Industry Fosters Environmental Progress

A variety of efforts aim to significantly improve plant performance.

By Seán Ottewell, editor at large

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Rising raw material and energy costs, ever-increasing regulation and meeting its own targets for sustainable development are driving the industry’s involvement in a whole variety of advanced technologies.

Such comprehensive challenges requires comprehensive solutions, a good of example of which is the announcement by Solvay, Brussels, Belgium, that it plans to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 20% at its manufacturing site in Tavaux, France, following approval by French authorities for a biomass-based thermal power plant there (Figure 1).

Figure 1 -- Biomass-based power plant 
Unit at Tavaux, France, will cut carbon
dioxide emissions, while generating both
steam and electricity.
Source: Solvay.

The €76 million  ($100 million) investment will generate 30 MW of electricity and 30 t/h of steam. The electricity will be sold to electricity company Electricité de France while Solvay will use the steam in its manufacturing operations.
“Our plans in Tavaux, as well as our secondary solid-fuel project in Bernburg, Germany, illustrate Solvay’s long-standing policy of diversifying energy sources, to foster the group’s sustainable and profitable development,” says Jean-Michel Mesland, general manager for research and technology.

The company also has joined Capricorn Cleantech Fund, a venture capital fund that focuses on startup, early and development stage investments in clean-technology-based growth companies across Europe.

Solvay acts as a strategic partner in the fund, whose other investors include energy group Electrabel/Suez, French-Belgian bank Dexia, Flemish government investment organization Participatie Maatschappij Vlaanderen, and the European Union’s (EU) European Investment Fund (EIF).

Solvay’s particular focus here is on chemistry based on renewable materials, sustainable energy sources and environmental technologies. The company’s most advanced projects in those areas include the manufacturing of epichlorohydrin from natural glycerine through its proprietary Epicerol process, the production of vinyls derived from salt and sugar cane, plus the development of membrane electrode assemblies for fuel cells.
In addition, Solvay Group is to participate in France’s BioHub project for the development of “green” performance materials. As part of this involvement, the company has decided to invest $40 million in its subsidiary Solvay Chemicals, Green River, Wyo., where a novel proprietary technology is to be used to manufacture its new SOLVair Select 300 product for the treatment of sulfur dioxide in flue gases.

With an initial capacity of 125 000 t/y, startup is planned for 2010 — using a process that the company says will improve the environmental efficiency of the Green River plant.

“This development is in line with the Solvay Group’s commitment towards sustainable development, as it supports applications aimed at mitigating environmental impact of air emissions and improves the efficiency of our Green River plant,” comments Christine Tahon, managing director of the soda ash strategic business unit. “With this product, Solvay again demonstrates that innovators in the chemical industry are best suited to provide workable solutions to some of today’s most critical environmental challenges,” she adds.

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