in 1987 from Oklahoma State University.
Although the 1990s were prosperous for the company, a veil of melancholy lay over the daily activities due to Louise Broach’s death in July of 1990 after a brief struggle with cancer.
Today, the G. C. Broach Company continues to look ahead by implementing a strategic business plan. The company’s goals include:
- Striving for innovation toward quality, design, and improvements of their products;
- Being thorough and complete with their designs and contracts in order to preserve customer satisfaction while optimizing costs while maintaining, or improving, quality and service to their customers;
- Maintaining a debt-free operation and keeping cash, or equivalent, on hand so that the cyclic downturns characteristic of the business don’t bring upset;
- Paying vendors on or before invoice due dates in order to preserve good, quick service provided by those vendors and to maintain an impeccable credit rating; and
- Striving to give back to the community which gives the G. C. Broach Company so much, the participate with Executive Women International, the Philbrook and Gilcrease Museums, Boy Scouts of America, American Cancer Society and Up with Trees.
Back porch to a global player
Manufacturer started long ago as home-based firm
From its humble start more than 40 years ago in a screened-in back porch, The G.C. Broach Co. has grown into an international business that caters to a worldwide clientele in the oil and chemical industry.
The private company owes its beginnings to Clayton Broach, who decided long ago to start his own business after his employer’s company began struggling.
“They had gone through some bad mergers and weren’t doing well, and he could read the writing on the wall,” said Roger Broach, a son of the company’s founder. “They went out of business and left a void in the market. He thought he would just start his own.
“The way he says it, ‘I can go broke all on my own.’ But he hasn’t. He’s done really well.”
For the first 10 years or so, Clayton Broach’s company struggled, but by about 1971 it started growing, said the younger Broach, who works as plant manager and is one of three sons involved in the business.
The G.C. Broach Co. makes process heaters and waste heat recovery units that are used mostly for oil and chemical refining. The waste heat steam generators are used mostly in the power industry. Units vary in configuration, size, and design and are custom designed to client specifications. They can range in size from one that fits in the back of a pickup to another that is taller than a 10-story building.
A crude heater, for instance, heats crude oil, allowing it to be separated into different grades of oil. “Very rarely are we the least expensive, but we are most commonly the best built, the best quality,” Roger Broach said.
The company’s domestic and foreign client list has grown to read like a “Who’s Who” of the chemical and oil industry, with names such as Dow Chemical, Dupont, Chevron-Texaco, Exxon Mobil, Marathon, Shell, Kerr-McGee, and Mitsubishi, to name a few.
Back in 1959, the elder Broach sold his house, his car and moved into a small rental property to help pursue his dream of starting a business, his son said. He began quoting work but didn’t any contracts until about a year later, in 1960, when the company was incorporated.
“He rode the bus everywhere, worked off a screened-in back porch on a drafting table and had a phone, and that was the meager beginning of this company,” Roger Broach said.
Firmly planted in the family, the business has functioned over the years with an assortment of immediate and extended family members assisting in the daily operations.
Roger Broach said his grandmother on his mother’s side became the company’s first employee, working as an office manager and doing everything except engineering and drawing. His grandmother’s position later was filled by an aunt who was his late mother’s sister.
Today, founder Clayton Broach, 73, remains the company’s president and works every day. Besides Roger, two other sons work alongside the elder Broach – Christopher, vice president and a sales engineer, and Brian, a sales engineer.
The company’s plant at 8199 E. 44th St., likewise, has been firmly planted in the same spot since the early 1960’s, though it has undergone a few add-ons over the years. The company’s sales and administrative offices are located at 7667 E. 46th Place.
In the early days, the plant was surrounded by a pasture, and the only other neighbors were a mattress factory and a trucking company, Roger Broach said.
“We were out in the woods,” he said. “We were way out in the country.”
Despite being tucked away in the middle of the heartland, the company’s name has spread far and wide, primarily through word of mouth.
“Our biggest problem is letting people know that we’re still in business,” Roger Broach said. “So many people have gone in and out of business over the last 40 years that I think a lot of people assume we’re one of them, but we’ve continued to operate under the same management in the same location.”
Problem calls from Broach customers rare
Like the Maytag repairman whose clients never call with product problems, The G.C. Broach Co. can go a long time without ever hearing from industrial customers who have questions about their process heaters or waste heat recovery units.
“My concern is people think we’re no longer in business because they don’t have to contact us about problems with their product,” said Roger Broach, plant manager.
To illustrate his point, Broach tells the story of a time, a few years ago, when he was helping install a unit at Frontier Refining in Cheyenne, Wyo. The maintenance supervisor, having never heard of the Tulsa company, asked Broach how long it had been in business.
