JULY 2010
                                        

A Closer Look E-mail the author

Lamb Fuels
Greg Lamb • 619-421-0805

Lamb Fuels’ trucks are its biggest asset and liability. Greg Lamb balances maintenance and road time.

Greg Lamb described his business this way, “We take what would normally be a liability – or even a hazardous waste – and make it usable.”

The company was started by Lamb’s mother in 1985, and at the time she was importing fuel primarily from Mexico. In 1993, two local companies were looking for someone to take their fuel, and Lamb Fuels took advantage of that opportunity.

Now, trucks are dispatched across the country to pick up fuel from auto wreckers, scrap yards, aviation and government facilities and environmental companies. The company has about 20 employees, “and it’s growing little by little,” Lamb said.

Lamb wasn’t involved in the business at the beginning. His career started with the Marine Corps. Afterward, he spent 10 years in the computer industry before working with his mother. Lamb said that the interesting thing about his mother’s entrance into the fuel recycling business was that before she started the business she had been a waitress, but she saw an opportunity and she took it.

As far as his own involvement, he said, “Most people don’t get to choose what they do; it chooses you.”

When Lamb first joined the business, there were only a few customers in California. There weren’t any employees at that time, and no company trucks for picking up the fuel. He took over the company in 2003. “I took it to the next level,” Lamb said.

In 2005, Lamb started looking for new customers in the largest markets and “quickly realized Florida was a place we wanted to be.” Lamb said that while California provides the largest volume, Florida has “an amazing amount of wrecking yards.”

Now, Lamb said, “we’re getting calls all the time,” from people who want to recycle their fuel. “We service most of the country, from California to Virginia,” and “we look forward to expanding into central Canada.”

The volume of fuel handled increases each year, with a goal of reaching 3 million gallons by the end of the year. Recently the company “expanded into the aviation side.” Lamb said. “We have a lot of room to grow.”

While most of the customers are regular pickups, the company has also done some special jobs, including fuel from a rail company that was decommissioning refrigeration cars, a military base that had fuel tanks that needed to be emptied and a shipyard where a ship needed to be de-fueled.

When the trucks arrive at a location, the drivers sample the fuel to make sure it’s acceptable, and it is filtered as it goes into the truck. Then it goes to one of Lamb Fuels’ depots. “It’s amazing how many people can use this product,” Lamb said.

Lamb Fuels won’t accept fuel that isn’t clean enough. “It’s got to look like gas,” Lamb said. But for their efforts, the customers get paid for the fuel rather than paying for disposal. “They drain the fuel,” Lamb explained, and then “it gets transferred to a holding tank” awaiting pickup.

The fuel that isn’t good enough for Lamb Fuels isn’t a lost cause. “There are other solutions out there for these companies,” Lamb said. While Lamb Fuels won’t take the fuel, they can recommend other companies who can burn the fuel. But that’s not the end of the customer service. “We educate the recycler on how to keep the gas clean,” Lamb said.

There are a few other companies in the country that pick up fuel, “but none that have focused on the recyclers like we do,” Lamb said.

Like every business, this one has its challenges. “The trucks are our biggest assets and liabilities,” Lamb said. The challenge is to keep them well-maintained so they can spend as much time on the road as possible.

The future for Lamb Fuels includes on-site filtration systems for customer locations that “we’re hoping to roll out in the next few months.” The details haven’t been worked out yet, but he’s eager to talk to people about it. In fact, he said that what he really enjoys is “getting in front of people and telling them about our company.”