How Smart Tech Can Mitigate the Dangers of Fracking with IET’s David LaVance
October 28, 2015
John Shegerian: Welcome back to Green Is Good and we are so honored to have with us today David LaVance. He is the CEO of Integrated Environmental Technologies. Welcome to Green Is Good, David. David LaVance: Well, thanks, John. I appreciate that. John Shegerian: We are so honored to have you on. And before we get going here we’re going to share with our listeners the website for Integrated Environmental Technologies, which I’m on right now. So if our listeners want to go onto it and follow along, it’s www.EcoTreatments.com. David, before we get talking about what exactly you do at Integrated Environmental Technologies, can you share with our listeners a little bit about the David LaVance story leading up to you being the CEO there? David LaVance: Sure. All my life I’ve been involved with life sciences companies. Most of them have been in the biotech or medical device areas, but I’ve been able to be associated with several really good ones. I don’t know if you remember lithotripsy, but this is the technology that crushed kidney stones with shockwaves eliminating a very terrible surgery – kidney surgery for kidney stones – then most recently, I’m finishing up a 14-year tour of duty with Hologic, which is a women’s health care company. Hologic is a really fantastic company, and it is the one that developed the 3D mammography that has now gotten so much attention. So in most of my career, I’ve been involved with medicines or with medical devices but very interested in other things relating to life sciences, and that’s what drew me to IET – or Integrated Environmental Technologies. John Shegerian: And how long ago did you become their CEO? David LaVance: I joined originally as a board member almost four years ago, and then some time during that first year, I became the CEO. John Shegerian: Got you. All right. Got it. So can you explain to our listeners – now, again, I am on your website. It’s a beautiful website, lots of great information on it. Our listeners should go there; it’s www.EcoTreatments.com. From the boss’s mouth – from the CEO’s mouth – what is Integrated Environmental Technologies? David LaVance: Integrated Environmental Technologies is first and foremost a life sciences company that specializes in treating the environment and health issues in new and environmentally friendly ways. So in particular, we are out to get what is probably one of the great dangers for all people and that is bacteria. So we all know that bacteria affect us in food and in health- John Shegerian: Yeah. David LaVance: And interestingly, in the environment, particularly in the oil and gas area. John Shegerian: Wow. And I would never – it’s so interesting when you bring that up that way. I would never associate bacteria with oil and gas. I would associate it with doctors’ offices, hospitals but never with oil and gas. Can you explain a little bit about that interrelationship, and how and why that came to be, and what your solution looks like? David LaVance: Sure. Well, our solution itself is a clear watery substance. The molecule is in there. The molecule is hydrogen, oxygen and chlorine, which is dubbed a “hypochlorous acid” – not “hydrochloric,” but “hypochlorous” acid – and what it does is it kills bacteria on contact. And the relationship between, say, health and the oil and gas industry is, in health we all know about things like MRSA and pneumonia and other bacteria that really hurt people. John Shegerian: Yeah. David LaVance: And obviously, we’ve been dealing with antibacterial agents for years. What we mostly don’t know as laypeople is bacteria also are involved in other things. You can imagine, for example, a lot of bacteria on ships at sea. Well, in the oil and gas industry bacteria feed on the oil and the gas. So there are two major kinds of bacteria – aerobic and non-aerobic bacteria. Aerobic means they live above the surface of the Earth and use oxygen just like we do and anaerobic use other chemicals down under the Earth. Our focus has been, how do we eliminate these bacteria so they don’t do harm to the environment? John Shegerian: So in your evolution as a professional and as a leader, you first started your career, you were working on disinfectants that killed the superbugs like you just mentioned, MRSA and some of those other superbugs. Now you’ve just evolved. David LaVance: Yeah. That. Oh. Excuse me, John. John Shegerian: No, go ahead. David LaVance: That’s what drew me into the company in the first place, is that you have all these bacteria that have health effects and just to name the couple that you brought us – MRSA. John Shegerian: Yeah. David LaVance: CRE. C Diff. They’re responsible for probably killing about 50,000 Americans a year in hospitals. In other words, you get these bacteria infections in hospitals. So my question was, “Well, why can’t we do something about that? Why can’t we better kill these bacteria before they get us?” And sure enough, you may have heard or seen some things relating to CRE, for example. This is a very highly resistant type of bacteria and the CDC has been talking about it a lot in the last year because there is no medicine that treats it. Absolutely no medicine that treats CRE. So if you get the infection, your chances of dying are 50 percent. Well, that is a terrible ratio. John Shegerian: Yeah. David LaVance: So what we have to do is we have to get the bacteria before it gets us. John Shegerian: Wow. And that bacteria is mostly in hospitals and health care areas right now? David LaVance: Yeah. That’s right. And if people want to learn more about it, they should go to the CDC website, which really addresses a lot of the issues pertaining to CRE. And happily, our chemical kills it. Now, when you start “chemical” and “medicine” and so forth- John Shegerian: Yeah. David LaVance: Everyone is worried about, how can a chemical be green? And in reality, chemicals all have side effects, but in this