Fracking: Where Do You Stand?

In the energy sector, there are few topics that generate more debate today than the relative merits/demerits of fracking.  To see just how strongly-held yet evenly-divided opinion is, check out this online debate moderated by The Economist and sponsored by Statoil (NYSE: STO).

The question is framed simply:  “Do the benefits derived from shale gas outweigh the drawbacks of fracking?”  Writing in defense of the “pro” position was Amy Myers Jaffe, the Executive Director for Energy and Sustainability at the Graduate School of Management at the University of California Davis.  Writing in opposition was Michael Brune, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club.

The final tally of the debate:  51% voted “No”, while 49% voted “Yes”.

Honestly, I lean more towards the “Yes” side of the ledger.  While fracking raises significant concerns, I believe that they can be managed — though it’s up to us as engaged citizens to ensure that the powers-that-be fully hold accountable those who participate in fracking activities to the highest standards.

My hunch is that the beliefs and the numbers of the “No” side have been strongly influenced by films such as “Gasland” and the more-recent “Promised Land”.  I confess that I haven’t seen either of them, and while I suspect that they have oversimplified complex issues and stretched the facts/truth to fit a convenient dramatic storyline (as so many movies do), it really is unfair for me to criticize them.  Even so, it’s clear that — other than the ever-dependable defender of all-things fossil fuels, Fox News — there are few “pro”-fracking vehicles in mass-culture appealing to the middle-ground to provide a counterbalancing force from the seemingly-dominant message that fracking is dangerous and bad.

As a friend of mine likes to say about thorny political dilemmas:  “I have friends on both sides of this issue, and on this issue, I’m with my friends.”  With respect to fracking, this applies.

Strategic Drivers for Acquisitions in the Water Sectors

I recently read an article by Chris Gasson of Global Water Intelligence which was thought-provoking and insightful. The article addressed a number of issues surrounding water technology company acquisitions and raised a question regarding what problems companies are looking to solve through these acquisitions.

In my experience advising large water companies’ strategic acquisitions activity, I have identified three key reasons why they seek to acquire water technologies companies:

1.   To future-proof their technology portfolios

Companies always want to ensure they have tomorrow’s solution in their portfolio, especially if there is reason to believe that tomorrow’s solution will not look like today’s product. Two of the major trends in the water industry that will lead to growth and which may require new solutions are water re-use and energy and resource recovery from wastewater. Wastewater currently consumes energy and does not recover resources. Therefore, if the market is to move towards energy neutral, with a focus on resource recovery, this will require new solutions.

Because innovation within large corporations can be challenging, one way to future-proof the portfolio is through acquisitions. The 2013 BlueTech Forum in Amsterdam on May 14th addresses this exact issue in the “Intrapreneurship and In-House Innovation” panel and the BlueTech Showcase will feature the kinds of companies with highly disruptive technologies (i.e., UV LED companies Aquionics and Crystal IS) that large corporations seek to acquire.

2.   To access new market opportunities and drive growth

All companies are looking for growth. Three key areas where growth opportunities exist are:

  • Where an infrastructure gap exists (e.g., in the developing world economies)
  • Where a new market is opening that did not previously exist (e.g., shale gas-produced water management, Oil Sands Alberta)
  • Where the existing market is changing (e.g., the move within wastewater treatment towards water re-use and energy and resource recovery).

One way to access these new market opportunities is through acquisition. In the emerging economies, this can be through local acquisitions of EPC contractors and private operators. In new market areas, such as shale gas, this can be through acquisition of service providers and of solutions specifically suited to these applications. For changes in an existing market, an acquisition can future-proof the technology portfolio (e.g., adding in advanced oxidation or nanofiltration membranes to capitalize on the trend towards water re-use market).

This year at the BlueTech Forum, we are featuring a number technologies aimed at the oil & gas industry and water re-use, and food & beverage (e.g, MIOX, which produces on-site disinfectants and mixed oxidants for municipal and industrial applications and Magpie Polymers, which recovers and enables recycling of rare and precious metals, and reduces metal content in industrial waste-water).

3.   To enable new entrants to enter the water technology market

Many new entrants are entering the water market, including companies like LG Electronics, Bilfinger, BASF, Mann + Hummel, Mahle, Clariant, Fuji, Novozymes, PWN Technologies and Outotec. At BlueTech Forum, we will explore this very topic in our “New Entrants to the Water Game” panel and will hear from these companies on what is driving their move into the sector and their strategy for growth.

