Oil companies don't generally switch to environmentally friendly products simply because it seems like the right thing to do. They have to pencil out.
Such is the challenge facing Bakersfield's E&B Green Solutions, a fledgling sister company of locally based oil producer E&B Natural Resources.
"Being 'green' is not the main motivation for folks" in the oil industry, said the 11-month-old company's general manager, Patrick "Pat" Plugge.
So far, the company believes it is meeting the challenge.
E&B Green Solutions distributes biodegradable products that use plant and animal-derived materials to activate resident bacteria to break down hydrocarbons stuck to oil tanks and wells, automotive parts, municipal wastewater systems, and food and beverage equipment.
Based on data from years of oil field testing with E&B Natural Resources, Plugge said he believes the company's products can reduce an oil company's costs of operating a petroleum facility.
That's no modest claim. Competition is intense, and there's no question that widely used solvents are cheaper, even if they are more volatile and potentially damaging to the environment.
Where Plugge said his company wins is in "total cost of ownership."
Products manufactured by Green Earth Technologies Inc. -- the Florida company with which E&B Green Solutions signed an exclusive oil field distributorship agreement late last year -- allow oil companies to eliminate certain costs, Plugge said. These include money spent on vapor recovery, safety training, confined space entry and transportation of waste materials.
Also, because of its oil industry expertise, the company is able to provide on-site consultation at no extra charge, Plugge said.
A tough sell?
Persuading oilmen to change their ways won't be easy. The industry often hears of new technologies, and it's not quick to transition to a new approach.
But it's not impossible.
"The proof's in the pudding," said Les Clark, executive vice president of Bakersfield-based Independent Oil Producers Agency.
"Anytime you're approached by someone who's got the new-new, you're not just going to say, 'Come in here and take care of business,'" he said.
Still, Clark said the newcomer's larger, sister company is reputable, and that could help. Also, the industry likes to learn about the "new widget," and it recognizes the value of experimentation.
It doesn't hurt that E&B Green Solutions recently won recognition by Kern Green, a nonprofit that works to spread awareness of environmentally advanced work in the local community.
Kern Green's executive director, Sasha Windes, said judges for the nonprofit's 2012 awards event were impressed by the company's plant-based approach to pollution prevention.
Windes also disputed the notion that oil companies won't go the extra mile to adopt environmentally responsible processes.
"I really have seen the oil companies spend more to do things right," she said. "They live in this community, too, so I think they want to do things well."
"I think (oil companies) want to change their image as well," she added.
For its part, Green Earth Technologies sees promise in having E&B market its products to the oil industry.
"Our cleaning products are a 'natural' for the oil and gas well service industry, and E&B Natural Resources has the experience and the technical know-how to take our products to that market," Jeffrey Loch, Green Earth Technologies' president, wrote in a December news release announcing E&B's distributorship agreement.
Plugge emphasized that the four-employee company is still in early stages, building its case that its products work well and save money. He said it hopes eventually to expand from oil field applications to the municipal wastewater, automotive parts and food and beverage markets.