Saudi oil giant takes stake in Irish wastewater start-up OxyMem

20 Jun 2017

Water and oil. Image: Art2ur/Shutterstock

OxyMem’s wastewater management system has attracted investors from far and wide, though courting the Saudi Arabian Oil Company is a big coup.

Saudi Aramco is the Saudi Arabian national petroleum and gas company, worth up to $10trn (depending on who you believe).

It is the major player in the world energy scene and, as of this week, it has a stake in OxyMem, a University College Dublin (UCD) spin-out making waves in the wastewater management space.

Wayne Byrne, MD of OxyMem, said he was “delighted to have secured this latest funding from such an influential actor in the energy world”, with the future of the company looking brighter than ever.

“We feel strongly supported by Saudi Aramco and believe this investment will add momentum to our market development goals, particularly in some of the more water-stressed regions.”

Super technology

The investment value is, as yet, undisclosed, but Bruce Niven, CIO of Aramco’s investment arm SAEV, lauded OxyMem’s Membrane Aerated Biofilm Reactor (MABR) technology.

Calling it a “compelling technology”, Niven said he and his team “look forward to working with the OxyMem team to further develop their transformative wastewater technology and to grow the business”.

OxyMem claims that MABR has the potential to bring wastewater treatment closer to energy neutrality by reducing energy consumption for aeration by up to 75pc.

The OxyMem team at the company base in Athlone. Image: OxyMem

The OxyMem team at the company base in Athlone. Image: OxyMem

Strong support

The Saudi Arabian company’s interest is the latest in a long line of achievements for the Westmeath start-up.

It recently secured investment from Dow Water and Process Solutions, a business unit of The Dow Chemical Company.

Snehal Desai, global business director of Dow, said: “Our work with OxyMem in the past year has validated our belief in the MABR technology and the cost-effective solutions it can provide to the industrial and municipal wastewater industry.

“As an existing strategic investor, Dow welcomes SAEV as a knowledgeable co-investor. The additional financing will allow OxyMem to accelerate its commercialisation activity.”

Awards and recognition

OxyMem’s status in the clean energy sector has soared since Byrne, Prof Eoin Casey and Dr Eoin Syron founded it at UCD in 2013.

It was shortlisted for the Platts Global Energy Awards soon after creation, before winning the grand prize at Imagine H2O, a leading accelerator for water technology based in San Francisco, in 2015.

It was then named in the Global Cleantech 100, which cites private companies with the highest potential to make the most significant market impact on clean technologies over the next five to 10 years.

Its MABR technology was also recognised at the Brussels-based Most Innovative European Biotech SME Awards last September.

“I believe that we have an important technology that can make a sizeable contribution in the wastewater market, where there is a significant need for more efficient infrastructure solutions,” said Byrne, revealing today’s (20 June) investment.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic