November 2003
Volume 45 Number 11

Q&A: An Interview with Gunnar Smith of Kemwater
by Carlos David Mogollón, WC&P Executive Editor   Pages: 

We had an opportunity to interview the head of foreign operations for the water treatment subsidiary of Kemira of Helsinki, Finland, on Oct. 6, 2003. Gunnar Smith is in charge of the overseas business unit of Kemwater.

Others influential in the Americas for the company include:
Tuomas Rinne, managing director of Kemwater Mexico;
Fred Schuurman, managing director of Kemwater Brazil, and
Lawrence Hjerstedt, managing director of Kemiron de Bartow, Fla.

What follows is our interview with Sr. Smith on operations of Kemwater in Latin America:

WC&P: I just wanted to get a few comments from you that I might be able to use for the article regarding plans for Kemira in Latin America.

Smith: Yes.

WC&P: Since it's obviously the primary market of our magazine, Agua Latinoamérica, I thought that best.

Smith: Yes, that sounds interesting.

WC&P: I've actually met your people in Brazil and, I believe, in Mexico City during events I've attended there, FITMA Aquatech and Enviro-Pro. So, I was curious to get if I could just a brief comment on your overview of Kemira's goals in Latin America and what you anticipate for the coming year.

Smith: OK, yes, you saw my email that I recommended that you get in touch directly with MDs (managing directors) of the companies there. Tuomas Rinne is the MD for Kemwater de Mexico, and Fred Schuurman is the MD for Kemwater Brasil.

WC&P: Yes, I understood that but, since I was actually in Finland, I thought it might be good to speak with someone there as well.

Smith: Sure, sure.

WC&P: OK, Rolf Jonasson, your marketing manager for Europe, had mentioned that you had just expanded the operation in Brazil.

Smith: What he mentioned, I think, is that we have expanded our operation in that we are right now investing in a new production line for pure ferric sulfate coagulant. I don't know if he mentioned, but our setup in Brazil is that we have a joint venture with an American company, Millennium Chemicals, which is producing titanium dioxide (at two facilities in Brazil—in Bahia and Paraiba). The reason why we have this joint venture with them is we are using the copperas of ferrous sulfate they get from the titanium dioxide production as raw material for the ferric sulfate used for the coagulant for the potable water treatment.

WC&P: It's a by-product and you might as well put it to some good use…

Smith: Yes, it's a by-product of titanium dioxide production.

WC&P: OK, where is Millennium based?

Smith: They have a head office in Baltimore, Md.

WC&P: I believe I was told that Kemira has been operating in Brazil for about five years now.

Smith: That's correct. And what Rolf mentioned is the new investment, the US$5 million, that we are doing to be able to purify the raw materials, the ferrous sulfate, from manganese—which in the ferrous sulfate is a little bit too high to be desirable for potable water treatment.

WC&P: Right, so by refining it you'll be able to use it in more applications.

Smith: Yes, true.

WC&P: Since you're in the two biggest markets in Latin America, I assume you might have plans to expand elsewhere or are those your distribution bases for all of the region?

Smith: No, we are also looking at other areas in Latin America. So far, these two—Mexico and Brazil—are the only ones where we've established companies.

WC&P: How does the operation in Mexico work?

Smith: That's quite different from the Brazilian one. In Brazil, if I take it first, today, only iron-based coagulants (are produced). But we're also looking at expanding into also aluminum-based coagulants. In Mexico, it's only aluminum-based coagulants. We have aluminum sulfate production and we are also importing polyaluminum chloride from our production unit in Sweden and reselling it there, mainly to the textile industry for wastewater treatment. It's quite a different operation in these two countries.

WC&P: And Kemira has been in Mexico for five years as well.

Smith: Yes, something like that. Maybe six. Roughly the same period.

WC&P: How many people do you employ in those particular areas?

Smith: Let's say in Brazil, we have around 20. And, in Mexico, a little bit more than 10.