Dow Chemical Shuts Down Assets; Builds Biorefinery

July 15, 2009
CP 50 company uses its diversified portfolio to weather the economic storms. Builds pilot algae-based biorefinery.
The Dow Chemical Co.'s diverse product line may help the Midland, Mich.,-based company weather the economic ebbs and flows of our current economy. While the 112-year old company recently approved a restructuring plan that calls for the shutdown of a number of manufacturing assets, including ethylene and ethylene-derivative units, Dow also is moving forward with a biorefinery project that will convert CO2 into ethanol.[pullquote] The restructuring plan includes a previously announced charge to eliminate approximately 2,500 positions."Consistent with Dow's practice of active portfolio management, we continue to take quick and aggressive action to right-size our manufacturing footprint, particularly in our basics portfolio," says Andrew N. Liveris, Dow chairman and CEO. "These actions are also aligned with our strategic transformation, which focuses on preferentially investing for growth in our performance and advanced materials portfolios."These shutdowns, when taken in total, will reduce the company's ethylene demand by approximately 30% on the U.S. Gulf Coast. As a result, Dow expects to eliminate its purchases of ethylene from the merchant market (approximately 3 billion pounds annually), improving the company's cost position while fully integrating ethylene production with internal demand to better meet customer needs.Moving on to the preferential investments Liveris spoke of, the company recently announced it will work with Bonita Springs, Fla.-based Algenol Biofuels Inc. to build and operate a pilot-scale algae-based integrated biorefinery that will convert CO2 into ethanol. The facility is planned to be located at Dow's Freeport, Texas, site.[sidebar id="1"] "This project and the innovative technology involved offers great promise in the battle to help slow, stop and reverse the growth of greenhouse gas emissions," states Liveris. "We are very excited to be part of this ground-breaking alternative energy project, which is a good example of Dow's holistic approach to CO2 capture and storage by adding value through chemistry."Algenol's technology uses CO2,  salt water, sunlight and non-arable land to produce ethanol.  CO2 supplied to algae in photobioreactors serves as the carbon source for the ethanol produced.  The result is a CO2 capture process that converts industrially derived CO2 into more sustainable fuels and chemicals.Dow, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) and Membrane Technology & Research Inc. are contributing science, expertise, and technology to the project. In addition to leasing the land for the pilot-scale facility, Dow plans to develop advanced materials and specialty films for the photobioreactor system.  The company will also provide the technology and expertise related to water treatment solutions and will give Algenol access to a CO2 source for the biorefinery from a nearby Dow manufacturing facility.  According to Rich Wells, Dow vice president, Energy & Climate Change and Alternative Feedstocks, "This is yet another way that Dow is helping to solve world energy challenges with our expertise in sustainable chemistry that is good for the world, and good for business."

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