Química, we want to make a balance of its activity and echo its future plans. To do so we have contacted the chemist and businessman from Tenerife, Miguel Valcárcel Marrero, managing director of the company and the person responsible for its manufacturing plant. With Miguel Valcárcel we held the following interview.
How was Biomca Química born and the idea of producing sodium hypochlorite?
A group of relatively young people, but already experienced Canary Islands entrepreneurs, some like me related to the chemicals sector and chemical products, noticed a negative reality for the Canary Islands. All the sodium hypochlorite needed by our Archipelago and used in our islands had to be brought entirely from outside, with the consequent decline in the quality of the product, which is produced during its transport from the point of manufacture on the Peninsula or further.
What is sodium hypochlorite and what is it used for?
The sodium hypochlorite (NaClO) is a strongly oxidative chemical component, which is normally used as disinfectant. In addition, it destroys many dyes, and therefore is used as a bleaching agent. People usually call it bleach or chlorine, when in reality common bleach is nothing other than sodium hypochlorite diluted with water. The most common use of the hypochlorite is to make water safe for consumption, and as disinfectant for swimming pools.
From what raw materials is sodium hypochlorite made and what is the process like?
It is manufactured from three basic elements, de-mineralized water, salt and electricity, through a simple and safe chemical process based on electrolysis.
Why was it important to make its manufacture in our own islands?
Once sodium hypochlorite has been produced and from the minute it is placed in the containers for transfer, whether containers, buckets or smaller deposits, the sodium hypochlorite begins to degrade, losing its purity and quality. Something like if we talked about a bottle of water with gas that we took off the stopper. During the transfer from its point of manufacture to the point of use, the hypochlorite is losing quality, and the further away from the Canary Islands, the worse is the hypochlorite coming to us.
How did a group of Canary Islands entrepreneurs come with such important project and what investment has been necessary to do so?
The truth is that several entrepreneurs related to the sector came together, including industrial or chemical engineers, like me, who saw the need and opportunity to do so at that time. Without a hurry, but without a break, ensuring all the aspects and costs of the project, we dared to develop it in the best way, with an investment that was over six and a half million euros.
What have these first three years been like and how has the manufacturing plant worked?
Apart from the logical problems of running a complex industry, we can say that it has worked above our expectations. The plant that we set up in the dock of the port of Santa Cruz is avant-garde, with the highest quality and efficiency levels, while with the highest standards of safety and respect for the environment. The plant works permanently and continuously, for 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, stopping only occasionally for revision and maintenance work, security controls and some repairs.
For this level of work, you need a qualified and stable staff. What professionals work in Biomca?
As it is a modern and avant-garde plant, the workforce is reduced, but qualified, for which we have had to spend a long time in training. Currently it is made of 15 people who are led by a great professional, David Dorta, who holds the office of the plant manager. David and all the professional team, made up of men and women, are performing exceptional work, which we want to appreciate and recognize from the company.
With this plant and the team of professionals that works in it, what production levels have they achieved in these three years?
The design of the Biomca Química plant in Tenerife originally considered the installation of three electrodes, although in 2016 only two were assembly which are now in operation. We have increased capacity by 15%.
Are there serious supply problems of sodium hypochlorite in the Peninsula? does this production met the demands and needs of the Canary Islands?
The current demand for sodium hypochlorite in the Canary Islands is between 23,000 and 25,000 tons per year. The Tenerife plant has a production capacity of 17,000 tons of sodium hypochlorite per year. For the moment, the rest of the sodium hypochlorite that the Canary Islands demands annually is imported from outside, in the Peninsula factories or even further.
So, when will third electrolyser arrive in the Biomca plant in Tenerife?
Well, as you say, I am glad you asked me that question. We can announce with satisfaction that, if there is no setback, the third electrolyser of our Biomca plant in Tenerife will be installed for sure in the first quarter of next year 2019 with an additional investment of around one million euros, and will be fully operational before the month of June, and therefore we will be ready to meet the demand of next summer.
Does this mean that you will be ready to meet the supply needs of the seven Canary Islands?
Undoubtedly. And not of seven, but the eight. We must not forget La Graciosa. We will be self-sufficient. The total demand in the Canary Islands will surely not reach 25,000 tons of sodium hypochlorite per year, but we will be ready to manufacture up to 25,500 tons. We can, even, export some amount to the nearby countries of West Africa, which have already expressed interest in our hypochlorite as regards, proximity and highest quality.
When the manufacture is done in our own island territory, does the price of sodium hypochlorite for the Canary Islands users become cheaper?
In Biomca Química we only make the hypochlorite and sell it to companies that market it and distribute it in the islands. For us the idea is to guarantee the supply of hypochlorite and not have supply problems like example is happening in the Peninsula where manufacturing lines are stopping due to lack of product or like in the Balearic Islands which are having problems of the hypochlorite supply for the treatment of their hotel pools. In addition, what we have done is the concept of inter-island solidarity. For this and while the plant is in Tenerife, the fee expected from 2019 for the hypochlorite put in Gran Canary will be exactly the same as for Tenerife.
This, in addition, giving movement to the port of Tenerife and within the Canary Islands Special Zone…
We work within the framework of the Canary Islands Special Zone (ZEC) and not only provide little bit to the movement of our port, but we create direct and indirect jobs, while generating wealth for our island and region. At this point, we must publicly appreciate the support and that has always been offered us, within the framework of its competences and responsibilities, from the Canary Islands Government, the Island Council of Tenerife, the Island Waters Council, the City Council of our capital and, of course, very special, from the Port Authority.
And now, is it true that you have become the first industry in operation within the Tenerife Customs Free Area?
For us it is an honour that, on completing our first three years, Biomca Química has become the first industry fully in operation under the parameters and requirements of the new Tenerife Customs Free Area (ZFT). We believe that in the future many projects on the island are going to benefit from the incentives and attractions of the Tenerife Customs Free Area and, in this case, we must appreciate and recognize the support that we have received from it and, in particular and personally from its special State delegate and person ultimately responsible, Gustavo González De la Vega.
What future projects does Biomca have on the horizon?
In the short term what I have already mentioned. The installation of our third electrolyser, which will ensure that the Canary Islands is self-sufficient as regards the production of hypochlorite and in the medium term, we are very seriously considering supplementing our industry with some other, related to our sector.
Fuente: El Día