Commercializing renewably based thermoplastics, or PHAs, ultimately will benefit the United States by reducing its dependence on oil and gas for producing plastics, which will in turn result in a "smaller environmental footprint," explained James Barber, president and CEO of Metabolix. In some applications, the PHAs' property profiles are superior to current materials, and their products are biodegradable, he added.
Metabolix's PHAs range from rigid to highly elastic for use in film, fiber, adhesives, coatings and molded goods and within other plastics.
"The ATP grant is focused on taking these microbial production systems, which are already quite efficient, and making them even more so," Barber said. "The target in terms of manufacturing costs for these materials would be down in the range of 50 cents per pound."
According to Metabolix, lower costs for PHAs make them more cost-competitive with the large volumes of plastics currently in use worldwide.
The ATP program provides cost-shared funding to industry-led teams to help support challenging, high-risk research and development projects that might significantly advance important broad-based economic or social benefits for the United States.
Dow Chemical Testifies on Water Management
WASHINGTON ," Remember when you paid little attention to how much water you used, much less to what happened to that water after you used it? Times sure have changed ," almost everyone now understands how critical water management is to a sustainable future across the globe. That understanding, however, does not necessarily translate into action.
During testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Water and the Environment in May, Paul Dean, North American manufacturing director for The Dow Chemical Co.'s environmental operations business, emphasized the importance technology, conservation and efficiencies can play in avoiding a national ," and global ," water shortage.
"We tend to think of water as inexpensive, plentiful and clean," Dean told committee members. "But since 1940, water consumption has quadrupled and will continue to increase as the world's population grows."
Dow said it was invited to offer testimony by Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. (R-Tenn.), chairman of the committee, because of the leadership the company has shown globally in water management. "What we're really advocating is that we need to get all of our collective heads together, if you will ," the private, public and environmental sectors ," to ultimately advise a sustainable solution to this issue," said Dean.
Dow's accomplishments in the water area include a restructuring of the water treatment system at its Terneuzen site in The Netherlands to recycle 80 percent of the site's nonsalty wastewater. The changes halved the total wastewater discharge per pound of product.
At a facility in Texas, Dow developed a better method to manage water as it moves from its freshwater reservoirs to the manufacturing site. The improvements now prevent the loss of 13,000 gallons of water per minute, said the company.
Dow is one of only a few global manufacturers to treat resource management as part of a business unit. This business unit focuses on the management of water rights, conveyance, treatment and use for the entire company.
"We realize water is a finite resource," Dean told Chemical Processing. "It's the key to the sustainable operations of our facilities and, naturally, our future."
Dean said Dow relies on both "hard" and "soft" technologies to manage water issues. The hard technologies include replication and leveraging of the company's membrane technologies. "We use those in our processes to clean water for reuse or second-pass reuse," he said. "We also have experience with constructed wetlands for treatment and polishing, and the water could be used again after leaving the wastewater treatment plant."
What Dean terms "culture management" makes up the soft technology side. "What we're trying to do is to educate our folks on the true value of water," he stressed. "There's a cost to acquisition of the water; there's a cost to movement, treatment and monitoring. So we've looked at cost models on the culture side to educate our folks ," that drives a conservation behavior."
Finally, said Dean, the company has applied many of the Six Sigma methodologies "to do data mining to optimize sections of the water envelope that hadn't really ever been looked at."Even smaller companies, said Dean, can make changes that protect our precious water supply. "When I talk to my folks across North America, I speak to the concept of incremental daily improvement," he stressed. "As membrane technology improves, the scale of manufacture rises, which improves efficiency and also drives down the cost."
NPRA: MTBE Ban Could Spell Trouble
WASHINGTON ," Citing how a New York ban on methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) in gasoline might "produce the opposite of the desired and necessary goals" of balancing the energy supply and environmental progress, the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA) has urged New York State's Environmental Conservation Committee on motor fuels policy to reconsider ," or at least postpone ," an MTBE ban.
NPRA Director of Technical Advocacy Charles Drevna testified that a unilateral ban of MTBE by the state of New York, which is to go into effect Jan. 1, 2004, would require four separate grades of gasoline. This ultimately could transform the New York gasoline market into an "isolated island with no access to the supply and distribution chain of regional or neighboring states or importers," he said.
U.S. Construction Chemical Demand ($ millions)
Demand for construction chemicals used in on-site applications in the United States is projected to grow at an average annual rate of 4.6 percent, reaching more than $6.4 billion by 2006. The growth largely is attributed to an anticipated recovery in industrial construction. Cement and asphalt additives are expected to register the strongest gains. Source: "Construction Chemicals," The Freedonia Group Inc., Cleveland, December 2002.
In Chemical Processing's May issue, a news story on p. 12 erroneously states that a cleaner containing bisphenol A was used to clean animal cages. A harsh cleaner actually was used, which caused the cages' plastic to leach this substance.