Quinn Holtby Reimagines Alberta’s Oilrig

Holtby with his wife.

Holtby with his wife.

Quinn Holtby started working on an oilrig in the early 1980s, when mud buckets were still in use—a technology used to contain drill solution in a 260- pound steel can suspended from the drill floor. It took two workers to raise the mud bucket. If it was raised too fast or if someone neglected to make sure that the rig pumps were on, the pressure seals of the steel combusted, and everyone on the drill floor was at an extreme risk for injury, maybe even death.

“We spilled [drill fluid] all over the drill floor and pushed 400-pound equipment around. That’s how I got [my] little finger crushed. We used to use plastic bags, gunny sacks and old coats to address the uncontrolled discharge on the drill floor.” He soon had a goal in mind—to design equipment that would prevent slip, strain, sprain and crush injuries, an idea that would later inspire him to start his own business, Katch Kan.

An opportunity to build a drilling rig with his brother-in-law only revealed more safety problems, and realities such as warranties that prevented inadequate equipment from being modified. “I set a goal that I would come back and I would design products that eliminate the repetitive issues on the drill floor,” says Holtby.

Holby worked in his garage for four years to develop the appropriate equipment to both prevent and control work place hazards, injuries and environmental concerns. He sold real estate for seven years, trying to market his new invention and solution to workplace hazards—the light, portable Kelly Kan.

“The fear of change in the industry was one of the largest challenges When [we introduced] nitrogen super palmer, material that has all of the capabilities of managing the harsh temperatures as well as the work conditions in the oil industry, people didn’t believe that a piece of plastic could manage and do better than steel products.”

After Holtby had sufficient capital from his sales of the Kelly Kan, he developed Katch Kan’s Rig Safety System and Zero Spill System. “We designed outstanding traction products that you can clip on onto the stair ways so that you never slip again. So being proactive, providing barriers to the receptive incidents is the solution.”

Echo, Pemex, and other oil companies have made their systems mandatory on all of their drilling operations. “We’re retrofitting entire fleets of these national oil companies with our ISO 9000 Certified Products.”

Katch Kan now sells its systems to over 60 countries throughout the world. They have been recognized for their work in Mexico, and have won awards including the $100,000 Manning Principal Award and the Visitor Medallion, which was presented to David Johnston, Canada’s Governor General, on their behalf during the inauguration of Mexico’s president.

Katch Kan is a model of Edmonton’s entrepreneurial spirit—a company with committed pioneer roots. “I’ve seen companies attempt to export internationally and they have failed because of their lack of persistence. Edmonton being at -40 [degrees Celsius during the winter] makes us plan for sustainability. Our grandparents who lived here in 1900 certainly had to plan. That helped teach the generations that followed that planning is key to success and we all know that you have to plan before you execute.”

At only 18 years-old, Holtby had a vision to end workplace injuries caused by slippery drill rig floors and old equipment. In the wake of his success, he wants to continue to work in the upstream oil and gas industry and apply Katch Kan’s technologies to other fields, such as the downstream oil and gas industry.