When executives decide to create a new water business unit within a company, management is typically tasked to achieve certain growth targets in a short span of time, as opposed to decades. In general, it is faster, less expensive, and poses a lower risk for a large corporation to enter the water technology market through acquisition than through internal growth. To start from zero and build a water technology section within a company takes decades, while acquisition would immediately add significant revenue and a footprint in a new market area.

Many previous major acquisition strategies employed the ‘general store’ approach and created what appeared as a ‘water business,’ but was more like a Frankenstein of various assorted bits and pieces that did not constitute a cohesive, functional entity. We are now seeing a more focused and targeted acquisition strategy, where companies first establish their ‘right to play’ in the water sector, recognize their core strengths and adjacencies in the market, and then acquire companies and technologies in market areas of interest. They acquire entities with technologies that supplement their areas of expertise and add to their core strengths.

For example, Mahle, the German car parts manufacturing company, has expertise in filtration in the automotive industry. Thus, their acquisition of an ultrafiltration company, InnoWa Membrane GmbH, makes sense because it correlates to their area of expertise in filtration.

Identifying and Assessing Acquisition Targets in Key Market Areas

The BlueTech Forum showcases a list of twelve specially selected companies at various development stages to present in three key themes: Oil & Gas, Food & Beverage and Smart Infrastructure. These companies are active in the key growth areas we have identified: water re-use and alternative water, unconventional fossil fuels, and energy and resource recovery.

  • The Norwegian company, Zeropex, recovers energy from water distribution networks and generates distributed power, which can reduce operational costs for water utilities.
  • MIOX produces on-site disinfectants and mixed oxidants for municipal and industrial applications.
  • Magpie Polymers recovers and enables recycling of rare and precious metals, and reduces metal content in industrial waste-water to stay in-line with increasing regulation.
  • QUA uses advanced membrane products for the water, wastewater, and water reuse markets.
  • Aquionics and Crystal IS will present on one of the potentially most disruptive technologies in the water technology market: UV LEDs.
  • ANDalyze uses catalytic DNA technologies to enable rapid detection and monitoring of contaminants such as trace metals.

(For the complete up to date list of companies presenting visit www.bluetechforum.com )

In summary, three key reasons for a company to make acquisitions include:

  • To future-proof water technology portfolios and address the changing landscape
  • To enable access to new market growth opportunities
  • To enable new entrants to enter the water technology market and fast-track growth 

The next article in this series will focus on three key water technology market growth areas and will provide details on key new market areas and opportunities.

Chinese Food For Thought

As I posted a few years ago, so many of the best opportunities for cleantech to have immediate benefit can be found in China.

Every day, evidence accumulates supporting this thesis.  Of course, this winter’s air pollution crises in Beijing and other cities made global news.  More gruesome was last week’s discovery of nearly 7,000 dead pigs floating in a river outside Shanghai.

The true extent of environmental abominations in China is unknown.  As this article indicates, the Chinese government guards a substantial body of data about environmental quality — and the Chinese citizens are getting increasingly angry about what they know they don’t know.

To the extent that there is good news to report, it is that China has clearly become a prime destination market for clean technologies to penetrate.

The Pew Charitable Trusts commissioned a recently-released study by Bloomberg New Energy Finance indicating that the balance of trade between the U.S. and China on three key segments of cleantech — wind, solar and smart grid — actually tilts more to China than from China.  This finding conflicts with conventional wisdom, which holds that cleantech exports from China to the U.S. must be dominating the balance of trade, as illustrated by the widespread evidence of Chinese companies dumping low-cost solar panels onto U.S. markets.

For years, knowing how vast the opportunity is, I’ve been trying to figure out how to better facilitate promising clean technologies in entering China to make a big environmental impact (and, of course, do well commercially and financially in doing so).   Of course, I’m not alone, and others have acted while I pondered:  organizations such as JUCCCE and the US-China Clean Tech Center have arisen in the past few years to offer their services.  I guess they’ve been able figure out what I couldn’t:  a clear strategy and compelling business model for serving as a conduit for cleantech dissemination into China from outside China.

MIT Energy Summit 2013

At this year’s MIT Energy Summit, the centered on how to mainstream new energy technologies. This will depend on one of two economic changes: 1. Lowering the prices of new technologies or 2. Raising the price of current technologies by adding a price on the pollution associated it them. While the first option will take years of investment for economies of scale to take place, different policy mechanisms have been discussed for the second. These include the carbon tax and the cap-and-trade program to put a price on the greenhouse gas pollution from the the use of fossil fuels. Due to the complexity of the mechanism and competition between developed and developing countries, there is broad sentiment that at the international level, a price of carbon will not be established for the foreseeable future.

