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Enterprise Hub Network - Case History

Canterbury Enterprise Hub
David Butler

Oil Drum

Company Background

Oil Drum Ltd is a privately-owned renewable energy company, developing products that will both reduce vehicle running costs and make a positive contribution to tackling climate change.

Since 2006, managing director Darryl Watts, and fellow directors Denise Watts and Steve Martin, have developed and patented a fuel-saving device for commercial vehicles – the On Demand Hydrogen Generator™. Retro-fitted to vans, trucks and buses, the product requires no engine modifications or additional external power sources, and works in conjunction with the existing engine and fuel to improve combustion and boost fuel efficiency, reducing fuel costs typically by between ten and 20 per cent.

In addition to the major cost savings achievable, the fact that the combustion process is enhanced means fewer particulate and CO2 emissions are pumped into the atmosphere.

This is a genuinely innovative product and the company has won the 2008 Kent Innovation Challenge, despite competition from more than 70 other companies based in the County.

Commercial interest in the On Demand Hydrogen Generator™ is strong: supermarket chain Sainsbury’s has agreed to fit the device to trucks operating in Kent and, if the trial is successful, the device will be rolled out across the company’s entire fleet of 1,100 trucks.

Following a trade visit to the US, organised by the Canterbury Enterprise Hub, an order has been placed by a US-based haulier with a fleet of 3,500 vehicles.

Oil Drum Ltd’s premises are at the Business Incubator on the University of Kent campus in Canterbury.

Work with the Enterprise Hub

Oil Drum Ltd was invited to join the Canterbury Enterprise Hub in May 2007, when the technology had largely been developed, but the product was yet to become a commercial proposition.

Assistance from the Enterprise Hub has included the following so far:

  • Development of the business plan
  • Help with securing funding from the University of Kent for product development and for research into the next version of the product for new market sectors
  • Facilitating high-level banking contacts, intellectual property and MAS expertise
  • Assistance with negotiations for initial funding and further funds to develop new production facilities
  • Access to academic expertise for evaluation of biomass proof of concept, and specialist electronic design services.

Oil Drum managing director Darryl Watts said: “We have had so much assistance, and such support from the Canterbury Enterprise Hub that the Hub director David Butler has become a close friend of the Oil Drum team over the last 12 months. His input into making our business a success has been highly significant.”

Canterbury Enterprise Hub Director David Butler said: “It has been a pleasure to work with the company team as they have not only combined their environmental awareness with a commercial opportunity, but they are highly responsive and open to coaching and support.”

What’s next

Oil Drum Ltd is currently exploring licensing opportunities that will allow the company’s patented technology to be manufactured and sold in Europe, North America and other markets.

Research is also being undertaken into miniaturising the hydrogen unit so that the company can supply the huge panel van and four wheel drive markets, and – ultimately – the private car market as well.

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