When the younger Broach told him that records showed two of the company’s units – one built in 1964 and another built in 1967 – were in the Cheyenne plant, the plant supervisor disputed it. “He said, ‘No, those units aren’t here, and if they were here they’re not here any longer.’ I took his word for it.”
Later that day, as Broach was wandering through the plant at lunchtime, he came across the company’s 1964 unit, which was still functioning. He said he pointed out the unit to the much-baffled maintenance supervisor, who said, “ ‘You know, I’ve been the maintenance supervisor here for 15 years, and I’ve walked by that unit a thousand times… I’ve never had to work on it.’ ” At 30 feet long, 20 feet tall and 10 feet wide, the unit was as big as a mobile home and hard to miss, Broach said.
He attributes the high-quality units to the company’s employees, some of whom have worked there for 35 years. They know what the company expects and have a lot of pride in what they do, he said.
The family company is the only one that Roger Broach knows of in the nation that has its own fabrication shop, he said.
Tulsa World – Business Section
Section A, Page 7, Monday, June 24th, 2002
By Laurie Winslow
Services/Suppliers – Technology Business
The G.C. Broach Co., Tulsa, Okla., has been duly licensed by the Ministry of Labour for The People’s Republic of China to export direct fired heaters, pressure vessels, exchangers, waste heat boilers, and other engineered equipment into the People’s Republic of China.
The first set of Broach equipment to be exported to the People’s Republic of China is presently complete and ready for shipment. This set of equipment, for an LPG terminal at Shantou, is a propane heating system comprised of a 60 million BTU/hr forced draft heater, a circulating pump and associated piping, a 60 million BTU/hr heat exchanger, an expansion tank, and a completely automated control system.
August 10th, 1998, page 83, The Oil & Gas Journal
The Arabian Sun
All set up and almost ready to go is this new asphalt plant at the Ras Tanura Refinery, the largest skid-mounted process unit ever to be installed by Aramco. Major components, all of which were lifted into place within a five-day period beginning July 2, are the asphalt blowing tower, center foreground, the vacuum distillation tower behind it, the furnace at the extreme left, and the heat exchanger skids, one of which is seen at the extreme right. The smaller asphalt receiving tower and the air receiving tower as well as the large rectangular air cooler seen in the center of the picture was installed earlier this year.
The Arabian Sun, Vol. XXX No. 28 – Published by The Arabian American Oil Company, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. July 17, 1974.
Giant Heater Leaves for Panhandle
It required eight flatcars to load this one mammoth refinery heater built by The G. C. Broach Co., Tulsa. Seeing it on its way are, left the right, G. C. Cole, Tulsa freight agent for M-K-T Railroad; Cliff DeLay, production superintendent for Broach; and Clayton Broach, company president. The heater, which will be 35 ft wide, 55 ft long, and 90 ft tall when erected, will have a capacity of 166,000,000 Btu, according to the maker.
Long before he launched his business, Broach and his wife, Louise, prepared for financial famine. They sold everything they didn’t absolutely need and moved into a small home to keep living costs to a bare minimum.
It was three months after the company opened its doors that it received its first order. Since then, the company has produced about 150 heaters, for refineries, chemical plants, and gasoline plants all over the world. Practically every major oil company is on the Broach customer list.
Direct-fired heaters are used to heat crude oil, or some of its derivatives, in the various phases of the refining process. Their size varies greatly, in dimensions and in heat output. The smallest ones could be shoe-horned into the back of a pickup. The big ones will sprawl across a couple of railroad flat cars.
The Broach side-fire design was an immediate success and the business quickly gathered momentum during its first year. In 1962, their orders shot past the million dollar mark.
Clayton Broach is a native of Tulsa. This has helped him establish his business, but not in the way a hometown boy usually is helped.
“Being a Tulsan didn’t get me any customers,” he said, “but it sure helped in my gaining the confidence of the Tulsa businessmen who would supply the materials required in the construction of our units. We, and I’m sure most other Tulsa manufacturers, credit a measure of our success to the faith and optimism of our local suppliers and financial institutions.”
Excellent Rail Service
Broach’s company is housed in modest offices today at 514 S. Peoria. Manufacturing is done on a contract basis by the Automatic Welding Co. at 8100 East 41st Street in Industries for Tulsa’s new Memorial Industrial Park.
Excellent rail service for the new plant is provided by the KATY Railroad over spurs routed directly into the new facility.
In addition to the local plant, Broach has been working to establish a manufacturing operation in Europe. During the course of these negotiations, he has traveled to France twice.
“We think we’re about to make a deal and we’re looking forward to a very successful operation overseas,” he said.