particular one, it’s extraordinarily low toxicity. In fact, this is a chemical – hypochlorous acid – that your body makes. Your own body makes it and that’s how it kills bacteria inside your body. John Shegerian: Wow. That is crazy. So you really took what is really an organic solution and then you socialized it and scaled it for industrial purposes. David LaVance: Yeah. You’re exactly right. The key here was, can we make it? And can we make it in sufficient quantity so that you can use it on larger scale? John Shegerian: Wow. David LaVance: So if you can only make a few drops, it wouldn’t be worth anything. It would be a science experiment. But if you can make it by the truckload, then you can use it for other things. And indeed, to use it in oil and gas, you have to make it by the truckloads. John Shegerian: So let’s talk about now moving from health care, which is very critical and important, to one of the social phenomenas during the sustainability revolution, has become non-dependence on foreign energy and foreign oil. David LaVance: Right. John Shegerian: But obviously, the path there – like the path to any success – the journey is never smooth and easy, and one of the problems with that has been in the news all the time has been this issues of fracking. David LaVance: Right. John Shegerian: And how it has potentially harmed the environment during the process. Can you share, David, some of what you have come up with? What your company does to mitigate the harms of fracking? David LaVance: Sure. And that’s a really good place to begin in thinking about oil and gas, because we definitely do not want to be dependent on any other nation for our oil and gas. John Shegerian: Right. David LaVance: And so energy independence is strategically really important. We have that in mind and we’re saying, “OK. How is the best way to get the oil and the gas out of the ground?” The United States, in particular, is blessed with a lot of oil and gas that is trapped in the shale deposits, and we have a lot of shale deposits all over the country. Shale is interesting because it can be fractured, and the way that the industry does this is it uses a lot of water – I’m talking about millions of gallons of water in each well – and it puts that water under tremendous pressure and it fractures the rock and then that frees up the oil and the gas to flow out. OK. So fracturing, itself – if you think about breaking up the underlying rock – that creates a worry and we’ve seen some publicity and some press releases and studies and so forth about “could it lead to earthquakes?” and that sort of thing. We don’t address that part. John Shegerian: OK. David LaVance: The other part, though, is if you’re putting that millions and millions of gallons of water underground, do we have a chance that we are going to poison our water supply? Because we all know that oil and gas business is an industrial process. Any time you talk about industrial processes, you’re talking about harsh chemicals. So the question is, are the techniques such that you are going to poison the water? And that’s where we come in. Because if you’re going to use all that water – and it’s not coming out of the faucet in your kitchen; it’s coming out of a lake or a pond or a stream, so that water has all the little parameciums and other bacteria that we all learned about in high school. They’re in there. And if you put them underground, what happens? The answer is nothing good. So the oil and gas industry really wants to kill those because they don’t want to hurt their own well, but they also don’t want to damage the water supply and so forth. So the question is, can you come up with a chemical that is not toxic to humans but is toxic to bacteria? And that is really the crux of what we do at IET. We are providing that chemical so that it can be used in the oil and gas industry to kill bacteria. John Shegerian: And explain, David, please, what is the chemical’s name and what exactly it does. David LaVance: Yeah. The chemical’s technical name is “hypochlorous acid.” John Shegerian: OK. David LaVance: It’s hydrogen, oxygen and chlorine – HOCL. John Shegerian: Right. David LaVance: And what it does is it kills bacteria on contact. Now, this is an EPA-approved chemical. It’s been through all the testing and so forth. And not only is it approved for oil and gas, but it’s approved as a hospital grade disinfectant. You can spray it in hospitals. So it’s pretty safe. The EPA has made sure that we did all the testing and that kind of thing. The interesting thing, John, that is a result of all of this bacteria in the oil industry is bacteria, and one of the bad side effects of bacteria is it causes the production or the creation of another chemical called “hydrogen sulfide” – H2S, hydrogen sulfide – and hydrogen sulfide is a deadly gas. It kills oil workers. It corrodes the pipes and the pumps and so forth involving gas. And we need to eliminate that. Happily, this chemical does do that. John Shegerian: And what is your product called, “Excelyte?” David LaVance: Well, Excelyte is a solution – a very concentrated solution – of that hypochlorous acid. John Shegerian: OK. David LaVance: So that is just a brand name for this product. John Shegerian: And I’m on your website, which I love because it’s so chock full of information. And so just to make it simple for our listeners, Excelyte and the, the Excelyte product leaves as you solve the problem of fracking. David LaVance: Right. John Shegerian: The problems that – it leaves no ecological footprint behind. David LaVance: Right. This is one of the things I was getting at. John Shegerian: Wow. David LaVance: If you’re going to put a chemical down a hole – so if we’re going to inject it into the ground – what happens to the chemical after the fact? Does it just go into our aquifer? What does it do? And in this case, HOCL breaks down into its component parts. If there is hydrogen sulfide there, it’s going to break that hydrogen sulfide apart and it’s going to create something called “sulfate.” Sulfate is a pretty benign chemical and it’s just going to precipitate out. It’s going to fall to the bottom of the well as a molecular solid – shall we say – and the chlorine gasses off. In extensive testing that has been published, what we have found is that after 90 days, you cannot find any trace of the chemical underground. John Shegerian: Oh. David LaVance: And since this is a chemical that – while I wouldn’t recommend this as a daily habit – but you can drink it. It’s not going to hurt you. Having it underground even for 90 days is not going to be harmful. John Shegerian: That’s fantastic. So now the question becomes – because this is fascinating, because you always hear the bad stuff in the news. As you and I know. David LaVance: Right. John Shegerian: What’s that old adage? “If it bleeds, it leads.” David LaVance: Yeah. John Shegerian: So they always want to vilify fracking. But here’s a wonderful story coming out of it. How has the adoption been? You’ve found something to help mitigate all the bad effects of fracking. How has this been adopted by the energy companies and the big companies that are involved with fracking? David LaVance: Well, we rolled this product out for the oil industry almost exactly one year ago. John Shegerian: OK. David LaVance: And at that time we were not doing any wells at all. Today, we have about 180 wells that we are treating. Now that is a drop in the bucket compared to the 1 million wells that exist in the United States, but the uptake from the industry has been very good and their receptivity is good. And one of the reasons they’re receptive – of course – is that they asked the question, “Does it make business sense?” And happily, this chemical can be made at very low cost and so it’s quite cost competitive. In fact, probably can be bought less expensively than other chemicals that would do a similar thing, and it’s very effective. So we’ve had some name brand oil companies – companies that probably some of your listeners might even own stock in – that have tested our products, and they’ve tested it against the competition, and they like it, and they’re telling us they’re going to us it. So we are in a mad dash to expand our business to be able to supply it all around the country wherever we have oil drilling and oil wells. John Shegerian: So you’re the CEO. You’ve had a lot of success in your life. You’re a humble guy, but your career has been very successful as careers go. So when you go to bed at night, David, if there are a million opportunities to sell this Excelyte and this product into, what is the dream? What is the goal? Not only as a financial goal, as a CEO of a company that has shareholders and things of that such but as a personal also who is thinking now backwards a little bit to leaving the legacy behind of one of doing good and doing well at the same time and leaving a better planet than we found – what is your goal, and how many wells can you reach with this superior product, Excelyte, and your other superior products? David LaVance: Well, I think what we really want to do, as a society, is we need to address this big problem that we have, which is a kind of bacterial invasion. John Shegerian: Yeah. David LaVance: And we all know of it because if our kids get – say – an infection in the locker room of MRSA, or grandma gets an infection of C Diff in the hospital, or something like that. We are a little less tuned into the bacterial effects in our broader environment, but bacteria thrives out there. So what I would like to do is leave a method that we can effectively eliminate bacteria without creating further harm. So the way our business is set up to do that is we make equipment that makes the actual liquid, and that equipment we want to deploy all across the country. So eventually, what we’d like to see is in every oil producing area, every basin that we have a depot – kind of like a gasoline filling station where the companies can come and get this product and then take it back to their oil and gas wells and use it -then they can use it in the pipelines and in the trains that carry the oil and gas and so forth. Then we’d also like to have a similar situation where you have depots that manufacture the product so it can be delivered to hospitals and doctors’ offices. John Shegerian: Got you. David LaVance: I think if we do that, we will have done a good thing. John Shegerian: I think you will have done a great thing. We’re down to the last two minutes or so. So if today you’re treating 180 wells, when I have you back on the show nine months from now, what is the possibility? How fast can you scale your great company, and how many wells can you be into nine months from now? Twelve months from now? Five hundred? A thousand? Ten-thousand? What do you think? David LaVance: We should get into the thousands, and we want to get into the tens of thousands as quickly as we can. Today, we have two depots – one that is in Utah and one in New Mexico. We’re expanding into Texas right now. We’ve tried and tested already in Oklahoma and in North Dakota. In all of those places, the product works and so we need to go ahead and get facilities started there, and if we do, we’ll quickly reach the tens of thousands of oil wells. John Shegerian: And do you continue to grow in the health care industry as well besides the oil and fracking? David LaVance: Yes. Health care is a little slower because you’re really making very intimate contact with people so you’d never want to make a mistake, so that will take a little bit more time to develop. But that will come, too, because after all, we all know that MRSA and C Diff, they are a common enemy. There is nothing good that comes of those guys. John Shegerian: Got you. Well, thank you so much, David. And for our listeners out there – again – to learn more about David’s great company, please go to www.EcoTreatments.com. David LaVance, you are making the world a better place and truly living proof that Green Is Good.