Rather than relying on an international framework to drive the development and deployment of low carbon, efficient energy technologies, the key to success lies in local implementation.

The key message coming out of the MIT summit was whether if low natural gas prices will have an impact on investing in alternative energy technologies. While the wind market in the US has added significant capacity in the last few years, the availability of cheap natural gas has made them less competitive.

The impacts will not only be felt in producing power but also across all sectors. Electric vehicles, which have received tremendous resources for investment, may no longer have long term support if natural gas prices stay low. In addition, cheap natural gas will disincentive heavy and chemical industries from improving the efficiencies of their plants.

While big energy companies have traditionally based their strategy on fossil fuels and have been resistant to new energy technologies, some companies have a more progressive outlook and are actively working with both early technology companies and policymakers to help facilitate their implementation.

In his keynote, David Crane, the chair of NRG Energy came to talk about his company’s efforts to develop clean power and provide choices for consumers to switch. He emphasizes the need for public-private partnerships (PPPs), which will be crucial in integrating new technologies into the existing energy infrastructure.

Cleantech Venture Fertility

I try hard to stay on top of a wide range of developments in the cleantech world.  Maybe I spread myself too thin, sacrificing depth for breadth, as I scan through a lot of journals and attend a lot of events to see what’s new and interesting.

Even so, I’m continually surprised by the number of emerging cleantech companies that I’d never encountered before.

It’s pretty uncommon when they come in bunches when reading print media, but leafing quickly through just one recent magazine, the January/February 2013 issue of EnergyBiz, I came across not one but two articles from CEOs of cleantech ventures that were completely new names to me.

The first was “A Revolutionary Approach to Clean Coal” by Bill Brown, who is CEO of a venture called NET Power that is commercializing a new power generation technology on an innovative concept called the Allam cycle.  NET claims that they offer “a new oxyfuel power cycle that combusts coal, natural gas, and biomass [to generate] electricity that is cost-competitive with the best fossil fuels plants while producing zero air emissions.”  The key innovation:  using supercritical carbon dioxide (rather than steam) as the transfer fluid from heat to power, thus avoiding the energy losses associated with liquid-to-gas phase change intrinsic to steam cycles.  Emissions are minimized by using pure oxygen (rather than air) for the combustion environment, and where there are nearby oil/gas wells, by injecting the resulting carbon dioxide produced from combustion underground to enhance recovery.

The second was “Growing the Microgrid Market” by Terry Mohn, who is CEO of General MicroGrids.   They offer a suite of services to better enable the integration of small-scale distributed generation resources (including intermittent solar energy), energy storage devices, and power quality enhancement equipment with the needs of the electricity-using customers on locally-confined power grids with minimal size and limited diversity.  Historically, microgrids have largely been relegated to tiny island economies or other remote communities or industrial sites.  However, microgrids have increasing applicability to military bases, hospitals, government centers and institutional campuses in a future world where improved grid security (i.e., the need to sever from the wider power grid in an emergency) becomes a greater concern to maintain operability of sophisticated digital intelligence and communications functions.

NET Power and General MicroGrids are just the tip of the iceberg.  Surfing the Internet, formerly undiscovered cleantech ventures are all over the place.

I especially appreciate the work of bloggers like Katie Fehrenbacher of GigaOM, who recently posted a series of “13 to Watch in 2013” lists for different segments of the cleantech sector.  To illustrate, here’s her take on “13 Energy Data Startups to Watch in 2013”.  With one fell-swoop, Ms. Fehrenbacher put a number of new companies on my radar screen.

My continuing discovery of new cleantech ventures is a refreshing change from not-that-many-years-ago, when it seemed like I mainly kept seeing the same deals over and over and over again.  I can only conclude that this apparent fertility is a very healthy sign for the cleantech sector.

ARPA-E Energy Summit 2013

ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit 2013

arpa-e picOne of the bright spots in US policy has been the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) program, which has bipartisan support. Both Republicans and Democrats have come out speaking favorably about the potential of ARPA-E’s contribution to wean the country from its dependence on fossil fuels, and also address the greenhouse gas emissions that is at the heart of the climate change problem. Inspired by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under the Department of Defense, ARPA-E is intended to spur game changing technologies, in the same way that DARPA played a pivotal role in innovations that led to the creation of the Internet.

