Drought Forces Push to Recycle, Reuse and Potential in Brackish Water for Oil & Gas Industry: Interview with BioLargo CEO
UPTICK Interview: BioLargo's AOS Filter Delivers Abundant Clean Water Even In Drought
The headlines are full of discussion on water shortages and drought with few options consistently noted beyond the need to conserve and manage the precious resource. To gain perspective on the problem and explore viable solutions UPTICK Newswire interviewed Dennis Calvert, CEO of Biolargo, Inc, (OTCQB: BLGO), the company that developed and owns the BioLargo AOS Filter, a brainchild of the company’s Chief Science Officer and founder Ken Code. The AOS Filter was first conceived because Ken and his company believe that everyone deserves affordable clean water.
Testing at the University of Alberta has repeatedly shown that the AOS Filter can decontaminate and disinfect water far better and faster than any known technology. Furthermore, based on its low energy requirements, it can do the job at a cost of less than 1/20th of the closest competing technology. Results have been proven in multiple designs, affording the AOS Filter traction with stakeholders and capturing the attention of researchers at the University of Alberta as well as around the globe.
With reliable data in hand to prove its bold performance claims and patent coverage in place, as well as some award-winning recognition for the innovation, the company is getting busy with a number of commercial pilots expected to be concluded by this midsummer as it lines up commercial partners. The company has already been awarded the first of several grants to come and is now intent on stacking up further support for its R&D lab located on the campus at the University of Alberta.
“Drought and water related news are prominently in the headlines. Goldman Sachs is calling water the next oil. Just how serious do you believe the water shortage is?”
“We know a few things for sure. Everyone deserves affordable clean water but there simply is not enough. We also know that crisis often drives attention, spurs investment and highlights the shortfall in the status quo like the drought is doing now. We know there is a great need for equally great solutions like our AOS Filter to come to market faster. The drought should accelerate the rate at which we see adoption of our AOS Filter and certainly moves our company into high-value category.”
“As far as the drought and how bad is it? We have seen droughts before, but this time the science community is teaching us that it is different. NASA has measured the consistent loss of groundwater since 2003 with the GRACE satellites and theUSGS has confirmed the loss by measuring groundwater with over 20,000 monitoring wells. It is clear from data in the 60 Minutes presentation titled,“Depleting The Water” that as rivers, lakes, snowpack and reservoirs continue to shrink we are depleting our underground freshwater aquifers at rates that exceed recharge rates.”
“USGS measurements show that in some regions where there are heavy water requirements for agriculture, water tables have subsided over two hundred feet in only the past few years, and these aquifers are limited in vertical depth frequently being less than 2,000 feet. J. S. Famiglietti, a leading expert in groundwater, University of California professor and NASA researcher claims, “Groundwater depletion the world over poses a far greater threat to global water security than is currently acknowledged.”
“The GRACE satellites reveal how groundwater is shrinking in several regions such as northern India, the North China Plain, and the Middle East. It can take up to several decades to recharge these aquifers when rainfall and snowpack finally do increase, but so far the global drought is not letting up and we are still waiting. NASA is forecasting that California’s population of almost 40 million people will run out of adequate water in one year and Governor Brown recently imposed a 25% reduction on the use of water throughout the state.”
“The drought has been here for a long time now and is not letting up. NASA predicts this may be turn out to be the worst drought in one thousand years. It is clear that if the drought continues, we will have to find a way to use other water resources such as seawater and brackish groundwater that are both plentiful and easily harvested. We also have to treat and reuse or recycle wastewater that we typically discharge back into the earth.”
“There are major problems today challenging the use of seawater, brackish underground water and wastewater, but this is where BioLargo’s AOS Filter shines and offers immediate solutions. It also excels at solving a broad spectrum of cost-effective water treatments that are absent today. We won’t solve all the problems, but we can certainly tackle a few big ones and help bring much more clean water to the world. Other technologies are also needed to help, and of course, we simply all have to learn how to live using less water.”
“Some very dry parts of the world like the Middle East have been using desalination for decades to get drinking water. Since 99% of the water on our planet is ocean water, does it make sense to expand the use of desalination?”
“Today, there are over 17,000 desalination plants processing seawater to supply 21 billion gallons of salt-free water to over 300 million people. Unfortunately, as large as these numbers sound, they represent less than 1% of U.S. consumption. The problem with wider adoption is cost and an unwillingness to pay more for something that has been so plentiful and low cost in the past. Reverse osmosis is the most cost-effective way to desalinate water today, but given what people are willing and able to pay, the cost is arguably still too high for broader adoption.”
“Some will argue that a more severe shortage of water, that seems to be more likely than not, will cause the price to skyrocket and under those circumstances the high cost of desalination will be more acceptable. California is already buildingtwo large facilities in Carlsbad and Huntington Beach and is discussing reopening a plant in Santa Barbara, but that is still not enough to meet unmet demand. Bob Yamada, water resources manager for the San Diego County Water Authority says the billion-dollar Carlsbad plant is expected to provide only 7% of the water needs to local residents. Bringing the cost down coupled with increasing demand from the drought will converge to make desalination far more widespread.”
“What about locations that are inland and a long distance from the ocean? Wouldn’t it be prohibitively expensive to bring in seawater or desalinated water? Wouldn’t that require massive pipelines?”
