Around the Bend

What's going on at Rivertop Renewables

Brian Furey speaks at the 20th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference

Earlier this month, Brian Furey, Rivertop’s Technical Manager for Regulatory Affairs and Consumer Products, spoke at the American Chemical Society’s 20th Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference in Portland, Oregon. As the longest running annual green chemistry conference, the Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference acts as a forum for green chemistry thought leaders to learn, share and design the green innovations of tomorrow: a focus that is right up Rivertop’s alley.

Brian’s presentation was entitled “Rising to the Demand for Green Chemistry,” with a focus on how advances in green chemistry are the sustainable building blocks for the future of hundreds of products. Since Rivertop’s inception in 2008, we have certainly learned a lot (and have much to share) about the rising demand for safer, greener chemicals that are competitive on cost and performance. In fact, it is rising market demand for a line of green chemicals in consumer and industrial products has led to the production of our products, ranging from Riose® Detergent Builders to Waterline™ Scale and Corrosion Inhibitors.

During the conference, Brian took advantage of the opportunity to connect and exchange information with other researchers doing great things in the bio-chemical space, and enjoyed participating in the Green× interactive workshops. He also relished the visit to Portland—surprisingly, this was the first time the conference was held on the West Coast!

Rivertop’s First Technical Bulletin Demonstrates Performance of WaterlineTM CI in Cooling Water Systems

Rivertop has completed its first commercial production runs and deliveries of WaterlineTM CI, a sustainable high performing corrosion inhibitor for use in industrial cooling water systems. Operating and maintaining cooling water systems is a multi-billion dollar industry and the interest we’ve seen in Waterline CI has prompted Rivertop to release its first product technical bulletin.

The technical bulletin describes testing that compared Waterline CI to orthophosphate, a standard inhibitor used to prevent corrosion in cooling water systems. Phosphorous-based corrosion inhibitors are currently under scrutiny for their environmental impact as well as a number of performance challenges.

The results will be good news for those familiar with cooling water systems and the challenges posed by corrosion. Produced from renewable plant sugars and completely phosphorous-free, Waterline Cl forms a persistent, passivating film on steel surfaces and does not pose a fouling concern with calcium. It achieves a lower and more stable corrosion rate over time as compared to phosphonate treatments used in HVAC systems.

There is good news for the bottom line as well. By eliminating the need to formulate with stabilizing copolymers, Waterline CI enables water treaters to maintain a combined low total cost of formulation and in-use performance economics.

Take a look for yourself. The technical bulletin can be found on our website.

New Corrosion Lab Gets Results

Rivertop has made some compelling discoveries about the performance of Waterline™ CI since the Company ramped up its newest corrosion testing lab earlier this year. We have found that our new, phosphorous-free corrosion inhibitor ingredient protects the critical steel infrastructure in industrial and commercial cooling water systems under an array of challenging conditions. Initial performance evaluations were recently described in a press release and detailed on the product’s webpage.

As with most application development and evaluation, Rivertop is driving a lot of time, expertise and creativity into profiling the performance of Waterline CI as an ingredient in water treatment chemical formulations. What’s different with this development effort has been the speed at which the team has made discoveries. Our Industrial Applications Manager, Eric Ward, only joined the Company in November; by January, he had the lab outfitted. He assembled an array of rapid testing equipment and quickly trained a team of very capable technicians.

The lab is outfitted with electrochemical cells that provide a continuous flow of data points on the corrosiveness of the water treated with formulations containing Waterline CI versus water treated with phosphorous-based formulations. The water is continually oxygenated and circulated to mimic the turbidity of a cooling water system. A digital titrator is used to confirm water hardness as the techs “cycle up” the concentration of hard water ions and detect any calcium precipitation that may occur. The cells themselves are jacketed to enable the team to control the water temperature at the higher levels found in true cooling water systems. A pump is outfitted to feed biocides into the water, another critical component of water treatment formulations. And a colorimeter is used to measure the level of inorganics in the water, such as free- and total chlorine and ortho-phosphate.

The research flowing out of this lab enables Eric and his commercial counterparts to advise customers on the capabilities and best uses of the product. The team expects to release the next Waterline CI Technical Bulletin in June. Stay tuned for what discoveries may emerge in that publication.

