GreenOil Solutions CEO James MacDonald owns the Frasers Mountain company on the outskirts of New Glasgow with partners Owen Sangster and Patrick O’Connor.
A sharp downturn in lobster exports to China from Nova Scotia left many commercial fishers unable to use GreenOil’s diesel fuel-cleaning services, cutting the startup’s revenues by half.
GreenOil adapted to the downturn by expanding its offerings and is poised to launch an alarm-equipped filtration system for the bilge pumps of commercial fishing boats to remove diesel fuel from wastewater.
GreenOil Solutions, a New Glasgow-area startup, is only weeks away from delivering its first order for an innovative water filtration system for the bilge pumps of commercial fishing boats.
Under the terms of that roughly $50,000 deal, GreenOil will be providing 90 systems to members of the Yarmouth-based Coldwater Lobster Association.
“It’s massive for us because it’s an opportunity for us to leverage ourselves,” says CEO James MacDonald.
Those filtration systems will remove diesel fuel from the wastewater from the bilge pumps and also alert fishing boat operators when the filter is ready to be replaced.
Founded four years ago, GreenOil started operations in earnest in 2018 after the company’s founders, MacDonald, Owen Sangster and Patrick O’Connor, custom built a machine to remove water and other impurities from hydraulic oil.
“It would have cost $150,000 to $250,000 to buy one of these machines new and we didn’t have that. . . . So, we just built one . . . for about a quarter of the price,” says MacDonald.
Armed with that machine, roughly the size of an all-terrain vehicle with a roof, GreenOil began looking for contracts to clean hydraulic oil in heavy equipment like excavators and backhoes.
According to MacDonald, the cost of cleaning hydraulic oil is less than that of emptying the hydraulic system of existing fluid, flushing it and replacing it.
Despite those savings, the service turned out to be a tough sell in the company’s first year of operations.
Most owners of that kind of equipment would simply top up fluid when needed or periodically have it replaced and the system flushed. Many didn’t have a formal maintenance program for equipment.
“We hit the road to what were the obvious places where there was business, and we weren’t starving but we weren’t getting a lot of business either,” said MacDonald.
In an attempt to diversify and bring in more revenue, the partners — all of whom had kept their day jobs — decided to buy a diesel polishing machine that year for about $30,000. It allowed GreenOil Solutions to clean diesel fuel in storage tanks by removing water and other impurities.
At 40 cents per litre to clean diesel fuel, the…