Proklean Technologies prevents 7,500 tonnes of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere

Proklean Technologies has so far helped save 7,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.

The specialty biochemicals firm has found that some of its products have 80 per cent lower carbon footprint than conventional ‘non-green’ products.

“A third-party evaluated us on a number of factors and arrived at the conclusion. So not only do we not use chemicals in our manufacturing process, our products helps make clients come out ‘greener’ in the true sense,” said Chief Operating Officer Alok Goel.

The evaluation included calculating the carbon embedded in the raw materials Proklean used; every step of the manufacturing process was reviewed to understand how much carbon was emitted; packaging was examined to review the distance the material traversed to its units, how far it travelled to the customers’ gate; and customers’ processes too were checked to see if use of these products helped increase or lower effluents, how much heating or cooling is required and the like.

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“All this was compared on an apples-to-apples basis with conventional products,” Goel said.

Goel says the findings were interesting because the number that the study threw up was quite large, given that Proklean is a small company.

“We could still make a dent on helping clients reduce their carbon footprint. As we scale and multiply, that will become multiples of carbon footprint saved.”

He points out that chemicals are actually the largest contributor to climate change. “They don’t get large headlines because the embodied crude oil required for the extraction of chemicals is not built into the calculations.”

Consortium of bacteria

So what is different about Proklean’s processes from the rest who want to go green?

The company uses a ‘consortium’ of ‘good’ or probiotic bacteria that work in tandem. This compares with numerous other fermentation processes in vogue that use a single strain or family of these organisms.

”That is why we are more effective than processes that use a single strain of bacteria. That’s also a part of why we can do low-cost manufacturing. It’s the nature of this consortium; they are able to hold on and fight off pathogenic bacteria that attack them.”

Typically ‘green’ chemicals are 3-5 times costlier than conventional chemicals, he says. One prime reason is that in the fermentation mode, you require very expensive bioreactors to maintain a particular cleaning condition and you need downstream processing — which add almost 60 to 80 per cent cost — after fermentation is complete.

“When this combination of bacteria is initiated into a fermentation process, they emit certain biochemicals. The combination of the microbes and the biochemicals produced help deliver the performance in many applications,” Goel said.

Proklean’s edge was that its method used probiotic microorganisms without requiring any downstream process. Plus, an indigenously developed reactor — a set of high-density polyethylene tanks — didn’t require large capex or heating / cooling.

“The product was non-toxic, biodegradable and was able to match the performance of conventional products,” he added.

Green alternatives

Customers generally look for three things when they switch over to a ‘green’ product: it should match performance of the traditional product, be competitive on price, and have no barriers to adoption for the user. Goel asserts that unless these three conditions are met, the company does not even release products from the R&D for mass manufacturing.

The first industry that Proklean addressed was leather manufacturing, followed by textiles. A couple of years ago, it started servicing the pulp and paper segment. Last year, it launched cleaning products, targeted at industrial as well as retail consumers.

Asked how, for example, the company has helped textiles clients save on costs, Goel said that at each stage – from converting cotton converting to yarn and yarn into fabric, it’s a fully water-based process, and for heating or cleaning the fabric, textile mills use a lot of chemicals called surfactants. They are used both in pretreatment – when the chemicals are first introduced to prepare the fabric for dying – and in the dyeing process.

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“Our product replaces whatever was being used, and which had mainly petrochemicals as ingredients. As our products are not toxic, it helps workers who handle the textiles material. Our products can be handled without any safety precautions; they don’t raise effluent discharge either,” he said.

Saving on ETPs

While Goel does not have a number to quantify savings across clients, savings on the effluent treatment plant (ETP) are evident and large. “ETPs at textile units become bottlenecks. Beyond a certain point, the companies are not allowed by law to release effluents. Even if norms allow them, raising the capacity of the ETP becomes costly. So, if there are lesser effluents being released, then for the same ETP, the core production capacity can be increased. In other words, your revenue potential goes up with a proportionate increase in the cost of manufacture.”

In one instance of a small-sized textiles unit, the customer was able to raise capacity by about 30 per cent without having to raise the ETP capacity, thanks to the use of green chemicals.

Proklean’s revenue in the last fiscal stood at ₹15 crore. Revenue for the quarter ended March was almost ₹25 crore on annualised basis.

It has also begun exporting to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.