From Innovative Technology to Sustainable Business: the E-Flux Story

Colorado State University Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise student Xiaowei "Jerri" Hu

Jerri Hu

7/30/13 – Stories from the Field: This guest post is written by Jerri Hu, a student in the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA CSU Ventures program at Colorado State University. Jerri has been working alongside Mackai Tapleshay to support E-Flux Environmental Services Company, a startup, to commercialize the field-proven soil gas flux measurement technology in the environmental remediation industry across the U.S.

What is E-Flux?

The expansion of the petroleum industry in the U.S. has garnered growing public concerns for the harmful environmental impacts associated with oil spills, storage and transportation leakage and other handling incidents. Remediation actions taken to mitigate these environmental impacts require monitoring solutions in order to select appropriate methods and assess the effectiveness. E-Flux provides a simple-to-use and cost-effective solution to meet these monitoring needs by using CO2 traps. These passive flux CO2 traps were invented by a team of researchers at Colorado State University’s Center for Contaminant Hydrology (CCH) with the close collaboration of industry sponsors. The technology has been used at about 20 sites impacted with petroleum hydrocarbon across the U.S. Field test results demonstrate that E-Flux CO2 traps are a valuable tool in determining the appropriate timing, scale and aggressiveness of petroleum hydrocarbon remediation. In other words, E-Flux technology helps clean up after oil spills.

Clearly, E-Flux is a brilliant technology – but is that enough? Mackai and I have identified several areas that will help E-Flux become not just a piece of technology, but a scalable, impactful venture.

  1. Jerri talking to an environmental scientist and entrepreneur at the Battelle Symposium

    Jerri talking to an environmental scientist and entrepreneur at the Battelle Symposium

    Exposure to the Target Market: In order to get the word out about this technology, I attended the Battelle Symposium of Remediation and Sustainable Environmental Technologies in June in Florida. This large-scale international symposium was attended by over a thousand of scientists, engineers, regulators, site managers and other environmental professionals, representing universities, government agencies, consultants, and R&D and environmental services firms from all over the world.  All in all, E-Flux was well received at the conference. Dr. Julio Zimbron, one of the inventors of the CO2 traps and the founder of E-Flux, gave a presentation on the technology, and two client representatives presented a case study of the innovative methods deployed and how the results were used to evaluate and select remedial alternatives for their clients’ contaminated sites. “The CO2 flux trap invented at Colorado State University is a green and sustainable environmental technology, it provides an effective solution to measure hydrocarbon natural attenuation rates at petroleum-contaminated sites, and thus we can use the rates measured to develop an objective benchmark which can be used to compare the relative effectiveness of active remedial alternatives”, concluded Thomas Palaia from CH2M HILL in his case-study presentation at the Symposium.

  2. Dr. Julio Zimbron and an E-Flux CO2 canister

    Dr. Julio Zimbron and an E-Flux CO2 canister

    Product Simplicity: E-Flux’s exposure at the symposium and the positive feedback from the audience paved the way for our team to conduct further market research for E-Flux. From our interviews with E-Flux current clients, we validated our previous value proposition: improved accuracy, simplicity, cost-effectiveness and repeatability. One client highlighted that “the beauty of this technology is its simplicity, it is easy and inexpensive to use, and it does effective work, giving us repeatable and reliable data.”

  3. Listening to the Customer: When we examined how E-Flux could serve the industry better, we got feedback from our clients that product quality, lab analysis accuracy, prompt delivery to the market, recommendation from an authoritative resource, and a good relationship with clients are the several key success factors.
  4. Sustainable Demand: From the symposium and our talks with environmental professionals, we got a better picture on the long-term prospects of E-Flux: the growth of the company will be bolstered by a large quantity of contaminated sites, and ongoing concerns like petroleum contaminations, brownfields and redevelopments. In addition, the EPA’s continued assertion that the remediation cost horizon stretches longer than many envisioned encourages the active promotion of sustainable remediation technologies.
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