Concrete. There’s a lot of it on earth. Pretty much every paradise has its parking lot. And its big-box store, high-rise condos, sidewalks, stadiums and office parks. Bridges, tunnels, jetties, locks, canals, station platforms: all require concrete.
Concrete is the second most consumed substance on earth (pdf), after water: three tons of it per year, per person on earth.
Manufacturing all that concrete is the second largest source of carbon emissions in the world, after energy generation, accounting for 5% of world CO2 emissions.
But a Californian company, Calera, has developed a solution.
- Peak phosphorous
- Struvite scaling
Peak phosphorous is the dilution of necessary-to-all-life phosphates and the exhaustion of concentrated caches. Estimates give us 30-40 years.
Peak phosphorous more important to human life than Peak Oil: whereas there are alternatives energy sources, there is not an alternative to phosphorous. Phosphorous is created when two oxygen atoms fuze above 1,000 megakelvins (that’s 1.8billion Fº), so humans can’t make any more of it.
Five countries own 90% of the known phosphorous deposits. Yet, most well-fed countries have a consistent source of the element: wastewater. That’s where Ostara steps in.
In my previous post I introduced the PLUS framework for water-technology scalability, and expanded upon the first two attributes: Software and Usability. Let’s explore the other two: Leverage and Partners.
Leverage means capitalizing — to exponential effect — on assets, processes and data already existing in the organizations you are serving. Water utilities, for example, have plenty of ‘leverageable’ assets, primarily deep and rich knowledge, held by experienced people. Tapping into this resource is not easy, but best-practices are a power-multiplier, and baking the combined experience of hundreds of professionals into an automated decision-support system is a great way to make your solution scalable. It’s the famous network effect. A great example: SmartMap by Thomson Mapping is a Water-specific CAD software that implements existing models as a baseline for new designs.
Speaking of Resource Recovery, Canadian company BioteQ Environmental Technologies, Inc has announced plans to build a wastewater treatment plant at a copper mine in China. The plant will be a joint-venture with Jiangxi Copper Company. Construction is slated to begin Q3 2010 and cost $3 million, to be shared equally.
The plant will purify produced water from the copper mine at the rate of 800 cubic meters per hour. It will extract up to 50,000 pounds of nickel and 60,000 pounds of cobalt annually from the site’s wastewater and rainwater runoff. Nickel is a corrosion resistant element used in alloys and plating. Cobalt is widely used in components of lithium-ion batteries, among other uses.
Another BioteQ and Jiangxi joint-venture treatment plant extracted 700,000 pounds of copper from wastewaster streams on-site in its first six months of operations. The acidic wastewater left untreated would have damaged the environment.
BioteQ’s process uses a proprietary ion exchange technology called ChemSulphide to extract metals from water with a 99% recovery rate, purifying the water for reuse on-site or discharge into the environment.
Not only will the treated water pass strict standards for release into the environment, but the partners gain two additional revenue streams, compensating for the cost of treating the water.
Around the globe, a growing number of advanced water technologies are recovering valuable minerals and resources from waste water. The O2 Environmental Technology Assessment Group (TAG) will outline the size and value of the market opportunity, drivers for change, the business models used, major players and some of the innovative technologies being developed.
The webinar will occur at July 22 at 10am PST.
Companies providing some of the leading innovative solutions to the market will discuss overviews of their approaches.
Calera has a technology platform which can simultaneously sequester carbon, desalinate water and produce concrete. This highly dispruptive approach deals with meeting demand for the worlds most widely traded commodity, water, reduces the carbon footprint for the worlds second most widely traded commodity, concrete and also offers to the potential to sequester carbon from stack emissions.
Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies has a technology platform the Pearl™ which is used to ‘mine’ wastewater for Phosphorus, which is a non-renewable and essential resource. Ostara help municipalities and industry meet their regulatory requirements, while at the same time, producing a valuable slow release fertilizer product, Crystal Green™ which is sold to the fertilizer industry.
The CASTion Corporation is mining ammonia from wastewater with its Ammonia Recovery Process (ARP) and can recover this from municipal and industrial wastewaters and produce a raw material for sale back into the fertilizer industry, thereby generating a revenue stream.
Oberon FMR, Inc has been researching and developing the production of single cell protein (SCP) from un-utilized food processing by-product streams for over five years. Oberon’s vision is to become the premier supplier of high-quality SCP meal destined for use in animal feed diets.
The Artemis Project, our parent firm, is hosting a webinar tomorrow that will gather an diverse group of experts to explore the challenges, solutions and investment opportunities surrounding efficient water management in energy exploration.
The webinar will occur tomorrow, July 16 from 11:00am EST to 12:30pm. The webinar will be divided into two sessions.
Learn more about the webinar.
The first in a two part series, Guy Horowitz shares experience gained from TaKaDu’s recent successes scaling their water technology in partnership with Schneider. The second part will follow later this week.
For many years, water technology was a venture capitalist’s nightmare. What could be less enticing than capital-intensive, integration-heavy project-driven companies with long sales-cycles in the public utility space? Can you build a scalable water technology business without investing dozens or even hundreds of millions en route to scale?
Times are changing, and we are in the beginning of a new era. Quick-tongued investors have already nicknamed it ‘Cleantech 2.0’, though past attempts to use this term have been received with cynicism. Two-point-Oh or not, there is definitely a sense of inherent scalability baked into the next generation of cleantech startups, and water is not lagging behind.
How can one build a scalable business in a space characterized by one-offs? The answer has four pillars: Partners, Leverage, Usability and Software. Yes, to make things easy for investors, it also has a nice acronym. Forget about 2.0 – this is the Water PLUS.