Management Team

Benjamin P. Cowart

Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board

Mr. Cowart, the Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of the Board of Vertex Energy, has been involved in the petroleum recycling industry for nearly 25 years. Mr. Cowart is the founder of the Vertex group of companies and has served such companies since 2001. As a leader in this field, Mr. Cowart helped pioneer the reclamation industry by developing recycling options for many residual materials once managed as a hazardous waste. Mr. Cowart was awarded the 2003 Business Man of the Year Award from the National Republican Congressional Committee, and served on the National Oil Recyclers Association Board of Directors and as its President in 2008. Mr. Cowart has taken an active role in the petroleum industry with his involvement in speaking, consulting, chairing, and serving on various committees and industry associations. Mr. Cowart is a graduate of Harvard Business School's Advanced Management Program.

Chris Carlson

Chief Financial Officer

Mr. Carlson has served as Secretary of Vertex Nevada since inception. Mr. Carlson brings a range of experience to his role as the CFO for Vertex LP. Mr. Carlson oversees all risk management, investments, e-commerce applications, and day-to-day financial accounting of Vertex LP and its subsidiaries. Mr. Carlson worked for FuelQuest, Inc. before joining Vertex LP in 2001. There he worked as a Project Lead managing implementations of e-commerce services for new customers. In addition, he also planned and developed testing requirements for e-commerce applications. Mr. Carlson was with Pagenet, a wireless communications company prior to FuelQuest, Inc. where he worked as a Strategic Account Supervisor. Mr. Carlson earned his BS degree in Business Finance from the University of Houston.

John Strickland

Chief Operating Officer

Mr. Strickland joined Vertex LP in late 2007. Mr. Strickland has over 21 years of experience in management roles developing companies in the recycling of used oils and fuel blending. In his various positions, he has developed used oil collection fleets, environmental service programs (non-hazardous), terminalling businesses for #6-oil from water ports and helped develop software for used oil collection operations. Mr. Strickland was the General Manager of Texpar Energy Inc. from 1999 to 2003 and Special Project Manager for Texpar Energy, L.L.C. from 2004 to 2007. From 1986 to 1999, he was the General Manager and Vice President of Sellers Oil Inc., then one of the largest recycling and fuel marketers of used oil and #6-fuel oil in the southeast.

Dave Peel

Corporate Advisor

Mr. Peel has extensive experience in the industry having served over the years as: Chief Operating Officer of Omega Holdings, LLC, President of Peel Management Consulting, Vice President of Oil Refining and Divisional Vice President of Oil Recovery and Envirosystems for Safety-Kleen Corporation, Vice President of Manufacturing, and as Director of Operations for Breslube Enterprises, a re-refining company where he managed that company's re-refining operations.

Mr. Peel received a degree in Mechanical and Production Engineering from Manchester Polytechnic (now the University of Manchester, Institute of Science and Technology) in Manchester, England in 1974. He is a Member of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (UK) and a Chartered Engineer (UK).

Alvaro Ruiz

Vice President of Business Development

Mr. Ruiz joined Vertex Energy in September 2013. Mr. Ruiz's main focus at Vertex is working with the leadership team to identify, develop and execute strategic commercial and market opportunities, including strategic acquisitions in support of the company's vision, mission and tactical growth strategy. Mr. Ruiz also has an active role managing the relationships with investors and the banking community. Prior to Vertex, Mr. Ruiz held numerous senior management positions throughout his 20 years of experience in the equipment manufacturing, telecom, energy, automotive and environmental services industry sectors. Mr. Ruiz has a solid international background in Europe and Latin America and his leadership positions have included marketing, finance, business development, operations, sales and project management. Mr. Ruiz received a degree in Electric and Electronic Engineering from the Valladolid Polytechnic, Spain, in 1993 and holds an Executive MBA from IE Business School and a Masters in Marketing and Sales from ESIC Business School.

Smith E. Howland

Commercial Manager

Mr. Howland joined Vertex Refining and Marketing in June 2018. Mr. Howland holds BChE and MSc degrees from The Ohio State University, a MBA from Marshall University, and a MIA ( International Affairs) degree from the University of Pittsburgh and has over 45 years of experience in the chemical industry. He has plant operations, process and project engineering, and commercial experience. He served from 1998 through 2007 as President and CEO of Nisseki Chemical Texas, a Texas based specialty chemical company and a subsidiary of Nippon Oil Corporation. He was also recently employed as Director of Assets for Enterprise Products, LP, a midstream company, for their C3 and C4 NGL business.

Mike Stieneker

General Manager of H&H Oil

Mr. Stieneker brings 25 years of environmental services experience to Vertex Energy, Inc. Mr. Stieneker joined the Vertex team in 2009 heading up the collections arm of Vertex, known as H&H Oil. Mr. Stieneker was Branch Manager for Heritage Crystal Clean in the Houston market from 1990 to 2002, managing everything from parts washers' service and hazardous waste to used motor oil. In 2002, he became Regional Manager for Atlantic Industrial Services. At Atlantic Industrial Services, Mr. Stieneker was responsible for locations in Texas, Kansas, Louisiana, Georgia and Florida.