NOW:53154:USA00949
http://widgets.journalinteractive.com/cache/JIResponseCacher.ashx?duration=5&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdata.wp.myweather.net%2FeWxII%2F%3Fdata%3D*USA00949
32°
H 47° L 32°
Snow | 18MPH

Local firm has role in Kuwait oil cleanup

Environmental cleanup crews from Amiran Technologies LLC, Oak Creek, explore a pit in northern Kuwait where oil-contaminated sand is stored in the wake of the 1990 invasion. The darker sand is where the contaminated sand is stored.

Environmental cleanup crews from Amiran Technologies LLC, Oak Creek, explore a pit in northern Kuwait where oil-contaminated sand is stored in the wake of the 1990 invasion. The darker sand is where the contaminated sand is stored. Photo By Amiran Technologies LLC

June 7, 2012

When Iraqi troops retreated from Kuwait 21 years ago following the 1990 invasion by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, they set fire to hundreds of Kuwaiti oil wells and opened spigots at others in a wasteful retribution as they withdrew.

The environmental disaster left in their wake has become a $15.1 million business opportunity for a start-up environmental firm in metro Milwaukee that patented a process to separate oil from sand and soil.

"This is a massive job," said Mohsen Amiran, a chemical engineer who spent his career developing environmental remediation technologies. Two years ago, Amiran, 62, founded Amiran Technologies LLC to develop ways to commercialize a lifetime of research.

Amiran Technologies remains small, with 18 engineers and marketers in the office in Oak Creek. The firm is bidding on a raft of other potential projects in the United States and abroad.

But for now, its contract in Kuwait stands as its first big milestone. The United Nations War Reparation Fund, financed mainly from Iraqi oil revenue, recently allocated $3 billion for the long-overdue cleanup.

Until now, Kuwait simply dug up tons of oil-contaminated sand and soil and dumped it into pits in the desert - one pit for each of the 600 Kuwaiti oil wells that Saddam's forces either blew up, spilled or set on fire. Much of the U.N. funding will go to minesweepers, which are necessary to finally begin environmental remediation work in earnest.

And $15.1 million goes to Amiran, specifically to its oil-separation subsidiary called Biogenesis Enterprises Inc.

According to Amiran executives, oil spills are uniquely vexing environmental problems. Many just dump oil-contaminated soil into landfills or incinerators, which can create other environmental problems.

Amiran, who holds two doctorates in chemistry, developed a reactor that uses jets of water and nontoxic chemicals, which are roughly as potent as dish detergent, to separate oil and other industrial contaminants like mercury or PCBs from sands and soils. It's able to strip contaminants at the micron level, meaning the process works not only on sand but on particles of earth the size of talcum powder.

The company already has been testing large-scale versions of the reactor in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The idea is to cleanly separate the oil from the sand and "give the Kuwaitis clean, construction-grade sand and refinable oil for sale," said Phil Skrade, chief executive of Amiran Technologies. "It's a form of recycling," said Paul Chadwick, a marketing executive at Amiran.

The volume of oil to be reclaimed in Kuwait is at least 10 times greater than that from the BP oil spill two years ago in the Gulf of Mexico. In some places, the oil has seeped more than 40 feet into the desert soil, Amiran said.

"The oil spilled by Iraq's troops was about 60 million barrels, or about $5 billion worth in today's dollars," Amiran said.

If Amiran successfully cleans three contaminated pits, Kuwait told Amiran that it likely would give the Oak Creek firm additional work. Skrade said he expects the Kuwait cleanup to become a 20-year project.

The technologies grew out of Amiran's interests as a chemical engineer.

Born in Iran, Amiran left after the 1979 revolution that overthrew the shah. He took his family, including his son Sherwin, who was 3 months old at the time and now works as a managing partner at his father's company.

The Iranian scientist became a U.S. citizen and academic, lecturing at the University of Essex in Britain and Northwestern University in Chicago. But his work in oil remediation traces back to 1989 following the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.

He's developing a number of chemical processes to separate metals and industrial contaminants. Other projects could involve the oil sands regions of Canada, where Amiran Technologies is pursuing a contract for oil separation from the tar shale.

The company is also studying the cleanup of the Fox River, where the EPA is dredging PCBs.

This site uses Facebook comments to make it easier for you to contribute. If you see a comment you would like to flag for spam or abuse, click the "x" in the upper right of it. By posting, you agree to our Terms of Use.

Suburban News Roundup

E-mail Newsletter

Your link to the biggest stories in the suburbs delivered Thursday mornings.


Enter your e-mail address above and click "Sign Up Now!" to begin receiving your e-mail newsletter
Get the Newsletter!

Login or Register to manage all your newsletter preferences.

Community Watch

» Have a 'Dickens of a Christmas' in Greendale on December 5 02:06 PM

» Wrong-way driver turns himself in after I-794 crash Updated:  11/22

» Off-duty Milwaukee police officer pepper-sprayed by fleeing suspect 11/22

» State champion Oak Creek girls hoops team opens with rout of Horlick 11/21

» Video: Franklin faces conflicting views on new developments 11/21

» Greendale School Board to host special meeting for potential spring election candidates 11/20

» Franklin adopts 2015 budget, keeps tax levy frozen 11/19

» American flags raised in support of veterans memorial to be removed during Greendale ceremony 11/18

» Oak Creek approves city budget with small tax levy increase 11/17

» Franklin police search for two armed robbery suspects 11/17

» 2 men, ages 75 and 53, tied up at gunpoint in Franklin robbery 11/17

» Kayla's Krew to hold a "Design Day" for all-inclusive playground concepts 11/17

» Donations pour in for family stranded in Franklin motel 11/14

» Greendale's annual Tree Lighting Ceremony set for November 28 11/14

» Franklin house fire results in $90,000 worth of property loss 11/14

» Ditched by traveling subscription sales crew, family huddles in motel 11/13

» Santa is ready to come to Oak Creek with a holiday workshop, bake contest and games 11/13

» Greendale High School's FBLA chapter hosts 'Walk for Wellness' fundraiser for March of Dimes 11/12

» Street to be named for Medal of Honor recipient Gary Wetzel 11/12

» Church loses appeal over late Franklin farmer's estate 11/12

» Amendments pass that would keep wading pool open, continue UW-Extension contract and repair Hales Co 11/11

» Sports bar and grill to replace China Inn in Hales Corners 11/10

» Suburban roundup: Week three of the WIAA football postseason 11/10

» Preps football photos of the week: Level 3 11/7

» Franklin High theater students reach out to community for 'Any Given Day' 11/5

View All Posts Got a tip? Welcome rss

Advertisement

Deal Watch - Milwaukee

Milwaukee's Best Discounts & Deals

Advertisement

Local Business Directory

Advertisement

CONNECT    

Advertisement