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06. 27. 2014, Canadian Greentech

Profile: Chemicals, oil/ gas sectors tap into Axine’s chemical free process

by Perry Hoffman

Wastewater from industrial processes can represent a big expense for large manufacturers whether it’s in the form of chemical-based treatment solutions or even the need for off site disposal in deep injection wells. But this may in large part become a thing of the past with Axine Water Technologies set to showcase its low-cost, low-energy consumption, chemical-free process in customer field trials early next year.

The Vancouver-based firm has developed a novel type of surface coated catalyst that completely eliminates toxic organics, ammonia and other pollutants in industrial wastewater streams. It does so without using chemicals, requires electricity as its only input (or consumable), provides water to varying degrees of cleanness depending on the customer’s treatment objectives, and generates a very high grade of hydrogen as a secondary output.

The key ingredient to Axine’s wastewater treatment technology lies in a proprietary metal oxide catalyst. Once coated on a membrane and exposed to water and electricity, the process produces hydroxyl radicals (one part hydrogen and one part oxygen or OH radicals). These OH radicals are among the most reactive and live for only a very short period of time, less than a second. As the wastewater flows over the membranes, the OH radicals spring into action and begin breaking down organic chemicals such as hydrocarbons, pesticides and ammonia into their basic buildings blocks of CO2, oxygen, hydrogen and nitrogen.

The beauty of the Axine system is that it has been designed in a modular fashion. Each membrane represents a single cell and each module – a box about 4 square feet in size – contains 300 individual cells. As well, each of those modules can

be snapped together to create a larger system depending on the volumes of wastewater, the concentration of the organics and the treatment objectives (aka, how clean the water at the end needs to be).

“We’re able to reduce customer risk with new technology, they don’t have to fork out tens of millions of dollars upfront

for new technologies, and they can deploy in stages. That’s a really attractive thing for process technologies,” Jonathan Rhone, president and CEO at Axine, told Canadian Green Tech in an interview earlier this month.

What makes Axine’s process technology compelling is not only does it just require electricity as an input and doesn’t use chemicals, but it doesn’t produce any waste byproduct or sludge.

“Many of these wastewater plants require quite extensive consumables in terms of additional chemicals and waste. That’s not only a cost, but also a logistical issue and requires additional manpower. So the idea of a chemical free, waste free solution that’s lower cost than what you’re doing today is really attractive to customers,” explained Rhone.

Market opportunities and potential customer wins

Axine’s process is well suited for a broad range of industries, and in fact, after discussions with hundreds of potential customers, the company narrowed its target market to 10 verticals. Within those 10, chemical manufacturers and the oil and gas sector have emerged as the areas where it intends to establish beachhead markets.

Why the chemicals market? Rhone explained there are a number of things Axine can do for chemicals manufacturers. For example, they usually generate a toxic non-biodegradable waste stream that either has to be shipped to off site disposal or has to be incinerated. The company can actually treat this non-biodegradable waste to a level where the manufacturer will be able to use its own in-house biological treatment facility, he said, adding “that allows them to treat the wastewater to a discharge standard that can go to the local municipal wastewater plant.”

With respect to oil and gas, Axine can help producers in the oil sands more effectively deal with wastewater from the steam assisted gravity drainage (SAGD) process.

“SAGD water treatment is currently extremely expensive and we’ve got a technology that can form the basis of a much lower cost and more efficient treatment process,” said Rhone.

It’s been a good first half of the year for Axine. It snagged a $5.6 million Series A financing from The Rota Group, Chrysalix Energy Venture Capital and BDC Venture Capital in February and then in March conditionally received up to $400,000 from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP).

The second half of the year is shaping up to be just as good as the first with Rhone telling Canadian Green Tech to expect customer announcements before the year is out and early commercial deployments in 2016.