Following its acquisition  in early 2020 – many of our customers will be aware that Biochemica Water Ltd is now part of Veolia Water Technologies UK. Here we talk to the company’s Managing Director John Fraser. 

Can you tell us a bit about Biochemica Water Ltd and what it offers please?

Originally founded in 2007, Biochemica specialises in providing chemical-related services for wastewater, cooling water and boiler water treatment, as well as monitoring and management services, chemical supply and Legionella control. We engage across many markets, but we are particularly active in the food and beverage, pharmaceutical, municipal and chemical sectors.

While our headquarters are located in the North East, in the centre of one of the UK’s major chemical industrial areas, we offer our services countrywide.

What is your background – and how did you reach your current position?

I first became involved in water treatment when I was at university studying for my degree in Chemical Engineering. Whilst there I was lucky enough to complete a year-long internship with British Nuclear Fuels where one of my responsibilities was the day to day management of the site’s cooling towers. This involved developing treatment programs and working closely with water treatment companies in order to best protect those assets.

After leaving university I worked within the chemical logistics industry before joining Nalco as a Water Treatment Sales Engineer. I spent nearly ten years at Nalco in various business development and account management roles before joining Biochemica at the end of 2015.

Initially, I joined Biochemica to lead the account management team and to help develop our service offering. That role then developed into Head of Operations before I became Managing Director in 2017. I was given the remit of reorganising the company and developing a business plan aimed at sustainable growth, as well as building new markets/business streams. As part of that plan, in 2018 we acquired Scottish company Effective Project Management (EPM) Ltd, enabling us to expand our business in Scotland and also formed Biochemica Northern Ireland.

What does your role as Managing Director of Biochemica entail?

I am fortunate that my role is very varied. I am ultimately responsible for ensuring that we deliver the best possible service and value to our customers, as safely and efficiently as possible. I am also accountable for the implementation and delivery of our business plan and of course at present a significant amount of my time is being spent on the successful integration of Biochemica into VWT UK’s systems and processes.

Can you explain the benefit to operations following the Biochemica Water and VWT UK merger last year?

VWT UK already had an established and successful water treatment chemical business unit operating under the HydrexTM brand however, the majority of its operations were based across the South of the UK. Biochemica operated more widely in the North. Therefore, the merger provided both organisations with a greater geographical presence in the UK market and complementary products and services with which to offer customers.

In addition, VWT UK also has an extensive portfolio of technology and innovations that we can now offer to our customers without having to out-source; products such as Actiflo and exciting technologies like Hubgrade, which provides a customer portal and remote monitoring capabilities. This is something that we are seeing an increasing demand for.

How do you see Biochemica and VWT UK working together over the coming year and what are you personally hoping to achieve?

As a result of the acquisition, VWT UK has become a significant and differentiated specialist solution provider for the industrial and municipal markets. VWT UK is now also one of the few suppliers that is genuinely able to provide a complete technical and service solution covering process water, wastewater, cooling water and hygiene chemicals.

Since joining VWT UK, it i  has become apparent to me that there is the collective desire amongst employees to continually improve what we do and how we do it. The strategic direction for the business is clear and I am very excited to be involved in helping to deliver that.

How has COVID-19 impacted your day to day work or that of the company as a whole?

Just like many, I am currently working from home and really miss the face to face meetings, particularly with customers, which I tried to do as often as possible before. When I’m in the office I have always had an ‘open door’ policy and I like to think that colleagues can come and speak to me whenever they feel they need to. However, working from home has made that more difficult.

Although the first lockdown occurred a few weeks after we announced the acquisition by VWT UK, our staff have been extremely professional and adaptable, continuing to provide our customers with the service level they have come to expect. I am immensely proud of what they have been able to achieve.

What is one of the most common issues that customers approach Biochemica for help to resolve?

One of our real strengths is our expertise in delivering wastewater and effluent treatment solutions. Not only do we offer an extensive range of chemicals but also a significant amount of technical expertise to support the application of those products. Biochemica customers that operate wastewater treatment plants as part of their operation must often meet stringent water quality parameters. Therefore, optimisation of the treatment plant and the chemicals used is crucial in order to meet those requirements as failing to do so can lead to significant penalties or excessive operational costs.

What is the biggest challenge facing the chemical water treatment sector at the moment?

At one point in time, providing chemical water treatment solutions was about protecting assets and maximising production. However, the challenges currently facing the water industry in general are now very different, for example water scarcity and an increased focus on recycling and reuse in order to support a circular economy. We are seeing more and more customers seeking smarter water management, alongside the traditional chemical solutions, to help reduce their operating costs and manage compliance.

Fortunately, VWT UK is leading the way with the development of these technologies and services so we are in a great position to provide crucial support and add value to customer operations.

Fun Fact: I run to help unwind and have entered a number of marathons and ultra-marathons over the years. The longest race I have taken part in was the Northern Traverse, a total of 192 miles unsupported, which I completed in 85 hours.