It was gratifying to know that ARPA-E supported “non-sexy” technologies. The electricity grid can be roughly divided into three components, power generation, transmission and distribution (T&D), and end use. Of these three, T&D has received the least attention and therefore the least investment.  While the public is more aware of the high profile renewable energy technologies and policies needed to lower our dependence on fossil fuels, less is talked about when it comes to the mundane innovations like the grid. Under ARPA-E, the GENI program specifically address how the grid can become “greener” and how to improve the uptake renewable generation.

To date, ARPA-E has disbursed nearly $300 million per year since 2009 and funded nearly 300 projects to universities, large companies, utilities, and start ups. At this year’s ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, almost all of the fundees participated in the exhibition.  Among the exhibitors, a couple particularly stood out.

Cree, Inc.

Using Silicon Carbide (SiC), Cree has developed power electronics that will have a major impact on the utility industry. SiC offers advantages over your typical silicon components, by increasing power efficiency from the 80%-tile to over 93%. Instead of bulky transformers that often weigh up to 10,000 pounds, they can be reduced to 100 pounds. This will not only make installations easier but also improve maintenance and enabled the grid to handle multiple types of power sources, including renewable energy generation that are intermittent in nature. Ultimately, these systems can used to support microgrid development in communities. Cree has already received over $5 million from ARPA-E and commercialized their technologies, including LED lamps that are currently available in hardware stores around the country.

General Compression

The uptake of renewable energy into the world’s power grids will require investment in energy storage in order to mitigate the variability of energy produced from solar and wind. Batteries continue to be expensive and are limited to specific applications due to their smaller capacities.

Compress air energy storage (CAES) has been under development for many years to address the needs of grid storage. Another ARPA-E fundee, General Compress has developed a 2 MW system that can be ramped up in as little as 6 seconds, much faster than similar systems under development. In addition, the operation can be reversed from expansion to expansion in as little as one second.

Moving Forward

ARPA-E sows the seeds of future success by providing funding at early stage development. At this years summit, one of the key questions is what is needed to take technologies to the next stage of private investment. Indeed, a policy environment, for example, that promises funding from DOE or other sources beyond ARPA-E is critically needed so that innovators will get into the process in the first place.

Elon Musk of Tesla Motors and recipient of a separate DOE loan program, has pointed out the enormous value of government programs like ARPA-E. Although not all projects will succeed like, for example the case of Solyndra, successes like Tesla can be game changing. He has pointed out that not only is the company able to turn a profit, but that it will be able to repay its loan ahead of time.

Another issue is the lack of energy expertise in the investment community. Attendees that I’ve talked to generally come from the IT field and are only stepping their toes into the energy field. There needs to be strong awareness that investing in energy is very different from IT and requires much more capital.

Better management to bring together different stakeholders is needed. ARPA-E was modeled on DARPA and in fact had intended to bring in DARPA to help build its capacity. At this year’s summit, DARPA officials had also come to discuss their future collaboration with ARPA-E and to bring capacity to the current management.

 

 

Crowdfunding Coming Of Age In Cleantech

With early stage capital for cleantech innovation becoming increasingly scarce, crowdfunding sites like KickstarterIndiegogo and a new crop of clean/green ones are beginning to emerge as significant sources of funding for selected next-gen clean technologies.

Hurdles remain, particularly for investors seeking returns, but I’m more optimistic about these sites’ usefulness to cleantech entrepreneurs than I used to be.

Asked a year ago by a publication about how significant crowdfunding was likely to become in fostering disruptive cleantech innovation, I wasn’t exactly effusive. As GE’s Ecomagination Magazine wrote, “’When it comes to the tens and hundreds of millions of dollars needed for new breakthrough science, that still best comes from institutional investors,’ says Kachan. Kachan says big investors like to get seats on a company’s board and hope to get a sizable chunk of profits. Clearly, someone who plunks down a small pledge on Kickstarter has different motivations.”

Today, a year later, a lot has changed. Cleantech venture investment worldwide in 2012 was two thirds of what it was the year previous, with early stage funding particularly hard hit. And now with good, relevant success stories like Adapteva and BioLite, at least some startups are starting to find today’s crowdfunding options emerging as a source for the equivalent of friends & family seed capital. While it’s unlikely to ever produce the millions that institutional or corporate deep pockets will continue to provide, it may—just may—serve entrepreneurs seeking early stage money in a time when early stage money has become harder to come by than ever.

