Friday, December 19, 2014
Subsequent to publishing the December 16th post on the aspirations of two Australian companies to open the first mines dedicated to the rare earth element scandium, I learned that there is potentially a third contestant in the race. An unlikely rare earth miner, Clean TeQ Ltd. (CLQ: ASX) is included in the Emissions Group of our Mothers of Invention Index. Indeed most investors know this Australian company for its air purification products that have been its bread and butter for over two decades. That said, Clean TeQ also commands an ion exchange technology for cleaning up hard-to-treat waters. This process can also be used for recovering strategic metals from slurries and other liquid waste streams. This is how Clean TeQ has made the leap from water treatment to scandium mining.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
In early December 2014, Energy Recovery (ERII: Nasdaq) staged an analyst and investor event in New York City principally to introduce its most recent technology innovation, VorTeq. The product is a hydraulic fracturing solution for the gas industry. Unlike its other products, the VorTeq is a colossal apparatus requiring a semi-tractor to transport it into place as a replacement for the ‘missiles’ now found at natural gas well sites.
In the current configuration, high pressure pumps are used to drive a blend of fracturing sand, water and chemicals down into the well hole. Pump components, including somewhat fragile valves, are at risk of damage when exposed to the highly corrosive fracturing mix. To avoid costly down time for pump repair, fracturing service providers keep a bank of replacement pumps at hand.
Friday, December 12, 2014
The rare earth elements have become increasingly important in our economy as chemists and engineers have turned to these metals to enhance the performance of metal alloys. There are seventeen of these metals with tongue twister names like neodymium, yttrium and gadolinium. Some have begun to call them the technology elements because they have become so vital for innovations in electronics, aerospace and energy.
One of the ‘light rare earth elements,’ scandium, does not seem to get as much attention as the rest - at least from investors. It is a relatively soft and light element and has a much higher melting point that aluminum. This makes it very interesting to aerospace engineers.
Tuesday, December 09, 2014
Privately-held Altaeros Energies was also added to the Wind Group of our Electric Earth Index. The company is developing high altitude wind power technology that it calls a Buoyant Airborne Turbine (BAT). It could be called a floating wind turbine, which is essentially the way BAT works. It looks like a giant, over-inflated automobile tire with wings even though the company prefers to call it a ‘shell.’ It is made from high performance fabric is filled with helium to give it buoyancy with a conventional three-blade, horizontal wind turbine attached to the inside walls. The shell and turbine apparatus is tethered to the ground with high strength cables that secure it at about one thousand feet in above the ground. A control system is installed in a ground station next to the tether point.