New startup focuses on removing hydrocarbons in stormwater runoff

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Every year a significant amount of runoff water, contaminated with hydrocarbons, gets washed into stormwater drains and released into the water bodies, often untreated. This problem is often overlooked while contaminants accumulate and negatively impact the environment – including the water quality and animal and plant habitats. A University of Waterloo startup, comprised of students from the Department of Chemical Engineering, is designing an effective and cost-efficient solution to this problem by creating sorbent technology from recycled materials.

“Water is an issue worth thinking about because it is the source of life,” said Gene Shim, co-founder of OleoTech. “Given how easy it is for us to access clean water, it is sometimes easy for our society to take it for granted and ignore the effects we can have on water quality not only for ourselves, but for all living things.”

OleoTech UWaterloo startup

OleoTech started when a group of friends in fourth-year Chemical Engineering mobilized to form a Fourth-Year Design Project Team. Many of the team members have a background in environment and energy systems, including water resources, and developed a passion for solving critical water quality problems.

“We mutually agreed on finding a problem that we could tackle that would have positive impacts on the environment,” said Cassidy Molloy, co-founder of OleoTech. “The combination of diverting landfill waste and removing hydrocarbons from untreated water was a perfect fit for our interest and passion for the environment.”

OleoTech successfully secured funds from Velocity’s $5K competition in the fall. This money will propel the team forward by helping them to purchase raw materials and equipment to focus on creating their minimum viable product, which will allow the team to start product testing in various municipalities around the Waterloo Region.

OleoTech at Velocity Fund Final

“We hope to complete our prototype and begin live testing this summer,” said Gene. “In order to pursue working on our business full-time after graduation, we are currently in the process of applying to other funding and pitch competition opportunities. Ultimately, we would like to see OleoTech products used in municipalities across Canada within a few years and eventually internationally.”