TerraTherm - a Cascade Company

Interview with TerraTherm Co-Founder, President and CEO, John Bierschenk

Launched in 2000, TerraTherm uses thermal technologies to extract and remove toxic chemicals from properties. The company relocated to a larger facility in Gardner last May, after 12 years in Fitchburg. It has 35 employees in Gardner who do corporate finance and accounting, marketing, engineering, project management and equipment fabrication. Thirty more TerraTherm employees work at construction sites where projects are underway in Florida, New Jersey and, most recently, in Vietnam, where the company is cleaning up hot spots of Agent Orange.

Can you tell me a little bit about your own background and how you found your way to TerraTherm and thermal remediation?

'I'm a geologist by undergraduate and graduate training. I graduated back in the late '70s and went to work in the oil and gas field doing oil and gas exploration as an exploration geophysicist. ... In the mid '80s, the oil and gas business went through a bad downturn, and I got into the environmental consulting field, because it was really kind of up-and-coming at that time. ... We were approached by our managers to look into a new technology that had been starting to become available, called ISTD, or in situ thermal desorption. It is a technology that Shell Exploration & Production Co. developed out of its enhanced oil recovery research facility in Houston, Texas.

' ... So (TerraTherm business partner) Ralph (Baker) and I were able to secure an exclusive license from the University of Texas in Austin, to which Shell had donated the intellectual property, about 26 patents. That was in January of 2000, and that's when we started TerraTherm LLC, to commercialize this ISTD technology on behalf of the University of Texas.'

Can you describe the in situ thermal desorption process to a layperson?

'Basically, TerraTherm offers and deploys three different in situ thermal technologies that all do the same thing, but applied to different subsurface settings. In general, what we do is we heat the soil and the water that's in the soil and we vacuum out, with surface suction devices, the gases and the steam that get generated during the process. ... And then above ground, we treat whatever comes out of the ground, scrub it and use various technologies to purify the gas, so that what we discharge into the atmosphere is within the regulatory standards and laws that govern these kinds of things.'

Video by Rick Cinclair, read more at telegram.com

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