Forward Water Technologies (TSXV:FWTC) is helping lithium mining companies and other industries reduce their environmental impact through its innovative wastewater treatment technology that enables industrial operations to reduce liquid waste volume by up to 95 percent.
Environmental, social and governance (ESG) ratings continue to be a key business strategy for organizations as they impact public perception and partnership possibilities. For water-intensive industries, such as mining, sustainable wastewater management is critical.
Transformative wastewater technologies are critical for both businesses and the world’s population. In fact, unless sufficient progress is achieved, UNICEF and WHO estimate that 1.6 billion people will be without access to safe drinking water by 2030, and 2.8 billion will be without access to safe sanitation and hygiene. Water treatment technologies can disrupt current trends and improve global access to safe drinking water.
Through its Forward Osmosis (FO) technology, Forward Water is providing an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional wastewater disposal. Traditionally, wastewater disposal requires transporting untreated wastewater for deep well disposal or high-intensity thermal treatment.
Forward Water’s FO system is installed at the client site, and wastewater is treated to reduce waste volume and produce valuable clean water for reuse in the manufacturing process. Then, the significantly reduced volume of wastewater is transported and disposed of, significantly saving on transportation and disposal costs.
The FO technology targets three massive sectors: industrial wastewater, mining and food manufacturing. Forward Water’s unique and patented FO technology achieves high-rate water extraction within a low-energy continuous process. The process reduces waste and allows up to 95 percent water recovery, ready for reuse.
Forward Water’s Li-FO technology is ideal for lithium-brine mining operations, allowing mines to “fine tune” brine sources to improve concentration by up to 20 times. This results in improved recovery and makes lower-concentration brines economically viable. Forward Water is currently embarking on an early development testing project to further evaluate and refine the technology’s viability in lithium mining.
In 2023, the company’s wholly owned subsidiary, Forward Water Technologies Inc., licensed specific intellectual property from FUJIFILM Corporation to solidify the protection of its water treatment technology platform.
Forward Water Technologies is in the early stages of negotiating the delivery of an FWTC forward osmosis pilot system on-site in Chile to support a customer’s lithium extraction process. Pursuing this opportunity is the company’s response to the growing demand for its innovative technology in the region.
Howie Honeyman, CEO, explained in an interview how the company’s technology can improve lithium mining operations. “A lot of lithium being mined today around the world is coming from underground aquifers that store the lithium brine. The challenge is that the lithium is surrounded by other minerals and salts, requiring chemical ‘tweezers’ to pluck out that lithium. What we can do is, at multiple places in that process, we can concentrate that lithium-containing water stream, which makes it far easier for these miners to handle the volumes they need to extract that lithium.”
An experienced management team with technical expertise leads the company towards further refining and deploying its technology. The team includes experts in materials science, chemistry and engineering. Additional experts in corporate administration and financing round out the leadership team to lead the company toward its goals.
Forward Osmosis Water Treatment
Forward Osmosis (FO) is a naturally occurring process in which water is spontaneously drawn across a membrane when one solution is higher in salt concentration than the other. The difference in salinity, known as the osmotic gradient, creates a low-energy water treatment process.
Forward Water Technologies has leveraged the naturally occurring process to innovate its patented, three-step FO technology, allowing for 95 percent wastewater reduction and 95 percent water recovery.
Widely Applicable Water Treatment: The low-energy process allows organizations across several industries to improve water reclamation and reduce wastewater by up to 95 percent. Additionally, the process allows for up to 20 times concentration, making the process amenable to lithium-brine extraction and other potential applications.Significant Cost Savings: The primary value proposition for the FO process is cost reduction in wastewater transportation and disposal. With the process in place, more water is reclaimed for reuse in manufacturing, which reduces the raw volume of wastewater that must be transported and disposed of.
