Greening the Globe

April 1, 2013

West Mountain Capital takes its nonincineration technology for contaminated-site cleaning from Canada to China

By Christopher Cussat

Headquartered in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, West Mountain Capital Inc. (WMT) is now completely focused on doing business in the Chinese market. In short, this environment-minded company is fervently bringing its technology to China and helping to clean up its environment.

Because of industry stagnation in Canada, WMT has shifted its attention to China, but the quantity of possible work is also an immense incentive. President and CEO Paul Antle explains why he thought this market had the most promise and opportunity. “Compared to other emerging markets, I felt as though China had the political willingness for change,” he says. “Since becoming a member of the World Trade Organization, they’re at a point in their development where the environment became a large forefront issue for them.”

In addition, Antle acknowledges how the sheer size of the Chinese market and trade volume has affected its environment. “China obviously has the mass to push out large volumes of products in a very short time, but what they were not very good at yet is protecting the environment,” he explains. As a result, China faces air, soil, and water pollution—tremendously decreasing the quality of life for its people.

WMT decided it could become a major service provider for a massive need in that country because of its expertise in contaminated property remediation. “We had the foresight to see that the remediation services we have been providing in North America for 20 years were going to be in demand in China, so we began travelling there to assess and identify business possibilities,” Antle says.

A priority area where China needed help was with the cleaning of old pesticide-manufacturing properties. “So many of those contaminated areas have gone untouched and untreated for dozens of years, and they’re now creating problems for public access to potable drinking water and land for farming or residential development,” Antle says.

Currently, he adds, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is in the process of making a huge move on cleaning up some very strategic properties for building new communities that need innovative technologies to do it quickly and efficiently.

“That’s where we fit in—because we utilize nonincineration technology, and China is becoming anti-incineration as a result of their air-pollution issues.”

To put the size of the Chinese market in perspective, one of Canada’s largest contaminated sites in recent history consisted of 75,000 tons of soil. “In China, the size of a small contaminated property is 100,000 tons,” Antle says. “We know of a site in China that is as large as two million tons of soil—so you can see that both the scale of the problem and the scale of the opportunity are enormous.”

From his early travels to China, Antle soon learned that the Chinese like to see you make a commitment to their country. “In 2010, the approach we used to penetrate the marketplace was unconventional,” he says. “Firstly, without a contract, we invested in China by building our technology there in partnership with the government. Then we demonstrated that it worked, and got our first contract in 2012.” Right now, WMT is one of the few foreign environmental-remediation companies in China working in this industry sector.

WMT has a total of three joint ventures in China. The first is focused on soil, and that is the biggest component of what the company is doing. “The PRC estimates there are some 600,000 contaminated sites in China,” Antle says, “and of those, 300 are priorities because of their strategic importance.” So even if each of these priority sites conservatively averages 100,000 tons of contaminated soil, combined they compute to at least 30 million tons of soil—and this would be the immediate market. “That alone is a lifetime of work for us,” he notes.

The second and third joint ventures focus on the recovery of oil from waste left in tank bottoms, tanker ships, oil-storage farms, oil lakes, and lagoons. According to Antle, China has about 50,000 producing oil wells. “There is oily sludge waste produced in many locations from that sector as a result,” he says. “What we do is recover oil from that sludge, which is then resold or recycled in the local market.”

Antle believes that WMT’s technology is really the driving force behind the firm’s success in China. In fact, this specific technology was always a front-runner for WMT because the firm knew that international clients were going to want a cleaner and more eco-friendly solution. “Our management team knew that back in the mid-’90s,” Antle says. “In the meantime, we also managed to find new applications for our technology to treat really diverse types of waste, so we never had to rely on one industry or one specific contaminate. In other words, we had the foresight to really broaden our application, which eventually opened up a whole bunch of other markets for us.”

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