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Advonex

Chad Joshi is a giant of the clean energy sector. Over the years, he’s helped grow a number of clean technology companies and bring more environmentally friendly products to market. He’s also the CEO of Advonex, which produces plant-based materials that have the potential to radically reduce the industrial use of petroleum.

Chad Joshi has a unique insight into how a clean energy company can succeed. We’re Still ON talked with him about clean-tech challenges, what it takes to grow a new company, and why petroleum-free production matters.

What clean energy projects are you focused on right now?

Replacing petroleum is a long process. As a transportation fuel, petroleum is slowly being replaced: we’re replacing gasoline with ethanol and diesel with biodiesel, jet fuel with hydro-treated jet fuel, and so on. The fuels are being replaced, though very slowly, because it’s a huge industry. But the rest of the barrel is not being addressed at all.

What we want to do is replace the rest of the barrel, because if you don't do that, then there will still be an incentive for people to dig oil out of the ground. I’m talking about what goes into the petrochemical industry. It gets turned into things like plastics; it gets turned into tar and asphalt for the roads; it gets turned into other chemicals that go into a whole bunch of stuff, including cosmetics, or lubricants for cars and engines, hydraulics fluids, transformer fluids. There’s a whole host of different industries that are impacted by these heavier molecules that come out of petroleum. And the challenge has been that trying to make those molecules from a renewable resource has always been difficult, because the yields are very low and as a result the costs are very high. Well, we’ve come up with a breakthrough technology that enables us to build those molecules very efficiently. As a result, we've basically turned the wax, cosmetics, and lubricants industries on their heads, by providing these high-performance ingredients. Essentially, we take plant-based feedstock and turn it into a lubricant that’s better than the synthetic material in lubricants that you can buy today. We can actually make a plant-based lubricant that works better than what petroleum can do.

Can you share any details about what that would look like for the consumer?

I’m under a non-disclosure agreement, so I can’t be too specific about brands. But we are working with major labels. In terms of the lubricant industry, for example, one company I can talk about is our partner Valvoline. They’ve done demonstrations of our product, and found them to have superior properties; they've seen firsthand that our plant-based lubricants work better than the petroleum product. And now there are other lubricant companies that are taking their initiative from Valvoline and trying to get in on this as well.

As well, many petroleum ingredients show up in cosmetics. Right now, The industry is trying to get away from petroleum, mainly because there’s trace amounts of materials in those petroleum products that are problematic. They cause skin irritation, or long-term use could cause cancer or other health problems.

Our process derives the same types of materials from a plant base, but with none of those petroleum compounds. They’re naturally derived ingredients. And those natural ingredients are the base materials of sunblock and skin lotions, which are basically oil and water. We provide the oil segment of that mixture, which carries a lot of the active ingredients — the UV protection for sunblock, or the anti-aging compounds that are active in cosmetics. It’s very fundamental stuff.

I think consumers are becoming more aware, but unfortunately, the presence of petroleum in products is not labelled. People are not seeing it on the label, so consumers don’t always realize that there’s petroleum in these products — or that there are plant-based alternatives. Things need to be shown on the shelf, so to speak.

In addition to your own businesses and technology, you've also worked with other clean energy companies, including CoPower. Do you feel a sense of interdependence among sustainable businesses?

I’ve been involved in a number of early stage companies for many years. What I do is look around for other companies that are in similar sorts of spaces, and I help mentor them, in terms of helping them figure out how to craft their business plan and build their business. I like to get involved with various companies that are in the energy and clean-tech space, and to help them grow. It’s a way for me to give back to help others that are trying to start companies and support these climate initiatives.

What got you involved with CoPower? Do you think there’s an appetite for this kind of impact investing in renewable energy?

I attended a seminar where they were presenting their Green Bonds, and I thought that it was a good way for me to give back to the community and invest in the industry that I thought was going to be the future.

People that are passionate about clean energy are aware of CoPower and of other, similar companies. I think what has happened is that, as the industry has matured, they've figured out ways that they can finance things, and the Green Bond seems to be the one that everyone is gravitating towards.

Should people be nervous about working with or investing in new clean energy technologies? Is it just matter of having faith?

I think there’s a certain amount of faith involved. You have to have faith that you're going to be able to overcome the market and the technical risks. And you have to have faith in the science, that you're going to be able to resolve the issues. As an entrepreneur and an investor, you need to be able to find and recognize the right opportunities. Quite often, an opportunity knocks and it looks like it'll be too risky, or a lot of hard work, and if you’re not interested in dealing with those things, you're not going to recognize it for what it is.

I don't think that this industry is unique. But it does take a certain amount of perseverance to push these new technologies into the marketplace. For example, I was involved in the solar energy industry back in the late 1970s. People were passionate about it, but it was too early. It wasn't until the 90s and early 2000s that solar actually really took off. For many, many years, it was sort of a back room slog to get the efficiency of the panels higher, and to get the manufacturing costs down. The technology can take a long time.

What do you feel is the best way for other organizations, or even just ordinary individuals, to support this clean energy and climate action movement?

I think, certainly, being aware of the products. Participate. Put your money where your mouth is. That’s what I do. I think this is the future of the industry. We need to be much more sustainable. We need to be weaning the country off of petroleum, so I do anything and everything I can, you know? If you talk the talk, you have to walk the walk.

The Spotlight ON series highlights key organizations making a difference in the world of clean energy and climate action. Connect with the team at We’re Still ON to shine a Spotlight on your organization’s clean energy work — email us at contact@still-on.ca.

What initiative/project/organization would you like to share?

Advonex produces Entrada oils and waxes — plant-based hydrocarbons that offer a better alternative to petroleum-based products. Our green materials are proven to perform better than petroleum, and their use allows industries to replace petroleum with sustainable alternatives in the production of lubricants, waxes, cosmetics and personal care products and building materials.

How is it helping advance the low carbon transition?

By producing  plant-based lubricants from feedstock, Advonex helps reduce the world’s reliance on petroleum. Entrada lubricant production has lower GHG emissions than petroleum-based lubricants. Through better vehicle engine performance, Entrada lubricants reduce engine friction, thereby providing better fuel economy and reduced fuel demand.

Finally, we apply Green Chemistry principles to all aspects of our company’s operations. We believe that producing less waste and using less energy will result in less pollution.

How can others get involved? What type of support are you looking for?

Advonex is gaining traction in the market with Supply Agreements from Valvoline, AAK and others. To meet this demand we’re looking for partners and capital who can help us expand our production capacity.

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