Claros Technologies, which last year raised $5.35 million in venture capital, has struck its first major agreement to scale its system to “capture, concentrate and destroy” PFAS chemicals from wastewater.
Minneapolis-based Claros said it has a partnership worth millions of dollars with Japan’s Kureha Corp., a manufacturer of specialty chemicals and plastics for the advanced materials, agrochemicals, pharmaceuticals and wastewater-treatment industries.
“As a chemical company, Kureha has responsibility for mitigating the environmental impact of PFAS,” Naomitsu Nishihata, president of Kureha America, said in a statement. “We seek to be socially responsible, accelerate innovation and expand our business portfolio. And Claros’ comprehensive PFAS solution helps us meet each of those goals.”
Claros CEO Michelle Bellanca, a former 3M technology executive recruited to commercialize Claros, called the agreement with Kureha a development that involves “substantial funds to accelerate our scale-up and commercialization of Claros’ PFAS-destruction system.”
“We have a partner who is ready to put our systems into real-world applications,” Bellanca said. “We’re confident that we are going to be very cost-competitive. For every million gallons of PFAS-polluted water treated, we concentrate that down with our sorbent to less than 10 gallons of PFAS concentrate to be destroyed.”
On Tuesday, Claros will open a new headquarters and pilot plant in northeast Minneapolis.
Born of a University of Minnesota research lab, the company also has received funding from the U.S. military.
PFAS, short for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are manufactured chemicals known for their nonstick and water-resistant properties and have long been used in products ranging from fabric protectors to plastics and firefighting foam.
But the so-called “forever chemicals” don’t break down in the environment and can accumulate in blood. PFAS has polluted groundwater — including in Washington County — and some studies have linked it to health risks, including certain types of cancer.
Although older versions of the chemicals have been retired, there are still PFAS being made by 3M and other companies.
Claros says its technology has “multiple competitive advantages over current PFAS treatment solutions.” Basically, its pollution-absorbing sorbent means less polluted water is moved through filters that then must be disposed of in landfills or incinerated — lessening its total effect on the environment.
Bellanca and Abdennour Abbas, the company’s founder and chief technology officer, believe their work and the Kureha relationship will demonstrate to industry and regulators that Claros has built the first PFAS-destruction system that can break down PFAS into harmless byproducts.
“We envision a future where chemical manufacturers will be required to pass their wastewater through a destruction system like ours before releasing it into public waters,” Abbas said. “That’s the only way to ensure that harmful chemicals won’t harm people and the environment. [This] would significantly simplify chemical waste regulation and save manufacturers from crippling liabilities and lawsuits.”
PFAS chemicals were pioneered by Maplewood-based 3M Co. The company struck a deal in 2018 to pay Minnesota $850 million to settle a lawsuit over related contamination.
3M declined to comment on whether it’s watching neighboring Claros.
It said in a statement this week: “We are working across multiple disciplines to better understand innovative PFAS treatment, remediation, testing, and more. 3M plans to invest in and install advanced water-treatment technologies that can remove PFAS, organic materials and other materials at our facilities globally, including at all of our largest water-using locations by 2024.”
The company said it is on track to reduce its PFAS discharges by more than 95% by 2025 and 99% by 2030.
Claros said it is consulting with several companies it declined to identify.
“Changing the way we treat our chemical waste by adopting a closed-loop system will not only reduce risks for the public and the environment but also eliminate latent and future liabilities for manufacturers and waste-disposal companies,” Abbas said. “The same way we are transitioning to a clean-energy industry, we should start a transition from incineration and landfilling to a closed-loop system for a permanent destruction of chemical waste. ”