The Business Case for Safer Chemistry

A new report from the American Sustainable Business Council forecasts the significant growth potential and other financial benefits of safer chemicals. For example, the market for safer chemicals is estimated to have 24 times the growth of conventional chemicals market worldwide, from 2011 to 2020. And job growth in safer goods and services is well ahead of conventional chemical industry.

The report noted the significant market opportunity: “The global market for “green chemistry”—as defined by Pike Research to include biobased chemicals, renewable feedstocks, “green” polymers and less-toxic chemical formulations—has been projected to grow from $11 billion in 2015 to nearly $100 billion by 2020. The North American market for “green chemistry” is projected to grow from $3 billion to over $20 billion during the same period.”

Of particular interest to us was one of the report’s observations: “The potential for innovation may lie specialty chemicals, relatively niche chemical formulators and small businesses, which can serve the growing demand through their nature as test beds for problem-solving and their often mission-driven approach to product and service development.”

At Rivertop, we absolutely believe that companies like ours can play a leading role not just in creating new chemicals — but safer and more sustainable options that unlock new opportunities for our customers and partners. We believe, working together, we can blend innovation with the global reach of established players and make a bigger impact.

Jason Kiely’s Rivertop Milestone

A lot has changed since Rivertop’s inception in 2008, but one key component has remained the same: Jason Kiely. Jason, now Business Manager of Industrial Applications, played a critical role in Rivertop’s founding and our subsequent start-up phase. His leadership helped build our early market intelligence, develop our corporate and product brands, and establish a market foothold for Rivertop’s first innovations. We are thus taking advantage of the 8thanniversary of Rivertop Renewables to highlight the 8th anniversary at Rivertop for one of our key players.

Jason’s role has certainly evolved over the years. Today his focus is on expanding sales of Rivertop’s Waterline™ CIcorrosion inhibitors into the water treatment market. He also leads the cross-functional commercial and technical team that develops, sells and manages Rivertop’s Headwaters® corrosion inhibitors for the road deicing market. Notably, he was instrumental in helping his father, Dr. Don Kiely, found the company and played a key role in raising the company’s Series A financing from friends, family, angels and smaller institutional investors.

Jason has been a part of many Rivertop milestones—we have been quite busy since 2008. When asked what his favorite celebration has been, he understandably had trouble choosing between all of them. He pointed out that commercial successes for Headwaters® and Waterline™ have certainly been fun to celebrate, but also remembered the excitement of clinking glasses with key advisors and supporters in the early days. Or perhaps the fall evening in his backyard punctuated by games of corn hole and roasting/toasting a departing colleague…

Jason certainly hasn’t been coasting off the pitch: his second child was born the same summer that Rivertop starting coming together. He has loved the challenge of raising kids, building a company and nurturing a marriage. Somehow he has also found time to strengthen his yoga practice, learn how to downhill ski and take up big game hunting. As he explains it, exercise and play have proven essential to his happiness and productivity.

Productivity is perhaps an understatement for what Jason has accomplished since he has been at Rivertop. What piece of advice would he give himself on his first day eight years ago? “It’s gonna be a long race, punctuated by frequent sprints. So look for—and enjoy—the times you get to run downhill. And run like hell when you do!”

We very much appreciate all of the running you’ve done, Jason, and are excited to reach the many milestones your leadership will bring over the next eight years!

Founder Don Kiely Performs the Blues and Sings Rivertop’s Praises!

Yesterday our founder Don Kiely performed some blues and swing tunes for fellow Rivertopians at the Sound, Soup and Sanctuary experience. The event, which took place at the University Congregational Church (UCC), adjacent to the University of Montana campus, was part of a music performance series that is free and open to the public. Don played harmonica on classics such as It Had To Be You, Misty, andFly Me to the Moon and added vocals on Mojo Man and Old Time Boogie. He certainly had everyone’s feet tapping.

Just a few hours later, Don spoke at InnovativeUM. The event, put on by the University, connects the community to leading University of Montana faculty members, alumni and national collaborators through dynamic, big-idea talks, living room conversations, a tech expo, art and food. In short, it is a celebration of innovation and a catalyst for collaboration.

At the event, Don was asked to tell his story and that of Rivertop (the technology we use was actually developed by Don in a lab at the University of Montana). He jokingly explained: “Somehow they got my name, ignored the age requirement for entrepreneurs, and asked me to participate.” And the rest is Rivertop history.

It was truly an eventful and noteworthy day. We here at Rivertop really value the connection that we still maintain with the University and are excited to have great events and great spokespeople (wielding harmonicas) to reaffirm it.

