is to develop an economically feasible technology that avoids these harmful chemicals and reduces the carbon footprint of the industry.
The chlor-alkali industry is over 100 years old with existing operations that utilize hazardous chemicals to the environment and human health. Chlor-alkali is very energy intensive resulting in a significant carbon footprint with further environmental and health impacts. Without compelling technology alternatives, it’s difficult to force change because the economics are not feasible – hence the challenge.
Operators across the world pledged to phase out the mercury cell chlor-alkali technologies with many facilities acting on this commitment in the last decade. Unfortunately, there are high capital costs associated with converting a mercury cell plant to another chlor-alkali technology. This leads to plants closing operations and even delaying conversions in some regions.
Diaphragm cell chlor-alkali technologies were primarily asbestos based until the 1980s. High costs of the diaphragm alternatives delayed implementation and many chlor-alkali facilities around the globe continue to utilize asbestos diaphragms today. World agencies have eliminated asbestos across most industries, but the chlor-alkali industry is exempt from this exclusion in some regions.
Chlorine gas is essential to the chemical industry with a wide range of applications including plastics, pharmaceuticals and cleaning products. Chlorine gas also poses significant health risks. Even at very low concentrations, chlorine results in serious moist tissue damage, particularly in the lungs. Chlorine gas is responsible for a number of recent deadly catastrophes with substantial resources dedicated to mitigating chlorine exposure risks.
Electricity is a major feedstock to the chlor-alkali process leading to a significant carbon footprint with the associated greenhouse gas concerns. Further, energy costs determine the profitability of a chlor-alkali plant. Lowering industry energy use is better for the environment and the bottom line.
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