Though I only joined Kemira a couple of months ago, I’ve been working with process water and wastewater treatment for over three decades. The customers I work with are primarily interested in process optimization and environmental impact reduction. Because water is key to so many processes, it’s also a key enabler of any cost or water reduction or re-use strategy. Our chemistry expertise can improve influent, process, and effluent water as well as peripheral applications like fugitive dust and process odor control. Although we have a very broad portfolio of novel treatment technologies at our disposal, it’s our application expertise with these technologies that adds the measurable value for our customers.
Our clients are likely familiar with the family of formulations we use; what sets us apart is how we apply them and measure their benefit.
Let me give you an example. Two surgeons might have the same education and set of surgical instruments, but which one do you want to operate on you – the one with two years’ experience or the one with 30? It’s the same with process chemicals. Our clients are likely familiar with the family of formulations we use; what sets us apart is how we apply them and measure their benefit.
When I meet with potential customers, my most important task is to listen. I sit down, talk to their experts, and learn about their specific process and unique set of challenges. We define process targets, run experiments, and do the lab work – it’s a lot of analytical and statistical investigative work to connect the dots. Only when we’ve run all the tests and audited the process am I in a position to offer an opinion on what kind of cost or environmental savings we can help enable and how. To continue the medical analogy, it’s just the same as a doctor talking to their patient and doing the blood work to find out what the specific problem is. A prescription without a diagnosis is malpractice. In that respect, I often think we are like water doctors.
If you can demonstrate clear cost and environmental benefits, it’s a no brainer.
There are so many ways we can use our chemistry application expertise to help our customers. We can accelerate solids settling and filtration rates to optimize processes and conserve capital and energy, or suppress process foaming to stabilize processes and minimize losses. We can use dispersants in water circuits and slurries to prevent equipment fouling, or employ rheology modifiers to increase slurry densities and production yield while reducing water, energy, equipment maintenance, and lost production – the list is endless. In a gold mine, for example, if you can increase a process throughput by 2 or 3%, that’s a benefit counted in millions of dollars annually. Although there is a lot of science in my job, it’s not rocket science – if you can demonstrate clear cost and environmental benefits, it’s a no brainer.
What’s interesting about working in this field is that no two processes are exactly the same. That means we’re not offering off-the-shelf solutions but tailored ones, with tailored applications too. It’s not just knowing the right chemicals to use, but how, where, and how often to use them – and in what precise amounts.
My favorite thing about this job is the chemical and process-operation detective work combined with the ability to use the results to provide concrete solutions to real-world challenges. We can take a specialty chemical and turn it into millions of dollars in savings by using our application expertise to reduce costs, minimize downtime, extend equipment life, increase yields, or optimize environmental protection processes. We’re here to be trusted advisors to our customers, and it’s a great feeling when you earn that trust.