Nate Clemmer's SynaTek Solutions was busy Tuesday in advance of another Nor'Easter storm threatening to drop piles of snow and freezing rain around Philly: He's shipping his company's new, high-end Entry liquid ice melt to clients including Amtrak's 30th Street station and some of Brandywine Realty Trust's Philadelphia-area offices. The Denver Broncos NFL team is also a client, though Colorado is on a different storm cycle.
Entry, marketed through SynaTek's Branch Creek organics division, is "non-salt, residue-free," Clemmer says. It's not sodium chloride or any other chloride, which tend to eat into pavement and can be tough on fresh-water creatures. Entry uses potassium formate, derived from formic acid, a common and easily-synthesized compound. Its name derives from the Latin word for ants, who use it in self-defense.
Formate is produced and licensed as a deicer by BASF, the German chemical giant. BASF sells the stuff "as an airport runway de-icer in Europe, but it was not available here until 2015″ when he licensed it for home and business applications, Clemmer says. BASF produces the stuff at a plant in Louisiana, then ships it by tanker rail car to Souderton, where SynaTek packages it as a liquid spray. "It's like 'their flour, our chocolate chips'," Clemmer told me. "No nasty granulars. It keeps every floor and sidewalk from turning into a mess. It does not track into buildings. It is residue free."
It's more expensive than salt or potassium chloride; the company says a single application to a typical home walkway and front sidewalk costs about $5.50, or 90 cents just for front steps, compared to pennies for salt. "It's not a parking-lot product, it's an entry-way product you use in the first 15 or so feet when you enter or leave a building," to avoid damaging landscaping or tracking white salt onto rugs and into offices, Clemmer added.