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Brian Floyd Levang has a connection to the oil and gas industry that dates back to the days of Atlantic No. 3, the infamous wild well that blew a year after Leduc No. 1 came in, sealing the notoriety of the Leduc region of Alberta as the birthplace of Canada’s modern oil industry.
Born in 1928 on a farm near Edberg, southeast of Leduc, Brian took his elementary schooling at Dried Meat Lake School north of Edberg and attended high school in Edberg.
In 1951, Brian was on his way to Rocky Mountain House to work for Atlas Lumber when his brother-in-law, Don Martin, convinced him instead to sign on with an Imperial Oil seismic crew working in the Red Deer region. Remembering the Atlantic No. 3 fires sparked something in Brian, and he and the drilling business were never the same. A few months as a juggie on the seismic crew convinced Brian there had to be a better way, and he soon hooked on with Combine Drilling, working wells around Medicine Hat, Redwater, and Wainwright.
Although it was difficult for rookie rig workers to find steady work in those days, Brian and his brother Gordon soon found employment with Cantex Drilling, owned at the time by Dick Harris, and by 1954, Brian had worked his way up to the position of tool push on Cantex Rig 1, drilling for Imperial Oil near Provost. From there, he moved on to Glen Ewen, Saskatchewan, again drilling for Imperial Oil’s Bill McGreevy and George Tosh.
Brian stayed with Cantex after it was sold to Jerry D’Arcy, but in 1972, a fellow by the name of Tex Mannas bought five rigs from Jerry and invited Brian to join him in establishing their own drilling company, and Jomax Drilling (named for their respective wives, Jody and Maxine) was born. From the start, the operation was built on the twin strengths of good equipment and good people, and Brian and Tex vowed that Jomax would never be short of either. So progressive were the two entrepreneurs that they ensured good people by launching company health and pension plans, virtually unheard of in small operations of that time.
Times were tight, to be sure, but Jomax thrived by following a simple premise: when times were good, build good rigs and keep them working with good people; when times were tough, tighten your belts and wait. Jomax continues to follow that same credo today, and has had great success doing so.
With his own operation, Brian finally had the opportunity to try out some of the innovations he had been thinking about, and over the years—first as co-owner and later as sole owner after Tex retired in 1988—he developed a reputation for three things—integrity, hard work, and innovation.
The first two character traits were on display every day of his working life, and are still on display today: at the age of 81, he regularly takes time to visit working Jomax rigs, talking to their crews and listening to their ideas and suggestions.
But it is the third that most in the broader industry will remember him by. Almost from the day he signed on with that first Cantex rig back in 1954, Brian was looking for ways to make the
Those efforts eventually led to the design of a unique rig layout, to the vibrating mud hopper, and to the patented stabbing guide.
Through the turbulent days of the 1980s, Brian kept his eye on his basic values of keeping good people working on good equipment, and taking care of both. His efforts paid off, and with the rise of commodity prices and the demise of the National Energy Program in the 1980s, business for Brian boomed and Jomax was able to improve across its fleet, with new and more powerful top drives, new DPs and SCRs, and with a renewed focus on making Jomax rigs easier to maintain and move.
The company remains a privately owned, independent contractor, with 11 diesel electric rigs rated between 4,000 and 6,000 metres and a specialization for drilling deep wells with long horizontal sections.
Brian has been a member of the Derrick Club and of the Canadian Association of Oilwell Drilling Contractors since 1972 and of the Edmonton Petroleum Club since 1979. In 2008, he