Oil Drilling in Rock Springs, WY
PHOTO CREDIT: J. Kyle Keener
Hollywood scriptwriters in search of a remarkable rags-to-riches saga should look no further than the MESSCO company.
The plot: A hard-working entrepreneur with no formal education, the mysterious new technology he invented almost by accident, set against the backdrop of a global environmental crisis.
“Dave started out in the oil and gas fields in the 1980s with just a single welding truck,” says Abby Moneyhun, MESSCO Chief Financial Officer and wife of CEO Dave Moneyhun. “He expanded to a few more trucks and in 1997 started his own roustabout (oil well worker) company.”
Today Moneyhun owns the patent on a new technology that nearly obliterates toxic releases in the gas refining industry.
But, back in 1998, new environmental mandates were putting oil and gas producers in a bind.
The state wanted to stop the release of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that occur when companies separate the water that is present with extracted gas and oil. VOCs can harm soil and groundwater, pollute the air, and contribute to global warming.
But the companies couldn’t find the necessary equipment for the task, Abby Moneyhun explains. Dave, who by then had graduated from welding to the manufacture of dehydration units, smelled opportunity.
“He’s not an engineer,” she says. “We have high school educations. But we knew it had to burn really hot, and we knew the basic components. Dave put them together and added a burner. But he was afraid the flame was going to go straight out the stack and catch something on fire. So he added a deflector plate, just for safety. “
When the Moneyhuns had their burner tested, results showed an astonishing 99.9 percent efficiency in eradicating VOCs. “We were absolutely astounded. We didn’t think it would work,” Abby Moneyhun says.
The only problem: No one knew why it worked.
A group of engineers analyzed the MESSCO burner – now called The VOCinerator – and determined the key was the deflector plate Dave had added merely as a safety precaution. “When the flame went up and hit that deflector plate, it would create a vortex,” Abby Moneyhun says. “It would spin and burn and re-burn and then come out clean.”
While the Moneyhuns were busy testing their new invention, the state was legislating additional environmental rules. As a result, MESSCO had to tweak the VOCinerator to burn new types of VOCs. Meanwhile, Dave and Abby Moneyhun realized they needed to simplify their manufacturing process. After a lengthy re-development period, the Moneyhuns again sent the burner out for testing. And again, results showed a 99.9 percent VOC reduction.
The product now meets all state mandates, and orders are coming in fast. The company has been gearing up for mass production, constructing a new building, ordering more equipment, and hiring employees as fast as it can find them.
“I honestly have no idea how big this will get,” says Moneyhun. “The other day, Dave and I thought how when we started, the company was just this tiny building, and now it’s grown to 60,000 square feet, with all these employees. And this is just the beginning. The sky’s the limit.”
Find out more about the energy industry in Rock Springs, WY.