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Posted December 7 2011

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Green Energy

PARTEQ-founded green chemistry centre stimulates $3.2 million in investment in breakthrough Queen’s technology

KINGSTON - A bold new approach to commercializing Canadian research discoveries in green chemistry has resulted in a $3.2 million vote of confidence from industry investors and venture capitalists.

The investment will be used to further develop a promising green solvent technology with a wide array of potential uses, including efficient, clean recovery of bitumen from oil sands, plastics recycling, and oil extraction from seeds or algae. The technology, discovered by Dr. Philip Jessop, Canada Research Chair in Green Chemistry at Queen’s University, recently formed the basis of a new Ontario company, Switchable Solutions Inc.

Switchable Solutions was formed by GreenCentre Canada, a National Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR ). GreenCentre was established by PARTEQ Innovations, the technology transfer office of Queen’s.

“PARTEQ provided the leadership and vision that identified a need for a national, collaborative approach to developing university research that brought together industry, infrastructure and focused expertise in a hands-on, substantive way,” says Dr. Steven Liss, Vice-Principal (Research) at Queen’s. “GreenCentre and its spinoff company are the exciting products of that vision.”

“There is a great wealth of green chemistry innovation happening in Canada, but in the past we lacked the critical mass to support these discoveries beyond the research lab,” says John Molloy, President and CEO of PARTEQ Innovations. “This first investment shows that the GreenCentre model is working.”

“Both GreenCentre Canada and PARTEQ played important roles in advancing our technology from the pure research stage to the market-ready development stage,” says Mark Badger, CEO of Switchable Solutions.

“With Switchable Solutions’ initial equity offering complete and other financings nearing conclusion, we are poised to deliver technology that will have a transformational impact on our customers’ profitability, as well as a significant positive impact on the environment.”

Partners in the SSI investment round include strategic industrial partners, financial partners and management. Approximately half of the offering resulted from cash injections, with the remainder through development services provided by strategic industrial partners. The company’s shareholders now include GreenCentre Canada, Fielding Chemical Technologies Inc., Pressure Chemical Inc., Stewardship Ontario, Nexcycle Plastics Inc., Fallingbrook Management Inc. and Switchable Solutions’ management.

Since its inception earlier this year, the company has completed numerous laboratory-scale applications of its technology to the extraction of bitumen from oil sands. These trials have indicated the technology’s potential to significantly reduce oil sands processing costs and eliminate tailing ponds. In addition, these trials have confirmed the ability of Switchable Solutions’ technology to effectively extract bitumen from difficult clay-laced ore. The company is embarking upon construction of a pilot oil sands processing facility.

The company has also recycled trial quantities of expanded polystyrene plastic waste, including cushion packaging. These trials have produced recycled materials displaying similar characteristics to virgin polystyrene. A producer of plastic consumer products has now validated Switchable Solutions’ trial materials. The company is embarking upon construction of a plastic recycling demonstration plant at Fielding Chemical’s Mississauga site.

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