Establishing the Future of Green Chemistry

Sustainability is a core tenet of our work here at Rivertop. Our science and processes create a sustainable supply of bio-based products that are economically and environmentally attractive to consumers and industry by unlocking the potential of plant sugars. In our activities, we fully adhere to the Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry, guidelines widely accepted by the green chemistry industry as its core pillars. Yet these principles are less than 20 years old, and green chemistry is arguably still in its youth.

When the modern environmental movement began in the 1960s and 1970s, the focus was largely on protecting humans and the environment from harmful substances. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was founded in 1970 and promptly banned chemical pesticides (such as DDT), followed by a variety of activities aimed at stemming pollution and cleaning up toxins. It wasn’t really until the Pollution Prevention Act of 1990 that the paradigm started shifting towards prevention, opening up opportunities for innovation in what was later to be known as the ‘green chemistry’ space.

That got the ball rolling: the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards were established in 1995, the Green Chemistry Institute in 1997 and Green Chemistry, Theory and Practice was published in 1998, containing the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry.

While the green chemistry industry has since expanded and made its mark in many facets, it has a long way to go. A vast majority of organic chemicals are still derived from petroleum. Chemistry, as a result, is largely perceived negatively, associated more regularly with pollution and DDT than with sustainability.

Green chemistry has the tools to change that perception: according to a recently released study by BBC Research, the green chemistry industry is expected to grow to a market of $85.6 billion by 2020, with future prospects as high as $1.5 trillion. Innovation and demand from consumers for ‘green’ products are establishing a bright future for the industry. Nonetheless, a recent Chemical Watch article points out that in order to solidify its foothold, green chemistry has to make its way into education as well.

We here at Rivertop commend the inroads the industry has already made and are proud to be a part of it. In our eyes, the first key pillar for the future of green chemistry is innovative, economically competitive products. The second key pillar is hands-on education. And the third is societal recognition. But if we execute well on the first two, the last one will be sure to follow. And on that note, back to work!

Rivertopians Take On Utah

Once the ski season comes to an end in Missoula, Rivertopians typically take the week of spring break to get out and enjoy the new spring weather with their kids. This year, four adventure-seeking Rivertopians—Jason Kiely, Patrick Memoli, Michael Rands and Jon Speare— packed up their families, loaded up their cars and took off for Utah. Their destination? Arches and Canyonlands National Parks to celebrate the real beginning of spring.

Both parks are great for families and experienced climbers alike. Arches, about a 10-hour drive from Missoula, is especially appealing with its unique rock formations resulting in distinctive hiking trails. We have evidence: above is a picture of Michael Rands’ son Tanner at Delicate Arch, one of Utah’s most iconic arches. Below are Jon Speare’s kids in the strange and colorful Goblin Valley State Park.

With so many National Parks in and around Montana there are countless options for taking advantage of weekends and the beautiful spring weather. It really is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.

Rivertop Exceeds Nameplate Capacity

Last week, Rivertop officially announcedthat we have exceeded nameplate capacity at our first commercial production facility during benchmark testing. The facility, which in located in Danville, Virginia, was built in the first half of 2015, began its first commercial production runs of glucarate-based products in August 2015 and is now capable of producing more than 9 million dry pounds of sodium glucarate product per year—more than 15 percent higher than original design projections.

Among the products being produced are Riose® detergent builder (a renewable, effective alternative to phosphate detergent builders) and WaterlineTMcorrosion inhibitors and chelating agents that are applicable across industries ranging from water treatment, to power generation and mining.

The first products produced at the facility are salts of glucaric acid. Traditional pathways of producing both glucaric acid itself and its salts have been costly and environmentally challenging, making Rivertop’s ability to produce an effective, economical and environmentally friendly supply that much more ground breaking.

This production success comes on the heels of a “Recommended” designation based on a quality and supply chain audit by a leading water treatment industry customer.

In other words, we are full steam ahead. The success we are having thus far bodes very well for our plans to build additional plants in the coming years.

We are also excited that our success has been featured in a number of industry publications, including KPAXBiofuels DigestChemical & Engineering NewsBiomass Magazine and Green Chemicals Blog. The latter feature is in fact a guest post by our own CEO, Mike Knauf, about the role of oxygen in our proprietary manufacturing process, punctuated by the exciting news about our facility in Virginia. It is the perfect excuse for a little pat on the back before diving back in to the work we love.

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