BAYFIELD – A small, 3½-year-old firm is talking to venture capitalists and angel investors looking for $1.3 million in investments by May to commercialize a chemical compound to clean wastewater systems.
The substance, a polymer now named Amagel by GC Solutions Inc., was first developed by the Russian space program to remove water from algae.
Chuck Wages, CEO of GC Solutions Inc., said he’s reached a point where it is time to automate production of Amagel, which has been modified from the original Russian substance.
Wages believes Amagel can be used for several applications, the first of which will likely be cleaning produced water in oil and natural gas wells, especially in the Permian Basin in west Texas and eastern New Mexico, where water is at a premium and drillers can clean wastewater streams to recycle water for use in hydraulic fracturing.
But he also believes the polymer can be used in an almost limitless array of other uses to clean waste steams, including cleaning wastewater from microbreweries; he has a pilot system under development for Santa Fe Brewing Co.
“We’ve been talking to investors, but we haven’t found the right group yet,” Wages said. “Right now, the only thing stopping us is a lack of funding.”
Amagel’s name comes from “gel,” a form the polymer can take before it is formed into a soap-bar-like solid GC Solutions creates for shipment, and “ama,” the Cherokee word for water.
Wages, who graduated from Fort Lewis College in 1976 with a degree in business administration and a minor in chemistry, is part Cherokee.
Wages describes Amagel as “a low-cost nanofluid polymer added to water to separate solids, oils, organics, metals, nutrients and bacteria from waste streams.”
Amagel works by binding itself to pollutants and pulling them out of the water. The substance settles to the bottom, leaving clean water on top and eliminating the need for the use of filters in wastewater systems.
The first $250,000 in capital investments, Wages said, would go to develop joint wastewater treatment systems that incorporate the use of Amagel with systems in wastewater systems created by a partner firm, VM Technology Inc., of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Additional investment funds would finance automation of the production of Amagel, something Wages now does himself. Wages would like to establish several production sites, including one in Bayfield, one in California and a third in the Midwest or East Coast.
Investments would also allow Wages to hire a lead chemist and two on-site managers who would oversee the use of Amagel in wastewater systems and to develop a portable wastewater demonstration system that could be taken to sites of potential customers to show how a system using Amagel would clean their wastewater streams. He envisions a system that could clean 100 gallons per minute.
Currently, GC Solutions Inc. is using Amagel in a wastewater system to clean produced wastewater in oil and natural gas wells in Jal, New Mexico, and Pecos, Texas. It is also using Amagel in systems to clean industrial wastewater streams in Long Beach and Oxnard, California, and in Albuquerque.
GC Solutions is also working with Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Mountain Studies Institute and Fort Lewis College on developing applications for use of Amagel in other wastewater treatments and on proof of principle.
One use identified for Amagel is cleaning mine waste by removing heavy metals from mine wastewater streams.
Perhaps the biggest market for Amagel would be its use in municipal wastewater systems, but in the United States, substances used in wastewater treatment plants must undergo third-party certification through NSF International.
Wages said GC Solutions has completed Phase I requirements for NSF’s Series 60 certification, but completing Phase II requirements will be three times the expense of clearing Phase I requirements, and Wages is also planning on using investment funds to complete this regulatory hurdle.
Amagel is being used in six wastewater plants in the Ukraine and Wages said it has increased the efficiency of the plants’ systems – including improving the nitrogen removal of one plant by 65 percent and providing treated water with 73 percent less suspended solids than the treated water before incorporating use of Amagel.
The ‘GC’ in GC Solutions stands for “game changer,” Wages said.
“We’re at the point where we need investment funds,” Wages said. “We want the company to grow rapidly, but we don’t want it to grow too fast.”