Distilled News

Distilled News: Week of March 3, 2024, Review

March 11, 2024
EPA hazard reporting rules, space elevators and more.

Welcome to Distilled News for the week of March 3rd, 2024. Distilled News is a chemical processing production where we review some of the latest articles trending on chemical I'm your host, Jonathan Katz, executive Editor of Chemical Processing.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released new rules March 1 requiring chemical manufacturers to implement extensive safeguards to protect at-risk communities from facility accidents. The changes to the EPA’s Risk Management Program includes its most stringent safety provisions for chemical facilities to date. The agency said in its March 1 announcement that among the new rules is a requirement that chemical plans adopt an emergency plan for extreme weather events due to climate change and a requirement that they analyze safer alternatives to their existing materials. The American Chemistry Council (ACC) criticized the new standards saying it will lead to a surge in misguided regulations. ACC specifically singled out the requirement that chemical plans perform a safer technologies and alternatives analysis as an unnecessary burden on chemical manufacturers.

In a news release, ACC vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs Kimberly Wise White said the agency has not provided sufficient evidence to justify these new requirements, nor has it adopted a more targeted approach to further enhance safety as suggested by ACC and other stakeholders. Wise White added that ACC is requesting that the EPA withdraw its rule and focus on building on the success of the current program. Other final amendments to the rule include increasing employee involvement and safety measures, facilitating anonymous hazard reporting, mandating third-party audits and incident investigations following accidents, enhancing emergency planning and community notification systems, and improving public access to facility information.

We now turn our attention to company news.

Chemours has suspended its top executives pending an internal audit related to ethics hotline reports, certain securities and exchange commission filings and bookkeeping practices that may have impacted incentive plans.

Chemours said Feb. 28 that its board of directors placed CEO Mark Newman, CFO, Jonathan Lock and accounting officer Camala Wisel on administrative leave in mid-December. The SEC questioned Chemours about several non-GAAP measures in its filings, including those that impacted executives’ incentive pay. according to a Wall Street Journal article. The journal noted that these type of non-GAAP adjustments have come under criticism by executive-pay critics because they're prone to manipulation.

Evonik said March 4 it will cut 2,000 jobs worldwide as the company looks to save 400 million euros amid declining sales volumes and prices. Most of the positions cut will be in management, and approximately 1,500 of the job reductions will impact the specialty chemical manufacturer's Germany operations. Evonik announced the move after reporting sales fell 17% in 2023 to 15.3 billion euros. Sales volumes fell by 8% in 2023, and selling prices declined by 3%. Evonik does not expect an economic recovery in 2024.

In response, the company said it will limit capital expenditures this year.

We now turn to materials research.

A team of researchers from the University of Buffalo received $1.5 million in funding, including a $1.17 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, to identify more sustainable methods for hydrogen production. Over the next two years, the team will look at ways to reduce carbon emissions by developing a cost-effective membrane technology that separates oxygen from nitrogen in the air for gasification-based hydrogen production. This approach, if successful, could significantly contribute to the Biden administration's clean-energy targets, according to the research team led by engineering professor Haiqing Lin. The membrane made of selectively permeable hollow fibers would enable the production of pure hydrogen at lower costs compared to traditional methods. Collaborating with researchers at UT Austin and Trimeric Corp, Lin’s team is striving to achieve an oxygen nitrogen cell selectivity of 15, which would substantially improve oxygen production efficiency.

And are we ready for space elevators? Chemist Noe Alvarez at the University of Cincinnati addressed the challenge of reliably connecting carbon nanotubes to metal surfaces for various applications, even possibly a space elevator. As in the opening scene of the Brad Pitt movie “Ad Astra,” Alvarez and collaborators developed a chemical process to create a strong and consistent bond between nanotubes and metals, improving conductivity. Previous methods resulted in weak connections leading to imprecise measurements. The research published in Nanoscale Advances demonstrate a chemical bonding of nanotubes to metals like copper, aluminum and gold. This breakthrough, supported by a $720,000 National Science Foundation grant, shows promise for commercial applications of nanotubes. The study revealed that carbon atoms in the organic link bond with two copper atoms ensuring durable connections. Carbon nanotubes known for their strength and unique properties hold potential in diverse fields such as aerospace, coatings and energy storage. Alvarez's team grows nanotubes on silicon discs and employs catalytic chemical vapor deposition for their synthesis, enabling precise application in various industries.

That's it for this week's edition of Distilled News. Visit for more insights, and don't forget to register for our Morning Briefing and Chemical Processing Weekly newsletters. Until next time, stay informed, stay inspired and let's shape the future of chemistry together. Thank you and goodbye.

About the Author

Jonathan Katz | Executive Editor

Jonathan Katz, executive editor, brings nearly two decades of experience as a B2B journalist to Chemical Processing magazine. He has expertise on a wide range of industrial topics. Jon previously served as the managing editor for IndustryWeek magazine and, most recently, as a freelance writer specializing in content marketing for the manufacturing sector.

His knowledge areas include industrial safety, environmental compliance/sustainability, lean manufacturing/continuous improvement, Industry 4.0/automation and many other topics of interest to the Chemical Processing audience.

When he’s not working, Jon enjoys fishing, hiking and music, including a small but growing vinyl collection.

Jon resides in the Cleveland, Ohio, area.

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