Focus on products
Operations are just one part of the equation for Orion, which is looking to improve the sustainability of its products as well as those of the customers it serves.
"We see sustainability as an opportunity," Deters said in an email interview. "As a responsible carbon additive producer, offering sustainable products to our customers is a critical component of our strategy to drive sustainability across the full spectrum of our industry value chain."
For Orion, developing a more sustainable carbon black product means ensuring that the product is responsibly sourced and provides solutions that allow customers and end users to minimize their carbon footprints and extend the life of their products.
"Our focus areas are recycling carbon black, producing carbon black with renewable feedstock to offer 'green' carbon black, and offering carbon black that enables our customers to enhance their sustainability agenda," Deters said.
Orion's pursuit of alternative feedstocks, for instance, led to the development of Printex Nature, the company's first sustainable carbon black made from plant oil. The product has an array of uses, according to Deters, who noted that it can be used in printing inks, polymers and coatings.
"Building on this experience and knowhow, we are further exploring ways to produce carbon black from other renewable feedstocks as part of our effort to offer sustainable products to our customers," Deters said.
When it comes to sustainable innovation, Orion isn't achieving milestones alone. The company is embracing opportunities to expand its understanding of sustainable technology and developments by plugging into projects and initiatives that align with its goals.
The BlackCycle project is one example of that effort.
Funded through the European Union and launched in May 2020, the project brings public and private entities together around a focus of creating, developing and optimizing a circular economy for tires.
"As the only carbon black producer in the consortium, our main role is to evaluate the feasibility of using pyrolysis oil in the production of carbon black," Deters said. "As part of this work, we will assess the chemical properties of pyrolysis oil and their usability as carbon black feedstock, as well as the applicability of carbon black produced from pyrolysis oil as an additive in tire and other production processes.
"If the test results are positive," Deters said, "it will take the carbon black industry one step closer to a circular economy."
Orion also is partnering with RI.SE ETC (Research Institutes of Sweden—Energy Technology Center) to develop sustainable carbon blacks from renewable raw materials from Swedish forests. This publicly funded project began this year and is set to continue through 2024.