Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
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Past Winner
2017 NSERC Synergy Awards for Innovation

Synergy Award for Innovation

Synergy Award for Innovation

Category 2: Large Companies

Western University
Savron Solutions

Hundreds of thousands of sites around the world are contaminated by hazardous chemicals, including coal tar, oil sludge and other forms of industrial pollution. The Canadian government alone is responsible for more than 23,000 of these sites and has pledged billions of dollars to address these issues. But many sites are left untreated and abandoned because few solutions exist. Those solutions that do exist are costly, energy-intensive, and not environmentally friendly, like digging up the dirty soil and moving it somewhere else. But a made-in-Canada collaboration has invented a clean technology that rehabilitates contaminated sites using a simple process we find in our own backyards.

Jason Gerhard, a researcher at Western University in London, Ontario, is working with his partners at Savron, a division of Geosyntec Consultants International Inc., to apply their STAR technology to contaminated sites around the world. STAR uses smouldering to burn away contaminants. A well is inserted below ground and into the contaminated soils, a special heater is placed in the well, and air is injected until the soil begins to smoulder, just like briquettes in a barbeque. Once the smouldering begins, the heater is turned off to save energy. That’s because smouldering is self-sustaining, spreading outwards while being fueled by the very contaminants it is burning up and leaving only clean soil behind. The result is a low-cost, low-energy, green solution that completely remediates sites once drenched in toxic waste. Even better, the process is fast, cleaning up sites in a matter of months instead of over the span of years.

Gerhard and Savron’s technology is generating keen interest from industrial companies and site managers. Since launching their collaboration, they have initiated more than 35 STAR projects around the world in locations such as the United States, Taiwan, Indonesia, China, Kuwait, Brazil, and the Philippines, as well as here in Canada. The partners are now looking at expanding the use of STAR, taking on more projects to remediate historical contamination. At the same time, they are expanding STAR’s use to new applications for ongoing major waste streams, such as those from waste water treatment plants and the pulp and paper industry.

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