Tekron launches two pilot plants for $5M in Barbados, Canada

Tekron Inc. of London, Ontario, is in the process of implementing construction of two pilot plants, utilizing sugar cane biomass for a total cost of US$5 million. Based on the feasibility study, in progress, assigned to Vydexa Industrials Corp., Tekron is in a position to finance and implement the core of the recommendations from the cited feasibility study that is directed to creating new, value-added products, based on sugar cane residues and biomass...

LONDON, ON, Canada, Aug. 30, 2004 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- Tekron Inc. of London, Ontario, is in the process of implementing construction of two pilot plants, utilizing sugar cane biomass for a total cost of US$5 million. Based on the feasibility study, in progress, assigned to Vydexa Industrials Corp., Tekron is in a position to finance and implement the core of the recommendations from the cited feasibility study that is directed to creating new, value-added products, based on sugar cane residues and biomass.

The sugar cane biomass shall be used as a substrate to produce biosurfactants to be applied to soil for the purpose of remediating and cleaning the soil matrix that has been contaminated with organic and inorganic toxins. The technology has direct application in the clean-up of petroleum laden soils and a variety of contaminated soils found on industrial sites.

Recent discussions with the Barbados Agricultural Management Co. Ltd. (BAMC) and Barbados Sugar Industries Ltd. (BSIL) headed by Carl Simpson and Dr. Atlee Brathwaite, respectively, provided support for the described undertaking. The scope of the project is detailed below:

Objectives
Goals of the project are summarized as follows:
-- Develop commercial production (on a pilot plant scale), of selected biosurfactants, which have a proven and demonstrated capability to enhance biodegradation of industrial toxic pollutants in contaminated soil and water. The parameters of this production will be based on the optimized and demonstrated process, already developed by Prof. Dr. Naim Kosaric, professor emeritus, University of Western Ontario, and president and CEO of Kayplan Engineering Consultants, both of London, Ontario.
-- The objective in this project is to utilize the produced biosurfactant(s) for specific and selected contaminated sites (soil/sludge and/or water) bioremediation, and demonstrate on a pilot plant scale its efficiency in commercially attractive applications. However, once the production of the selected biosurfactant(s) has been established, other applications of the biosurfactants can also be explored. These other applications may be in various industrial operations and products, which have a high value. Industries and their products, that would be of interest are petroleum/petrochemical, chemical, plastics, cosmetics, food, animal feed, fertilizers, composting and agriculture etc.
-- It is well known that naturally occuring microorganisms degrade organic material. However, when this organic material represents complex organics, which are resistant to biodegradation, then this process becomes very slow and in some cases practically nonexistant. We have demonstrated that the biodegradation process of the persistant contaminants can be significantly accelerated by adding selected biosurfactants to the contaminated site. It is also known that the naturally occuring microorganisms can be adapted and specifically prepared to ottack the resistant contaminants, which are normally not biodegraded. In this project, specifically selected and adapted microbial consortia will also be prepared and produced, and their efficiency in accelerating and completing bidegradation of complex organics, will be investigated and application procedures will be developed. In this respect, individual and mixtures of the consortia and biosurfactants will be selected and used to demonstrate efficient biodegradation in a real environment.
-- It is important to note at this stage, that the microorganisms in question will be from the natural environment and that no genetic modification of microorganisms will be performed. Also, after the completion of the biodegradation task, the residual microorganisms in the site will be normally metabolized through natural bioassimilation processes and no pathogens or secondary contamination will result. The final product after the completion of bioremediation will be metabolizable intermediates of normal aerobic and anaerobic cycles, which operate in natural environments, with an ultimate breakdown to carbon dioxide and water.
-- Soil and sludge bioremediation will be performed with particular focus on biosurfactant-enhanced biodegradation of toxic pollutants coming from various industrial operations. Thus decontaminated soil would become environmentally acceptable. The sludges, whose disposal and reutilization represent a worldwide problem, would be stabilized either for a safe use as fertilizer, disposal, or for recycle as ingredients of commercially viable products. Enhanced composting of secondary sludges from biological wastewater treatment plants and primary sludges from farm animals (pigs, cattle and paultry) will also be considered and investigated.
-- Other targeted materials and comodities may also be incorporated in this study, depending on the in-field need and governmental priorities.

More specifically, the following tasks will be performed:
1. Selection of targeted industrial pollutants and/or contaminated sites and detailed analysis of toxic/hazardous constituents.
2. Selection and development of microbial consortia with a high potency for enhacement of biodegradation of the selected pollutants.
3. Based on data from previous optimization studies performed by the applicant and supported by literature, scale-up of the selected biosurfactant production up to a pilot plant level will be performed and parameters for large industrial scale will be established.
4. Several microbial active biomass/consortia will be produced in sufficient quantity for selected pilot scale bioremediation trials.
5. Pilot plant scale demonstration and evaluation of the selected bioremediation strategy.
6. Pilot plant demonstration and evaluation of the selected composting strategy.
7. Design and scale-up of targeted commercial size treatments for the screened applications.
8. Techno-economic analysis for selected industrial pollutant and/or contaminated site. Techno-economic analysis of the developed composting process.
9. Comprehensive report on the strategy, technology, performance and economics with proposals for industrial scale applications and marketing.

General background
The accumulation and persistance of toxic and hazardous materials in water and soil represents a major problem today. Various organics are generated either as byproducts from various industries (e.g. petroleum and petrochemical, pulp and paper, chemical industries, etc) which may be released into the environment or are accidentally spilled. Of primary concern are aromatics and their chlorinated derivatives, which are difficult to biodegrade and are toxic as well as carcinogenic. As an example, aromatics and their chlorinated derivatives are generated in chlorine bleaching of cellulose pulp (dioxins), pesticides and herbicides (chlorophenols), moth repellants and air deodorants (p-dichlorobenzene), petroleum and petrochemicals (phenols, naphthalene), transformer oils (polychlorinated biphenyls-PCB), chemical plastics, iron and steel industries (phenols), in wood preservations (pentachlorophenols-PCP) etc.

If the mentioned chemicals appear in industrial effluents or in soil, these must be treated and detoxified. Treatment of wastewaters is practiced worldwide utilizing a combination of methods (chemical, physical, biological). Biological methods show many advantages and many organics can be efficiently degraded by aerobic and anaerobic processes. A far greater problem represents contaminated soil and treatment and disposal of toxic industrial sludges. The soil must be decontaminated before any activity can be done on it such as building, recreation, playgrounds, etc. There are a number of soil treatment and handling processes, which may involve removal of contaminated soil and its transportation to an acceptable non inhabited site, which is an expensive proposal. In-situ physical/chemical soil tretment processes are also practiced. One of the cheapest is biodegradation of organic toxic constituents in soil, as seen in the attached Table.

However, many such biological processes are relatively slow, or the efficiency for complete elimination of the pollutant (below acceptable limits) may not be possible. In these cases, additional treatment methods may have to be introduced, which complicates the overall process and makes it considerably more expensive. In order to overcome these deficiencies, and to accelerate the degradation process, the degrading microorganisms should be specially selected and adapted, first to survive in the toxic environment and then to degrade the toxicant. Proprietary microbial consortia are commercially available for some applications.

Another novel approach to enhance biodegradation of toxic pollutants in water and soil, is to facilitate biodegradation in presence of selected biosurfactants. Prof. Kosaric has demonstrated this efficiency in both laboratory and commercial scale operations, which were performed on soil contaminated with pesticides/herbicides, chlorinated phenols, naphthaline and with petroleum/petrochemical contaminants, such as very resistant and toxic polyciclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH).

General strategy and project schedule
The general strategy of this work is to demonstrate biodegradation of selected contaminants with (1) selected microbial consortia, (2) selected biosurfactants and (3) synergistic combinations of (1) and (2), as well as to enhance composting of industrial residues and sludges, both qualitatively and quantitatively.

In order to accomplish the above, sources of industrial contaminants, residues and sludges in Barbados and Canada will be selected, evaluated and qualitatively/quantitatively documented. After the above tasks have been completed, the most potent microbial consortia, as well as efficient biosurfactants, will be selected for further application.

The next step will involve production of the consortia and biosurfactants in sufficient quantity for pilot demonstration experiments. The production of the selected biosurfactants will be performed in specially designed demonstration-scale, state of the art, pilot plant facilities. The facilities will be used not only for the production of the selected biosurfactants, but also for development and verification of engineering and economic parameters, needed for the design and proposal of large scale commercial production facilities. The proposal for the large scale commercial facilities will constitute the second phase of the development, and will be prepared after completion of the work under this proposal, based on the data obtained from the above pilot plant facilities.

Demonstration of the bioremediation of selected contaminated soil and sludges will be performed experimentally in a laboratory, as well as on soil/sludge plots, which will be properly established, maintained and treated. The laboratory will contain essential space and apparati for basic experimental follow-up. For specific instrumental analyses (GC, HPLC, Mass Specs etc.), external laboratories shall be contracted. The experimental plots will be established at or close to the contaminated sites, as it may be required.

Anticipated results and benefits
On the basis of the experimental results obtained in this project, a techno-economic analysis of selected strategies will be performed with the ultimate objective to scale the process up for industrial application. This demonstration on a pilot plant scale will enable industry, government and/or the private sector to engage in a comercially and environmentally viable undertaking. It is anticipated, that interest for a commercial scale will be generated, with proper financing for both marketing and application of this novel technology.

Furthermore, an enhanced process for soil decontamination will be developed up to a stage of commercial application. This novel strategy and technology is unique in Canada as well as worldwide. Due to ever increasing problems related to water and soil pollution, such novel technology is anticipated to attract considerable interest and applications worldwide. Tekron Inc., as the beneficiary in the development of this technology, will certainly be at the forefront. By proper marketing, a financial benefit to all parties participating in this development is anticipated in the very near future. Needless to say that the novelty of this technology should be protected through patenting and/or other property/confidentiality agreements.

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