Oak Creek remediation firm seeks big break

Mohsen Amiran, a scientist with an expertise in organic chemistry and the founder of Oak Creek-based Amiran Technologies LLC, says he has developed cutting-edge processes to remove contamination from polluted materials.

The company has the capability to establish facilities, with its own equipment and equipment built to spec and provided by another company, and use chemicals that it has developed to treat contaminated materials, breaking them down into separate, clean, useful materials.

The company’s executives say its solutions can transform contaminated lake sediment into potting soil, convert agricultural waste into organic fertilizer, remove oil from sand and transform waste products from steel mills into useful materials.

“There is no waste product (after the company’s treatment processes),” Amiran said. “Everything (produced has) 100 percent beneficial reuse.”

However, getting the marketplace to embrace Amiran’s solutions has been a challenge, especially in the United States. The company’s executives said they hoped to land a $120 million contract from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to clean up contaminated sediment from Lake Michigan, but have not been successful.

The company is pursuing several other major projects including oil sands remediation projects in Kuwait and Canada, a project in Sri Lanka to convert chicken manure and palm oil effluent into organic fertilizer and a project to clean up contaminated sediment dredged form New York harbor and the Passaic River in New Jersey.

The company’s U.S. breakthrough could be in Celina, Ohio, where it hopes to do work transforming sediment from Grand Lake St. Mary’s into potting soil and agricultural waste from farms in the area into organic fertilizer. The lake has had significant algae problems, largely caused by contamination from agricultural runoff. The company has done demonstrations in the community to show that its processes will work and Amiran executives hope to complete a deal in time to break ground on facilities for the project by next spring.

Two business experts who started working with the company last year believe the company has enormous potential and hope to take it to the next level.

“This is (similar to the beginning of) Apple Computer,” said Paul Chadwick, a marketing consultant for the firm. He describes the technologies developed by Amiran as potential “game-changers” and “disruptive technologies.”

“Paul and I came in and said (to Amiran), ‘Why aren’t you a billionaire already? Let’s help you get there,'” said Philip Skrade, managing partner for Amiran Technologies. Previously, Skrade was director of corporate development for Milwaukee-based Jefferson Wells International Inc., which is part of ManpowerGroup, for five years. In the 1990s he was manager of corporate development for Milwaukee-based A.O. Smith Corp. for five years.

The addition of more business expertise to the company, which has 16 employees, allows Amiran to focus on developing his technologies.

“Mosen’s brilliance is in the lab,” Chadwick said. “That’s where he needs to be.”

Amiran has taken a long journey to the Milwaukee area. He was born in Iran and received a Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry from Essex University in the United Kingdom. In Iran, Amiran founded two chemical related companies. He left Iran shortly after the Shah of Iran was overthrown in 1979 during the Iranian Revolution. He came to the United States in 1983 and became a U.S. citizen in 1991. In the early to mid-1980s he taught physical organic chemistry at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

In 1989 he formed BioGenesis Enterprises Inc. In 1990 he bought the 20-acre former Wisconsin Central Fuels site at 610 W. Rawson Ave. in Oak Creek. He sold half of the property and removed much of the contamination from the rest of the site, which is now the home of his company.

BioGenesis, which provides cleanup and remediation of industrial waste, is now one of five business units of Amiran Technologies LLC. The others are: Metal Recovery Technologies LLC (which can transform metal waste material into useful materials), Ag Conversions (remediation of agricultural waste), Fire Suppressants (provides environmentally-friendly material to extinguish fires) and Flame Retardants (development of flame resistant material).

“The common theme of all the technologies is the ability to break down complex compounds at the fine particle/molecular level,” Chadwick said.

The company’s executives believe each business unit could eventually become an acquisition target.

“We have venture capital guys breathing down our necks, but we don’t want to give up control and we want to dictate our exit strategy,” Chadwick said. “We’re a scientific company. We’re going to bring things to market, sell them off and develop other things.”

Amiran’s son, Sherwin Amiran, is a managing partner with the company and came up with the company’s slogan: Green Done Right, which it has trademarked.

The company’s executives say Green Done Right sends the message that its solutions are not only environmentally beneficial, but are also profitable business models that do not need government subsidy. The company’s executives criticized some green industries that they say are only surviving because of government subsidies.

The Amiran executives also expressed frustration about not getting the $120 million contract from the EPA to remove contamination from polluted sediment in Lake Michigan. Their bid for the project had support from regional EPA officials, Chadwick said.

“The problem is you go further up the chain to Washington and the message gets diluted and other factors come into play,” he said.

The company’s biggest competitors are landfills and incinerators. But, Amiran executives say neither of those is desirable to communities and they do not create sustainable solutions to contamination problems.

“We have a permanent solution,” Chadwick said. “That means (the contamination is) gone, forever.”

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