Franklin Free Press
When driving through downtown Russellville, local residents probably do not stop to admire the small, brick building across the street from the police department and right next to the Chevron gas station, nor does he or she probably realize that the company housed there operates on an international level.
Petro Chemical Energy, located at 107 East Madison Street, was started in 1998 by owner Darren Woodruff and has since become the world’s leader in energy audits, surveys and leak detection.
Woodruff, a Russellville native, got his start in 1985 working for his father, Steve Woodruff.
“My dad started a business similar to this one, but he worked mostly in paper mills,” he said. “He didn’t work in oil refineries or chemical plants – I guess because it was more of a liability risk.”
After spending a number of years learning and working with his father, he decided to start his own company.
“Like I said, my dad liked working in paper mills, so I told him I wanted to branch out and do oil refineries and other plants so we wouldn’t be competing against each other,” Woodruff said.
The elder Woodruff is now retired, and Darren’s sister and brother-in-law, Cindy and Rocky Hudson, run the original business in Texas.
According to PCE’s website, the company provides services ranging from air and nitrogen leak services to steam trap surveys to plant wide energy assessments.
“Basically what we do is provide surveys and assessments for, mostly, oil refineries and chemical plants, but other companies, as well,” said Woodruff, who has 15 employees. “Clients will bring us in, and we’ve got equipment that can determine if there’s a leak, how many leaks there happen to be, and where they are. Then we provide our clients with a database including a description of the leaks so they can get it fixed.”
As an additional service, PCE is now offering to repair the leaks. Plants were always short of manpower and it seems to be a good fit, Woodruff said.
According to the company website, PCE saves clients an average of 20% on their total annual energy costs. In some instances, PCE’s services have saved clients tens of millions of dollars.
“It’s like if you have a water leak at your house, that leak is costing you money, except the magnitude of the leaks our clients have is much greater,” Woodruff said. “A lot of air or nitrogen leaks could cost some of these companies over a million dollars per year, and our goal is to save them that money.”
PCE’s leak detection service has saved several companies $20 million per year, Woodruff said.
To perform their assessments, Petro Chemical Energy travels all over the United States and around the globe.
“In the states, we work coast-to-coast. We’ll go to California. We work a lot in the Gulf Coast, but we spend a lot of time in places like Houston, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans, too,” Woodruff said. “We’ve been as far as Saudi Arabia. We’ve been to England. We don’t go international every year, but we do most years.”
Some of PCE’s clients include household names such as Exxon Mobile, Phillips 66, Chevron, Valero, and Dow Chemical, as well as other smaller corporations. And when any of these companies have a problem, PCE is the first call they make.
“We’re the preferred vendor for this kind of stuff,” Woodruff said. “When one of our clients believe they have an issue, the first phone call they make is to us.”
Given the work PCE does, the clients it has, and the places they travel, its not unusual for Woodruff to get a weird look when he tells someone what he does for a living.
“I usually get a bit of a surprised reaction,” said Woodruff, who also serves as chairman of the Russellville Electric Board. “We’re a small company in a small town, but we work all over the country and all over the world. That’s not something you hear often around here.”
“But I know where my success comes from; I give all the glory and honor to God. I would have nothing without him,” he added.