Biorem Technologies Inc.
Biorem Technologies Inc. is an innovative biotechnology company that designs, manufactures and distributes high-efficiency air emissions control systems. Their solutions eliminate odours, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs).
The Canadian company serves municipalities and industrial companies around the world, with bases in Guelph, Ontario, Victor, New York and Beijing, China.
“Two-thirds to three-quarters of our business is outside of the country. We work in about 23 different countries, including those in Central and South America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia,” President and CEO Derek Webb tells
The Canadian Business Journal, as the company celebrates their 25th year in business.
Though Biorem’s prime market is in municipal wastewater and waste management, they are actively involved in approximately 15 different industries, including petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, chemical production, food and beverages, and more.
A flexible leader in Canada’s environmental services industry
Biorem, short for “bioremediation,” was born from an idea over 25 years ago, when a Chairman at the University of Waterloo sought to use bacteria to rid soil of contaminants.
“For a variety of reasons, we just couldn’t get the business going solely focusing on soil based applications. In the mid-90s we started looking at what we could do with the microbiological knowledge that we had and started applying it towards gaseous based emissions. We kept the name, but adapted the technology,” Webb explains.
This adaptive spirit, which has been with the company since its foundation, has helped them to thrive in times of economic downturn and market changes. At the end of 2014, the company saw a change of management.
“It was a particularly bad year, and we really needed a different outlook and strategy to move forward. In 2015 I spent time restructuring the company and trained the teams on the sales, operations, engineering and service sides. We now have a good, experienced team with a strong foundation. Our results were quite good this year,” Webb recalls.
“Moving forward, I want to build on that foundation and scale this business. We are going to focus efforts on growing organically with our core businesses, but also expand into new niche markets geographically. We’ve got our eyes on a few international markets where we can make a big difference.”
In it for the long haul
In a time of volatility and changes in the marketplace, many biotech firms haven’t managed to stand the test of time. A company’s innovative abilities can be tested in a few ways. For instance, in an ability to develop technology that not only has a place in the current economic climate, but that also satisfies changing regulations. With a focus on the bigger picture, Biorem works with their clients as a committed partner, fostering positive, long-term relationships based on selling compliance rather than pieces of equipment.
“I am not interested in just selling a piece of equipment. What I want to do is come up with a fully optimized solution for our clients and work closely with them to find the best solution for each of their facilities. We take a fully integrated approach to finding a solution. We engineer equipment so that it is optimized for particular applications, so every job is a little bit different,” Webb remarks.
For instance, when Biorem commences a new project, whether for a wastewater plant or solid waste processing facility, they actively work with town councils and elected officials to ensure that the plant does not negatively impact the surroundings. Through educating town councils and conducting community awareness programs, Biorem ensures from the get-go that their projects are successful.
“One of the most common objections, especially in jurisdictions with very strong legislation, is this not-in-my-backyard syndrome anytime there is a new facility. One of the biggest objections municipalities find from communities concerns the potential for odours or gaseous based pollutants being omitted from these facilities. Certainly in some jurisdictions where you’ve got an educated, well-organized population, this can be a major impediment to getting a project off the ground,” Webb says.
Webb finds that in general, Ontario has been progressive about environmental technology. For instance, the province has implemented organics processing methods, green bin programs and opened treatment facilities, including compost facilities and anaerobic digesters which can convert waste material into methane gas for generating electricity.
That being said, there have also been cases where companies or municipalities have invested tens of millions of dollars, only to have a facility built that needs to be closed due to a nuisance condition. Webb reveals that proper planning, communication, and installation of high-quality, well-operated systems allows these plants to coexist in neighbourhoods without any problems.
“It’s been a spotty history in Ontario. There are facilities in London and Newmarket that have been shut down because of odours. What I’m proud to say is that through our collaboration, municipalities such as Guelph, the Region of Peel, or the City of Toronto took the proper steps to educate the public and work with a reputable vendor. We’ve been able to install systems that allow them to operate their facilities with no negative impact on their neighbourhoods,” he states.
In addition to the company’s collaborative, customer oriented approach, Webb also credits Biorem’s success to having a superior supply network.
“We use high quality vendors, and we also treat them as partners. We may use a hundred different components that we integrate together to build these systems to solve our clients’ problems. A large part of that is based on the quality and the support that we get from our supplier network. We have found a way to operate a business and integrate a supply chain seamlessly so that we can provide after sales support and ensure our customers have a properly functioning piece of equipment for a long time.”
This integrative business focus has allowed Biorem to offer great service while building lasting relationships with various stakeholders.
A variety of customized solutions
Biorem’s air emission control solutions can be utilized to treat odours at a municipal plant, remove VOCs from an industrial facility, or condition a biogas stream from an agricultural or landfill site. Each solution involves one of Biorem’s unique and patented media (Biosorbens®, XLD® or LWE®), which come with a 10-year guarantee.
Biofilter systems, which can treat air flows ranging from 100 to 500,000 cfm, can be used to remove odours, H2S, VOCs and HAPs in sundry applications to suit various industrial needs. These systems are available in many sizes and configurations, from modular units to field erected systems. These biofilters feature custom units built to the client’s specifications, low-cost installation and exceptional performance—greater than 99% of H2S removal and over 90% of total odour removal. In addition, large field erected units are guaranteed against corrosion for 10 years.
To treat wastewater, Biorem’s environmentally friendly biotrickling systems can remove water soluble pollutants without the use of harmful chemicals. These efficient systems boast low operating costs and will result in energy savings due to their low pressure drop.
For more difficult applications, multi-stage systems combine Biorem’s biofilter and biotrickling systems to handle the complex odours of various municipal wastewater treatment processes. The first stage involves a customizable biotrickling filter as a roughing scrubber to remove H2S, then allowing the biofilter to concentrate on organic sulfides and VOCs. With a variety of reactor types, these solutions can be tailored to suit the client’s budget and delivery requirements. The water recirculation system reduces water consumption.
Moreover, Biorem offers a line of reliable biogas conditioning systems to protect equipment from damage caused by pollutants for wastewater, landfill and agricultural applications. The client focused company’s sampling and gas analysis services ensure that the right treatment is selected for the customer’s needs. While biogas systems can increase the longevity of downstream equipment, biogas emissions can be converted to a valuable source of alternate energy.
Biorem also offers custom solutions for composting facilities and anaerobic digestion, whether the client needs to retrofit their equipment or design a new greenfield facility.
The company, which has underwent many changes since its inception, also has plans to expand the solutions they offer.
“Now our focus is on trying to add value to a few key markets. What goes hand in hand with that quite often is the need to develop new products and technology to go after those markets. We have a robust product development program underway,” Webb adds.
The future of environmental solutions
While some businesses and municipalities seem to embrace environmental solutions, we asked Webb if he believes that this is a general trend.
“I think certain companies are headed that way. Part of the problem is that there’s not enough incentive to do it. While I’d like to believe we’re all headed in that direction, it’s a bit more complicated than that. That’s where I think the government can play a beneficial role in enacting sound policy encouraging people to adopt environmental technology,” he remarks.
Further, Webb stresses the interconnection of environmental issues, which should be addressed in a holistic manner rather than treated individually, and considered from the moment a facility is being constructed.
“The issue of water, waste or energy—they’re not separate issues. They are all interconnected. And when building a facility, if you look at the environment as a separate issue, you get inefficient, costly designs. But, if you integrate environmental solutions into the early planning process, you end up with a much more efficient, cost-effective design integrated with the building envelope,” says Webb.