New water-based process for manufacturing liquid polymers conserves hydrocarbon solvent and surfactants

June 28, 1999

Local company wins presidential award

Washington, DC - Nalco Chemical Company of Naperville, Ill. received the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge award today for its development of a new environmentally-friendly way to make polymers used in wastewater treatment. The new process is safer, eliminates the need for organic solvents, is energy-efficient and utilizes waste by-products from other manufacturing processes. The awards were presented to five companies or individuals from a nationwide pool.

"Green chemistry" is chemistry designed to reduce or eliminate the use or generation of hazardous substances. Traditionally, high molecular weight polymers based on acrylamide, which have applications in wastewater treatment, have been produced as a dry powder or as a water-in-oil emulsion. The powder form presents exposure hazards and is energy-intensive to produce and use, while the emulsion employs large quantities of hydrocarbon solvents and surfactants (emulsion polymers introduce approximately 90 million pounds of oil and surfactant into the environment on an annual basis).

Nalco's new process manufactures acrylamide polymers in a water environment, eliminating the use of oils and surfactants and utilizing a waste by-product from another industrial process. In wastewater treatment applications, these water-soluble polymers also eliminate the need for the expensive inversion and mixing equipment required when emulsion polymers are used. By adopting this new technology, Nalco has conserved over one million pounds of hydrocarbon solvent and surfactants since 1997 on two polymers alone.

"The development of this water-soluble polymer technology is an example of the commitment, innovation and creative thinking Nalco uses to seek out new and advanced water and wastewater treatment solutions that meet the environmental needs of customers today, " said Ted Mooney, Chairman and CEO of Nalco.

An independent panel of experts chose the winners as demonstrating practical as well as innovative ways to significantly reduce pollution at its sources. The panel is selected by the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society, as part of its participation in the Presidential Green Chemistry Challenge.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administers the awards. Now in its fourth year, the awards program is part of President Clinton's Reinventing Environmental Regulations Initiative to encourage public-private partners to create innovative ways to protect the environment without the need for regulatory controls. The EPA, in participation with the National Science Foundation, also funds about $7 million annually for research grants dedicated to green chemistry.

Peter D. Robertson, Acting Deputy Administrator for the U.S. EPA, presented the awards during a ceremony at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C.

A nonprofit organization with a membership of nearly 159,000 chemists and chemical engineers, the American Chemical Society publishes scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences, and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

American Chemical Society

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