Monday, February 25, 2013

EPA Calls for 2013 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Award Nominations / New green chemistry technologies grow markets and save businesses money

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today announced the nominations for the 2013 Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards for companies and institutions that can design chemicals or a new product that help protect public health and the environment.

“The Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge is an opportunity for EPA to recognize green chemistry innovations that are having real time results in making manufacturing processes and products that we use every day safer,” said Jim Jones, acting assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. “Increasingly, environmental benefits can result in reduced costs or increased market opportunities for new products, or both. In 2012, EPA launched an effort to complement the award program by providing a forum for winners and nominees to focus on maximizing their investments in green chemistry.”

Award-winning technologies during 2012 included one which saves $2 million to $20 million each year in each of eighteen plants, which convert bauxite ore into the raw material for making aluminum. Another technology is saving over $1 million each year in a large paper mill. Today’s awards reflect the ongoing commitment President Obama highlighted in his State of the Union address to partner with businesses and communities to encourage investments that help small businesses and grow the U.S. economy.
Green chemistry is the design of chemical products and processes that reduce both the generation and use of chemicals that are hazardous to the environment and people’s health. Nominations for innovative technologies that feature the design of greener chemicals, greener chemical synthesis, or greener chemical reactions are due to the agency by April 30, 2013. EPA is particularly interested in receiving nominations on approaches or technologies that reduce or eliminate the need for brominated flame retardant chemicals. The EPA anticipates recognizing five award winning green chemistry technologies this fall.

In December 2012, EPA and the American Chemical Society co-hosted a roundtable meeting for award winners and nominees. The purpose was to share their experiences in launching their innovations into the marketplace and what those experiences mean technically, economically, and publicly for their companies, communities, the environment, and the nation. The roundtable also gave companies a forum to describe how federal assistance, public/private partnerships, and supply chain strategies combine to provide additional opportunities to strengthen the innovation-to-market pipeline. This effort will be an on-going component of the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge Awards program.

Since the inception of the awards 18 years ago, EPA has received 1,490 nominations and presented awards to 88 technologies. It has resulted in the generation and reduced use of more than 825 million pounds of hazardous chemicals and solvents, saved 21 billion gallons of water, and eliminated 7.9 billion pounds of carbon dioxide releases to the air.

More information on past award winners and how to submit entries can be found at:
MAX HT® Bayer Sodalite Scale Inhibitor
The Bayer process converts bauxite ore to alumina, the primary raw material for aluminum. The process involves extracting alumina trihydrate from bauxite ore using hot caustic solution. After separating out the insoluble solids, the alumina trihydrate is precipitated and the spent liquor is recycled. Heat exchangers re-concentrate the liquor to the optimum concentration of caustic and then heat it to the proper temperature for digestion. Silica present as silicates, primarily clay materials, dissolves quickly in typical Bayer liquor used to digest alumina, resulting in the liquor being supersaturated in silica, particularly after precipitation of the alumina trihydrate. The silica in the liquor reacts with the caustic and alumina on the hot surfaces of the heat exchangers; as a result, sodalite scale (i.e., crystalline aluminosilicate) builds up on the heat exchangers and interstage piping in the process. This reduces the efficiency of the heat exchangers. Periodically, Bayer process plant operators must take the equipment off line for cleaning that involves removing the scale with sulfuric acid. The used acid is a waste stream that requires disposal. In addition to the acid cleaning, much of the interstage piping requires cleaning with mechanical means such as jackhammers to remove the scale.
There are about 73 operating Bayer process plants worldwide with annual capacities of 0.2–6 million tons of alumina per plant; most plants are in the 1.5–3 million ton range. Eighteen Bayer process plants worldwide have adopted this technology; seven more plants are testing it. Each plant using MAX HT® saves $2 million to $20 million annually. The realized annual energy savings for all plants together are 9.5 trillion to 47.5 trillion Btu, which is the equivalent of about 1.1 billion to 7.7 billion pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) not released to the atmosphere. Fewer cleaning cycles and less acid per cycle result in a realized annual hazardous waste reduction of 76 million to 230 million pounds for all plants together.
The “Bayer process” converts bauxite to alumina, the raw material for making aluminum. Mineral scale deposited on the heat exchangers and pipes in Bayer process plants increases energy use. Removing the scale requires stopping production and cleaning with sulfuric acid. Cytec’s product hinders scale growth. Eighteen plants worldwide are using MAX HT® inhibitor, saving trillions of Btu (British thermal units) annually. Fewer cleaning cycles also reduce hazardous acid waste by millions of pounds annually....
Enzymes Reduce the Energy and Wood Fiber Required to Manufacture High-Quality Paper and Paperboard
The paper and packaging industry is an important part of the U.S. economy, with product sales of $115 billion per year and employment of about 400,000 people. Previously, papermakers who needed to improve paper strength were limited to adding costly pulps, increasing mechanical treatment that expends significant energy, or using various chemical additives such as glyoxalated polyacrylamides and polyacrylamide copolymers.

Enzymes are extremely efficient tools for replacing conventional chemicals in papermaking applications. Buckman’s Maximyze® technology consists of new cellulase enzymes and combinations of enzymes derived from natural sources and produced by fermentation. These enzymes were not previously available commercially. Wood fibers treated with Maximyze® enzymes prior to refining (a mechanical treatment unique to papermaking) have substantially more fibrils that bind the wood fibers to each other. Maximyze® enzymes modify the cellulose polymers in the wood fiber so that the same level of refining produces much more surface area for hydrogen bonding, which is the basic source of strength in paper. As a result, Maximyze® treatment produces paper and paperboard with improved strength and quality.

Maximyze® improves strength so the weight of the paper product can be reduced or some of the wood fiber can be replaced with a mineral filler such as calcium carbonate....

