A Nova Scotia company is making big money in business worth tens of millions of dollars a year vacuuming, collecting and recycling the de-icing fluid sprayed on airplanes.
Inland Technologies employs 250 people during the winter to work at roughly 20 airports across North America.
The company extracts the glycol from the de-icing fluid it collects and recycles it for use as antifreeze for vehicles, and another kind of de-icing fluid it sells back to the airlines.
Inland, which is part of the Bragg Group of Companies, uses a special vehicle called a Glyvac, which was developed in Nova Scotia and received a U.S. patent last month.
"It’s like a very, very large of a carpet cleaning machine. It blows air on one side and sucks it up on the other side. The movement of the air against the pavement vaporizes the fluid," said engineer Guy Boulanger who developed the Glyvac.
The Glyvac uses 35 per cent less fuel than another sweeper on the market.
Spraying airplane wings with de-icer is an important safety step before take-off in cold conditions. But the de-icing fluid contains a chemical, ethylene glycol.
Inland got its start in the business in the 1990s when the Canadian government brought in new regulations to limit the chemical run-off from glycol to 100 milligrams per litre of water.
Glycol is a pollutant that can deplete the oxygen content of water.
Inland — an oil waste recycler up until the 90s — switched its focus, developing a solution to collect de-icer run-off from the tarmac.
There’s no shortage of glycol for the growing company. Inland sops up huge volumes each year — roughly 100 million litres in Canada and the United States combined.
The company is eyeing new markets abroad.
"China is developing new regulations, and that type of thing," says Roger Langille, president and CEO of Inland. "So China, there’s growth opportunities in China, and probably Russia. So we’re exploring all those locations."