Water. desalination + reuse

February/March 2013

Water. Desalination + reuse

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INTERVIEW Positive BWA relishes future challenges BWA ADDITIVES has been through many changes of ownership since its first commercial sales as part of chemical giant CibaGeigy in the early 1970s, but, according to James Argyle, VP for Thermal Desalination & Group CFO of the UK desalination and water treatment chemical producer, the company has gained something each time. The real turning-point was in 2006, when the current CEO, David Cartmell, led a buyout of BWA from its owner at the time, Chemtura. Now the company's overall business is growing at around 10% a year. D&WR's editor, Robin Wiseman, talked to James Argyle in the company's modern offices and laboratories only a couple of miles from its old owner, Chemtura, in Manchester's Trafford industrial area, most famous, of course, for Manchester United Football Club. How many offices do you have around the world? This is the headquarters of our global business, which serves the desalination, industrial water treatment and oil & gas markets. From here we run our European business and customer service for our Asian business and for some of the Middle East. Our second home is Atlanta – it serves both the North American and Latin American markets, a broad split between oil & gas and industrial water treatment. We also have an office in Dubai to maintain our leading position in the thermal desalination market in the Middle East. Lastly, we have a significant cluster of people across Asia Pacific, with offices in Singapore, Japan and China with additional sales people embedded in various other Asian countries. Altogether, what is important is not the number of people or number of offices we have but our ability to leverage our global network of long-time BWA distributors in each region. It allows us to skew our resources and talent toward research and development. Compared to some large competitors in our space, we have an unusually large R&D group which allows us to stay focused on developing and commercializing step change technological improvements in our markets. And do you get good feedback from them with regard to what you need to do to improve your products? Our network of distributors tend to get us directly involved with service companies as well as the end user to problem-solve in the field. This gives us a unique advantage to understand firsthand what customers' unmet needs are. A number of ideas for new products tend to come from this type of customer intimacy. Likewise, sometimes even the end users reach out to us directly for their most difficult problems as our technology is often known in the industry to be among the best for solving the most difficult scale control problems. We have, for example, a deep understanding of how thermal desalination plants are built and operated. This knowledge goes back 30-some years and is based on working with | 12 | Desalination & Water Reuse | February-March 2013 end users inside their plants, and really understanding their local water chemistry. This knowledge base and years of experience is vital to the customers and the marketplace as a whole. Before you can recommend a chemical, you need to thoroughly understand the operating conditions and the water chemistry. That is part of the value-added technical service package that we offer. How did the company start? The business started in the early 1970s as part of Ciba-Geigy, who were looking for a potential solution for a desalination operator in the Middle East that was experiencing corrosion from using acid to clean out their plants. That was when Belgard, our business and our focus on desalination were born. The first commercial sales were around 1973. Ciba-Geigy was very technically orientated and that fitted very well with BWA – we are dedicated to technology, innovation and research and development so the business learned a lot through those early stages. Gradually Ciba-Geigy branched into the industrial sector, which bolted on our industrial business. In the early 1990s, FMC, a US chemical corporation, bought out our division of Ciba-Geigy. That brought a slightly different discipline to the business, because FMC focused more on optimizing costs and instilling financial discipline. That again taught us some good lessons. Then Great Lakes Chemical Corporation bought the business from FMC in 1999. They were keen on branding - branding of products, positioning of products. With Belgard and Flocon, James Argyle

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