The first commercial application began with the production of fine paper within the past two years. In 2011, a pulp and paper manufacturer in the Northwest began to add Maximyze® enzymes to the bleached pulp used to produce paperboard for food containers. This change increased machine speed by 20 feet per minute for a 2 percent increase in production. It also reduced the level of mechanical refining by 40 percent for a substantial savings in energy. Finally, it reduced the basis weight (density) of the paper by 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet without changing the specifications for quality. Overall, Maximyze® treatment reduced the amount of wood pulp required by at least 1 percent, which reduced the annual amount of wood needed to produce the food containers by at least 2,500 tons. Buckman estimates that using Maximyze® technology for this one machine can save wood pulp equivalent to 25,000 trees per year. Another large mill producing fine paper has used Buckman’s technology since January 2010 and saved over $1 million per year. Since introducing this new technology, Buckman has expanded it and is now applying it successfully in over 50 paper mills in the United States and beyond.
Producing Industrial Chemicals by Fermenting Renewable Feedstocks at a Lower Cost
OPX Biotechnologies (OPXBIO) has developed a proprietary platform technology called Efficiency Directed Genome Engineering (EDGETM). This technology allows OPXBIO to develop and engineer microorganisms and bioprocesses faster and less expensively than traditional methods. OPXBIO can now develop multiple chemicals cost-effectively from multiple renewable feedstocks.

In 2011, OPXBIO developed a bioprocess for biobased acrylic acid (bioacrylic acid). OPXBIO used its EDGETM process to engineer both a microorganism to produce 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3-HP) and a process to manufacture bioacrylic acid renewably. A key focus was developing a microbial strain with increased cellular pools of malonyl-CoA, the first committed intermediate in the 3-HP production pathway. Many commercial products may be derived from malonyl-CoA, including fatty acids (and hence long chain alkanes), polyketides, and 3-HP.

An initial lifecycle analysis (LCA) indicates that OPXBIO’s process for bioacrylic acid would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 77 percent and crude oil use by 82 percent compared to traditional acrylic acid synthesis from propylene. If the entire global market for acrylic acid (4.5 million tons annually) were replaced with OPXBIO’s bioacrylic acid, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by more than 5 million tons annually, and industry’s use of crude oil would decrease by approximately 2.5 million tons.

In 2011, OPXBIO scaled up its process and demonstrated the fermentation and primary purification of 3-HP at 3,000 liters. If dextrose feedstock costs $0.14 per pound, metrics predict a commercial cost of bioacrylic acid at approximately $0.75 per pound. This cost is competitive with the average cost of petroleum-based acrylic acid in 2011, making the process both environmentally and economically sustainable.
Concrete-Friendly™ Powdered Active Carbon (C-PAC™) to Remove Mercury from Flue Gas Safely
Coal-fired power plants emit 45 tons of gaseous mercury into the air and produce 65.5 million metric (MM) tons of fly ash annually in the United States. Fly ash has a composition similar to that of volcanic ash and is an excellent replacement for cement in concrete. Currently, about half the concrete produced in the United States contains fly ash. Of the 65.5 MM tons of fly ash generated in 2008, more than 11.5 MM tons were used in concrete and 16.0 MM tons were used in structure fills, soil modification, and other applications.
According to EPA’s 2008 report to Congress, federal concrete projects used 5.3 MM tons of fly ash in 2004 and 2005 to replace cement, saving about 25 billion megajoules of energy, saving 2.1 billion liters of water, and reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by about 3.8 MM tons.

Powdered activated carbon injection (ACI) is a conventional technology that injects mercury sorbents into flue gas in power plants and captures the mercury-laden sorbents in fly ash. Although this reduces mercury emissions, the resulting fly ash is unsuitable for concrete and requires disposal in landfills. If mercury contamination made all fly ash unsuitable for use in concrete, the 11.5 MM tons now used in concrete each year would require more than 33 million cubic feet of new landfill space at a cost of about $196 million.
Catalytic Treatment of Hydrogen Peroxide in IBM Semiconductor Wastewater
Semiconductor manufacturing produces a large ammonia and hydrogen peroxide wastewater stream that requires treatment. Through 2009, the industry standard for treating this wastewater stream was to reduce the hydrogen peroxide with sodium bisulfate then to neutralize it with sodium hydroxide. The next step was separating ammonia by distilling the wastewater to remove ammonium hydroxide. The added sodium bisulfite and sodium hydroxide contributed high levels of total dissolved solids (TDS) to IBM’s wastewaters and final effluent discharge, and both were also becoming increasingly expensive.

In 2003, IBM’s East Fishkill plant (EFK) began an initiative with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation to reduce the TDS in the site’s effluent discharge to a small receiving stream. Over the next six years, IBM EFK investigated alternative technologies to remove sources of TDS from its manufacturing wastewaters and wastewater treatment processes. In early 2009, IBM qualified a catalytic enzyme process to replace the existing sodium bisulfate process for removing hydrogen peroxide from the ammonia wastewater. This process uses a small quantity of a catalase derived from Aspergillus niger fermentation to decompose peroxide into water and oxygen. It does not contribute TDS to the site’s effluent discharge and costs a fraction of the previous treatment. The new process incorporates existing building equipment as much as possible and integrates flawlessly into the existing treatment system.

IBM started and completed design and construction of the full-scale peroxide treatment system in 2009, with startup continuing through March 2010. Annually, this new process eliminates the use of 510,000 gallons of 38 percent sodium bisulfite and 135,000 gallons of 50 percent sodium hydroxide for acid neutralization. It reduces chemical costs by $675,000 per year. The catalytic reduction of hydrogen peroxide process has been online continuously since the beginning of 2010 and is currently patent-pending.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 
Press Release dated February 21, 2013

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