Specialist engineering firm Whitefox Technologies has made a major breakthrough in the US market with its energy and water-efficient membrane solution for ethanol production.
The London-based business has signed a technology licence and purchase agreement for an industrial scale system with California-based Pacific Ethanol and an agreement on a Whitefox solution for Iowa-based Pine Lake Corn Processors.
The deals came after successful trials of a demonstration plant last year at Pacific Ethanol. They have opened up potential markets for energy and water-efficient ethanol production and similar applications with a market value running into billions of dollars.
Whitefox delivers innovative membrane solutions for a variety of solvent applications and chemical reactions. They improve productivity and reduce water and energy use.
Whitefox operating officer Trond Heggenhougen said:
It’s extremely difficult to get into the US market. When you first do it, it is very significant. That’s why this is so exciting.
We are also addressing global problems of an increasing population with limited supplies of water and energy.
The Whitefox bolt-on solution is attractive to a US ethanol industry that needs to improve its productivity to remain competitive and is increasingly required to meet exacting environmental standards being introduced by state legislators.
The business has had a stream of inquiries from US firms since the deals were announced.
Whitefox has taken part in two ‘clean and cool’ missions to San Francisco and Brazil supported by Innovate UK.
Missions are short business trips abroad run by Innovate UK and UK Trade and Investment. They are designed to help ambitious entrepreneurs with innovative products to meet new project partners, customers, suppliers and investors in other countries.
I went on the Clean and Cool Mission to San Francisco in 2012. I was able to speak to key stakeholders, industry players and potential customers and get advice and support from mission sponsors.
It’s important. It helps you to get a foothold in the market. Since then we have had help with getting customers from the UKTI in San Francisco and particularly from the UKTI in Chicago.
Whitefox says it has also benefited from maintaining the contacts among fellow participants in the missions and from building on its networking through industry events and conferences.
The company has grown from 12 to 18 employees over the last year and expects to be 25-to-30 strong by the end of this year. It expects to grow further as it exploits market opportunities in North America and Europe.