“The infrastructure cost would be a huge cost for sure. We would argue from a fundamental perspective that there is a better solution for inland regions rather than using seawater. The USGS has shown that huge underground aquifers ofbrackish or salty water are almost everywhere and lie deep beneath the freshwater aquifers. This brackish groundwater is substantially less saline than seawater and is therefore cheaper to desalinate because it requires far less energy to push the less saline water through the reverse osmosis filters than seawater. Inland municipal and private water districts can harvest brackish water from these aquifers and can use a much more cost-effective desalination process. But the fact remains that they will still require some level of desalination and certainly a high level of disinfection that the AOS Filter can deliver more cost-effectively than anything else.”
“What are the biggest challenges with desalination?”
“As we talked about before, industry teaches us that cost is the biggest problem. The second is the fact that the filters suffer from biofilm fouling from bacteria that is present in the seawater and brackish water. Some experts like Hiroko Kasama, Lead Consultant at Global Water Intelligence believes biofouling is one of the most significant challenges in seawater reverse osmosis desalination plants.Biofilm forms colonies of bacteria on the RO filter membrane surfaces and clogs them. The result is that the biofilm accumulation requires much greater energy to push the water through a filter that is clogged with biofilm. And with fouling, the already high cost of energy increases significantly. Biofilm also increases capital cost by shortening filter life and requiring frequent filter replacement. The industry is currently using chemical biofilm disrupters but they appear to have limited effectiveness and are unfriendly to the filter membranes. Often, undesirable chemicals such as chlorine are added into the water to help control the biofilm. Anything that can reduce biofilm accumulation will increase filter life and decrease energy requirements.”
“There are also high levels of subsurface bacteria commonly found in brackish underground water. This sub-surface bacteria is anaerobic because it lives deep underground where there is little oxygen. There haven’t been many studies in this area, but according to our panel of expert advisors in this area, anaerobic bacteria is a serious concern by oil companies that might look to use this brackish water for their oil recovery operations. The fear is that bacteria can undergo significant and potentially dangerous changes when it is introduced to above ground where oxygen is plentiful. A cost effective means of sterilizing the brackish underground water is necessary and, this is another area where BioLargo’s AOS Filter shines when compared to all other technologies.”
“Can you give us an idea of how the AOS Filter compares to the more common disinfection treatment of chlorine for example?”
“The AOS Filter was validated by researchers at the University of Alberta last year and Dr. Lynn McMullen said, “The test results demonstrated AOS’s unprecedented effectiveness in destroying highly concentrated contaminants in sample water, including Listeria and Salmonella.” Test results at the University of Alberta demonstrated that the AOS Filter killed 10,000,000 salmonella cells in 2 minutes compared to the industry standard chlorine dioxide that killed 100,000 cells in 60 minutes. In this example, that makes the AOS Filter 100 times more powerful and 30 times faster than chlorine. The AOS Filter has also been found to decontaminate toxic produced water from oil recovery operations in seconds versus hours and at only a very small fraction of the cost of the closest competing technology.” It is estimated that 80% of disease is caused by water infected with dangerous pathogens and the AOS Filter is so highly oxidative that we believe no living organism can survive its potent killing power.
“Can you tell us what uses you see for the AOS Filter, how you will commercialize it, and how long will it take?
“We believe the AOS Filter will impact every segment of the $360 billion water treatment industry. Plans are already underway to use it experimentally in Suncor’s huge Firebag project in Canada to clean up toxic produced water and eventually, when the stakeholders can figure out a way to pay for it, to clean up the massive tailings ponds that make up almost 200 square kilometers in Canada.”
“The AOS Filter will be a great solution to clean up flowback water from fracking operations. It can clean up wastewater from mining operations. It can clean up and recapture nitrates and eliminate pesticides from agriculture run off water. The AOS Filter can disinfect drinking water making it safe, including the removal of pharmaceutical by-products as well as make filters longer lasting.”
“We believe that the AOS Filter is so cost effective that it will have a big role to play in developing nations as a portable and disposable system. It can decontaminate dangerous pathogens such as 1, 4 dioxane that are classified as hazardous and are of great concern when found in drinking water. It dismantles highly toxic napthenic acids found in produced water from oil recovery operations. It can dismantle or manage sulphates and aromatics like benzene and much more. And very importantly to address the drought, we believe it can dramatically expand the use of recycled water and enhance desalination systems by offering unrivaled disinfection and by greatly reducing biofilm accumulation that can reduce energy costs and extend the useful life of the membranes.”
“The CDC, the UN and several other leading organizations tell us that 80% of all illness is caused by infection from water. That alone tells us that there is a very big need for the AOS Filter because it disinfects water far more cost-effectively than any other method.”
“We plan to license our technology to various large industry users rather than go directly to market ourselves. The AOS Filter is a scalable device that is straightforward and quick to build. The engineering is the most difficult part in order to get desired results for specific uses, especially in high volume applications, but it is readily available and is not an obstacle. In order to accelerate industry awareness and licensing efforts, BioLargo is showcasing the AOS Filter to several industry leaders at the University of Alberta this August.
“The shortage of water and the threat of it growing worse is a very serious and long-term problem that will require a host of changes. We are proud of our progress at BioLargo and know that the AOS Filter can help deliver affordable clean water to a world in great need. We are grateful and thankful to our shareholders who help us make it happen and we look forward to sharing our success with them.”
“Thank you very much for your time today. Our readers will appreciate the abundant information you shared and the solutions you presented in dealing with the water shortage crisis.”