Howie Honeyman – Chief Executive Officer and President
Dr. Howie Honeyman has 20 years of experience commercializing new technologies at Xerox, Cabot, E Ink, Natrix Separations and as former CTO of GreenCentre Canada. Honeyman commercialized high-capacity, high-throughput membranes for bioprocessing as SVP of Natrix Separations, which has since been acquired by Millipore-Sigma. Since 2015, Honeyman has been leading Forward Water to become a premier wastewater treatment solution. Honeyman is also an inventor of record on over 50 US patents and holds a PhD in chemistry from the University of Toronto.
Michael Willetts – Chief Financial Officer
Michael Willetts has over 25 years in financial leadership roles primarily in manufacturing, from large multinational businesses to startups, both public and private. He previously worked as an engineer in the automotive industry before entering into finance at Ford Motor Company. Willets went on to progressively larger finance roles in several international automotive suppliers (Textron, GKN, DSM) and Canadian manufacturers (Armtec, Stronach International, AirBoss of America). Willetts is currently providing fractional CFO services through WD Numeric Corporate Services in the manufacturing, SaaS and cannabis industries. Willetts graduated with a BASc, BComm and MBA from the University of Windsor.
Wayne Maddever – Chief Operating Officer
Dr. Wayne Maddever received his Ph.D. in materials science engineering from the University of Toronto. Since 1985, he has held senior executive management positions with technically based businesses in start-up, turnaround or acquisition situations where his skills in change management have brought considerable success in the commercialization of new technologies. His experience in both private and public companies, domestically and internationally, spans a broad variety of industries, including bio and advanced materials, precision manufacturing, recycling, waste-to-energy and medical devices. He holds a number of patents in several fields. He is a fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering. In addition to his duties as COO of Forward Water, he is currently portfolio manager at Bioindustrial Innovation Canada, one of the major shareholders of Forward Water.
Grant Thornley – VP Engineering Solution Sales
Grant Thornley is a business strategist with more than 25 years of experience. He has developed and grown international water/wastewater markets through innovative growth hacking techniques and processes, synergized with product development and positioning, data analytics and acceleration of go-to-market strategies through alliances and partnerships. Having expertise in chemical, mechanical and biological treatment processes as well as designing hundreds of municipal and industrial applications, Thornley brings a knowledge-to-action approach to helping clients solve problems and realize new opportunities in water reuse, energy conservation and CO2 reduction.
Leonard Seed – Director of Engineering & Operations
Leonard Seed has over 18 years of experience developing and commercializing new water and wastewater treatment technologies, primarily in a start-up environment. Seed is named as an inventor on over seven patents and has authored several publications. Seed is a professional engineer and has an MSc in environmental engineering from the University of Guelph. Leonard holds inventorship on seven US patents and is an instructor at Mohawk College teaching aspects of water treatment technologies and leading research efforts on forward osmosis.
Philip Jessop – Executive Research Director
Dr. Philip Jessop is a professor and Canada Research Chair of Green Chemistry at the Department of Chemistry, Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. He also serves as the technical director of GreenCentre Canada and executive research director at Forward Water Technologies. After his Ph.D. (British Columbia, 1991) and a postdoctoral appointment (Toronto, 1992), he became a contract researcher in Japan working for R. Noyori (Nobel Prize 2001). As a professor at the University of California-Davis (1996-2003) and since then at Queen’s, he has studied green solvents and the chemistry of carbon dioxide. Distinctions include the NSERC Polanyi Award (2008), Killam Research Fellowship (2010), Canadian Green Chemistry & Engineering Award (2012), Eni Award (2013), Fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada (2013), a Canada Research Chair Tier 1 (2013 to 2020), and the NSERC Brockhouse Prize (2019). He serves as chair of the editorial board for the journal Green Chemistry, has chaired three international conferences, and helped create GreenCentre Canada, a national center of excellence for the commercialization of green chemistry technologies. Forward Water is a spin-off company based on Dr. Jessop’s switchable solvents.