MemPore to take oil recycling world by storm with revolutionary nano-filtration membrane technology
A revolutionary nano-filtration technology used to turn used lubricating oil into clean base oil is poised to take the oil recycling industry by storm. Smiths Falls-based MemPore Environmental Technologies’ innovative membrane technology will give used oil collectors and recyclers an efficient alternative to re-refining used oil, while significantly reducing costs and environmental impacts.
In a nutshell, membrane technology to convert used lubricating oil into clean base oil offers a simple solution to a complicated problem. Each year, more than 2.5 billion gallons of used lubricating oil is created in North America alone, and 12 billion gallons worldwide.
MemPore’s founder, Chairman and Chief Technical officer, Oleh Kutowy, didn’t stumble upon nano-filtration technology by accident – Kutowy spent more than 30 years working at the National Research Centre (NRC) as a research scientist, the last 20 years of which focused on (inter alia) industrial applications of membranes, on the reclamation of used lubricating oil.
Kutowy’s experience and knowledge of membrane technology (with many patents and scientific papers on membranes to his credit) has made him a world-wide expert in the field, and able to envision the potential for nano-filtration technology in the industry. In 2006, Kutowy left the NRC to found MemPore and develop a commercial system for recycling used lubricating oil using membrane technology.
MemPore Environmental Technologies President and CEO, Alastair Samson, explained the only current alternative to Kutowy’s membrane technology is not only inefficient, but is also a major contributor to environmental pollution.
Used lubricating oil is considered a hazardous material, and its disposal is challenging from an environmental perspective. Prior to MemPore’s entry in the industry, the only other options for reclaiming used lubricating oil were through burning or re-refining, both of which have negative environmental impacts.
In addition, re-refining degrades the oil to some extent and only recovers 60 percent of the base oil. MemPore’s technology, on the other hand, recovers 75 percent of base oil, requires 84 percent less energy, and produces 71 percent less greenhouse gasses than the alternatives of burning or re-refining. Furthermore, the system produces the same grade of oil that was originally used in the vehicles.
“MemPore has a far better solution for base oil recovery,” Samson stressed.
Samson went on to explain that beyond environmental impact, another major problem with re-refining is the process can’t handle synthetic oils. Membrane technology, on the other hand, offers a win-win-win for oil recyclers – low environmental impact, more oil recovery, and synthetic oil recovery.
Located in a 10,000-square foot space in the Gallipeau Centre in Smiths Falls, MemPore will both manufacture the membranes, manufacture complete systems, as well as perform its research and development from that location. Samson explained that MemPore proposes a two-fold business model – to sell complete oil reclamation systems using membrane technology to used oil collectors, and to sell and install replacement membranes.
The advantages to oil recyclers in purchasing a MemPore system are significant: a MemPore system is environmentally friendly, has a relatively small footprint (only 64 square metres), a low operating cost, high throughput of roughly 15 metric tonnes per day, is scalable, the recycler owns and operates the equipment and the resultant recycled base oil will generate a significantly greater economic return versus the present alternative of selling the used oil for burning or re-refining.
In 2015, MemPore reached a strategic partnership with Universe Bright New Energy Investment Ltd. (UBNE) to commercialize the technology and construct the first full scale commercial system in China, as a reference site for purchasers and investors to observe in action.
When it came time to set up shop in an appropriate industrial location, Smiths Falls was the first and only place MemPore’s founders looked. Samson said they looked at three different locations in Smiths Falls, one of which was the old Hershey factory which was soon taken over by Tweed as a medicinal marijuana manufacturing plant. MemPore’s facility needs, on the other hand, were unique, and finding just the right location was critical.
“We needed the initial space to make the membranes for our first system,” Samson explained, “But we also needed space for systems manufacture as well as research and development. During our 18 months in Smiths Falls we have seen great progress towards our goal of revolutionizing the oil recycling industry.”
According to Samson, the Gallipeau Centre was a natural solution for the burgeoning company, only a short drive from home for MemPore’s founders, and with an impressive facility that could satisfy all their industrial needs, along with room to grow.
“It’s an impressive facility, we always bring visitors here for meetings,” Samson said, “There’s enough space here to manufacture membranes and up to four complete systems a month…I think we’re good for many years to come.”