By Anna Lardinois, Startup Storyteller
Energy Tech Innovations, LLC (ETI) is one of the 26 companies vying for a win in the Wisconsin Governor’s Business Plan contest. Founded in 2015, this company has developed a simpler and more cost-effective way to create biogas, while commodifying the carbon dioxide that is a byproduct of the process.
As CEO and founder Bryan Johnson often says, “with ETI, nothing goes to waste.”
The startup garnered attention when it was a winner in The Water Council’s BREW (Business Research Entrepreneurship in Wisconsin) Accelerator program in 2016.
Today, Johnson, and his work, are well known in the Milwaukee water technology community. The company is housed inside the Global Water Center, and ETI’s first pilot technology demonstration occurred at Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District’s Jones Island wastewater treatment facility. According to Johnson, the work was a success, in part because of the support from The Water Council and University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. “I involved UWM in process validation work where three of their students earned their master’s degrees by working with me during my technology demonstrations,” he said.
The engineer became interested in biogas when he began working in the solid waste industry.
“The use of solid waste generates biogas, and I became fascinated with the use of this biogas for energy purposes…Biogas is similar to natural gas. It’s a diluted form of natural gas,” Johnson explained. “Biogas is a carbon neutral form of fuel that can be utilized when it’s cleaned and purified. And that’s my process. I use water to purify.”
“Biogas has two primary components,” he continued, “methane and carbon dioxide…When I remove that carbon dioxide in my process, I’m making a natural gas, which is essentially 100% methane. What I do with that carbon dioxide is I use it back in the wastewater treatment plant for beneficial uses.”
The market is there for this kind of innovation. According to the CEO, there are 16,000 wastewater treatment plants in the United States and only a small percentage of those facilities use biogas for energy. Energy Tech Innovations plans to change that.
Additionally, as the demand for green energies increases, biogas, a renewable natural gas (RNG), has become an increasingly popular option for large corporations that are able to convert waste into energy and ultimately use it to do things like fuel delivery trucks or operate factory equipment. Johnson notes that the government tax credits associated with green energy initiatives make this option increasingly affordable.
The startup with a number of US and international patents has raised $100,000 in grants and is considering a number of different strategies to scale the business. He is optimistic about his prospects.
“The mission is to provide a low-cost way to more effectively produce renewable natural gas, and it really has evolved into using the carbon dioxide. I’m the only company in the market right now that is using biogas carbon dioxide and recycling it for beneficial uses. No one else is doing this,” he said.
To learn more about ETI, and the science behind the project, visit the website.