And then there’s new, fledgling policy support. In America, today is coincidentally the one-year anniversary of House passage of a bill known as the JOBS Act, which is intended to make it easier for companies to raise money through crowdfunding. Charities have used crowdfunding for years to raise money. The new bill is to streamline the process of companies raising up to $1 million a year in equity, not the simple donations as in today’s crowdfunding, but U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) regulations to govern the process are still forthcoming as of this writing. Today, small businesses wanting to raise money from more than 500 investors have to go through a long and often expensive process of registering documents with the SEC.

Barriers to equity investors aside, it’s clear that crowdfunding activity has been ramping up in cleantech. A random smattering of latest developments:

  • This week, a startup called Velkess launched a Kickstarter campaign looking for $54,000 to build a large prototype of a new type of less expensive flywheel for energy storage. The company seeks to build a large 750-pound prototype of its fiberglass flywheel. The company’s founder has bootstrapped the company to date, but says he needs more money to buy larger magnets needed by the new prototype.
  • Lucid Energy, which produces power from gravity-fed water pipelines, received undetermined financing this week from Israeli venture platform OurCrowd. The Portland, Oregon-based company has commercial traction in Israel, and plans to use the capital to launch a wider roll-out of its technology. OurCrowd is a combined venture capital firm and crowdfunding platform. Lucid was formed in 2007 and has invented an in-pipe turbine that captures energy from fast-moving liquid inside water pipelines without affecting operations.
  • It only has a few weeks to go and is far short of its target, but Potential Difference of Las Vegas is seeking $50,000 through an Indiegogo campaign to produce a first run of fast chargers for consumer electronics devices such as cell phones and tablets. The company’s patented power management algorithms, licensed from Georgia Tech and with applicability to EVs and plug-in hybrids, it says, aim to reduce the charge time of lithium ion battery packs from 30 minutes to 12 minutes.

Entrepreneurs and project developers of all walks are being increasingly drawn to crowdfunding sites. Especially those without a university education, who don’t have government backing, or, for whatever reason, choose not to go traditional venture or debt routes.

And, for clean technology startups, there are now no shortage of sites to cater to them. In addition to Kickstarter, Indiegogo and their general ilk like RocketHub, Seedmatch and Crowdfunder, Greenfunder is a crowdfunding platform for green, sustainable and related projects. Germany-based SunnyCrowd launched late in 2012 to support (mostly) local German renewable energy projects. On its heels, Mosaic has launched its solar crowdfunding site, and within 24 hours, its first four projects sold out. More than 400 investors put up amounts ranging from $25 to $30,000 (the average was nearly $700), for a total investment of more than $313,000. Similarly, SunFunder has introduced a “crowdfunding platform to connect individual investors with quality, vetted, high impact solar businesses working on the ground in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.” Next week at the South by Southwest (SxSW) conference in Austin, social enterprise CarbonStory, based in Singapore, is to formally introduce its crowdfunding platform, where participants are to contribute as little as a few dollars a month to sponsor green projects that have been selected by CarbonStory.

The final remaining barrier, however, is reconciling returns on investment and crowdfunding. There’s more of a provision for, and expectation of, returns for investors in the more-established microlending mechanisms pioneered by Kiva and others than there is in crowdfunding as it’s known today.

Because crowdfunding today is essentially a metaphor for “donation,” establishing a mechanism for investor returns as is being attempted via the JOBS Act, and blurring the lines with what we currently know and think of separately as microfinance, will be critical to unlock the vast amounts of private capital waiting to be applied to innovative cleantech innovation and products by you, me, our rich uncles and other private investors seeking returns on our hard-earned money. Only then will crowdfunding really get its day in the clean/green tech sun.

This was originally published here and is republished by permission. Agree? Disagree? Weigh in on our original article.

 

A former managing director of the Cleantech Group, Dallas Kachan is now managing partner of Kachan & Co., a cleantech research and advisory firm that does business worldwide from San Francisco, Toronto and Vancouver. Kachan & Co. staff have been covering, publishing about and helping propel clean technology since 2006. Kachan & Co. offers cleantech research reports, consulting and other services that help accelerate its clients’ success in clean technology. Details at www.kachan.com.

Pollution Solutions

In the January issue of Pollution Engineering, Roy Bigham and Josh Foster have compiled their list of “10 Top Technologies for 2013”.

Summarizing their summary of the new-and-nifty that the environmental industry should monitor:

  1. Self-healing plastics that rush in to repair cracks and voids.  Obviously, this would have significant implications in a wide variety of spill containment applications.
  2. Artificial stomachs, basically pre-packaged anaerobic digesters, to convert organic wastes into biogas.  The products of SEaB Energy are noted as examples.
  3. Zero-fuel cargo ships, employing solar and wind power for propulsion in lieu of dirty diesel.  Greenheart is a non-profit organization pursuing this seemingly-fanciful concept.
  4. Algae in lieu of crude oil.  As the article notes, economics remains the gating factor, but apparently the authors are bullish based on the number of efforts underway.  We’ll see.
  5. “Living building” that produces more water and electricity than is consumed.  A 6-story edifice of this type, the Bullitt Center, is being developed as we speak in Seattle.
  6. 3-D printing.  It’s not here yet, but it’s coming:  the ability to use a printer to manufacture an object.  Enormous theoretical time and energy savings associated with avoided shipping.
  7. Soybean-based materials for transportation, replacing the need for petroleum.  Goodyear (NASDAQ: GT) is singled out for its work to make a synthetic rubber out of soy.
  8. Airborne bacteria destroying technology.  Of particular note, Healthy Environment Innovations is offering novel air sterilization products to improve indoor air quality.
  9. Safer bombs.  Really.  A material called G2ZT being developed in Germany is not only more powerful than TNT, but also are more stable and produce fewer toxic emissions.  Who knew?
  10. User-friendly carbon footprint monitors.  This seems like a natural extension of many products being developed to monitor energy consumption.

Thanks to Mssrs. Bigham and Foster for compiling this list.  Hopefully, you’ll find a tidbit or two to be of interest or utility.

 

 

Japan Sets its Sight on Water

Japan has the 3rd largest economy in the world and is the 4th largest exporter.
They produced prominent technological advancements, from reliable and fuel efficient cars to flat screen televisions. Now, Japan is taking interest in water technology markets and innovative water companies.

Napoleon said, “Let China sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world.” How prophetic this proved to be.

In this instance, Napoleon could easily be referring to Japanese firms who, in light of recent activity in the water industry, are opening up to the world of water and may indeed “shake the world.” There is increased activity from Japanese firms looking to apply technology to address water challenges in a range of markets, including non-conventional fossil fuels.

In an article entitled “Japanese Firms Grow Thirsty”, published by The Wall Street Journal in February, author Kana Inagaki commented on the potential of Japanese companies and their desire to join an ever-expanding, profitable market. Inagaki commented, “They are a bit late to the game … But they are armed with strong balance sheets and technology that could improve service in emerging markets, and they have the support of the Japanese government.”

Even if Japanese companies are “late to the game” or possess limited experience operating water utilities, their strong existing water technology portfolios and financial ability to execute may lead to an increasingly strong Japanese presence in the global water industry. In fact, with the announcement of the sale of the Siemens Water Technology business, Reuters reports rumors that several interested buyers include Japanese players Kurita, Hyflux, Hitachi, and Marubeni.

Japanese New Entrants

In addition to existing water companies with access to the global water market, we see companies such as Fuji enter the mix. With advances in digital photography, Fuji sought to utilize existing film production lines and manufacturing capabilities in different capacities, which led to involvement with manufacturing water filtration membranes. Fuji will present in the “New Entrants in the Water Game” panel at BlueTech Forum 2013.

Japan leading the way in ceramic membranes

At Singapore International Water Week 2012, a key take-away was the emergence of ceramic membranes for water treatment. Japan has long been a leader in membrane filtration with companies such as Kubota and Toray possessing strong global market positions. Now Japan possesses potentially disruptive technology in the area of ceramic membranes.

Essentially, Japanese firms are not new to water industry

Invention and break-through tend to occur almost simultaneously across the globe. Japanese firms have long been originators of innovative water technologies; however, historically these technologies often remained in the home market.

Some examples include SBR technology and phosphorus removal processes. The Sequencing Batch Reactor (SBR) was originally licensed into North America from Australia by ABJ. When ABJ needed reference data for operational plants, they consulted firms in Japan, where the technology had already been in operation for a number of years.

The BlueTech Innovation Tracker includes a number of impressive Japanese technologies, including the Fibax Filter by Organo Company, and the Bioleader process by Kurita. Even Ostara, a Canadian leader in phosphorous recovery has a lesser known Japanese cousin, Unitika’s PHOSNIX process.

This is an excerpt from the BlueTech Research Monthly Intelligence Briefing for March 2013.
Click here for details.