FRANKLIN, La.—Cabot Corp. has a vision for the future, one that includes blue skies, cleaner air and more efficient operations.
To achieve this aim, the company committed to ensuring all of its U.S. operations meet stringent guidelines for the emission of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and sulfur dioxide (SO2), and it has taken some big steps toward that end.
Cabot has completed an $85 million project at its Franklin, La., facilities, a move that it said will reduce the daily NOx and SO2 emissions by as much as 20 tons. Additionally, waste heat from the plant is recovered and, without creating additional emissions, is used to generate about 50 megawatts of power.
"The project was constructed in phases to bring on the waste heat power generation capability first," Cabot said in a statement. "The last phase of the project was to install the emissions control equipment. This portion of the project started in April 2019 and was recently completed in April 2021."
Last year, Cabot said that facility upgrades would reduce NOx emissions by 90 percent and SO2 emissions by 95 percent through the use of wet gas scrubbing. At that time, Cabot said emissions savings would cut NOx and SO2 by nearly 900 tons and 6,500 metric tons per year, respectively.
Cabot chose to lean into the wet gas scrubbing technology, calling it both "well-proven" and "state-of-the-art." The technology, the company said, mixes process gases with an aqueous scrubbing liquid, and it's being combined with a catalytic process to best achieve emissions reduction.
"We are proud of the improvements we have made in our environmental performance and the leadership we have demonstrated within our industry but realize this is an ongoing process," Cabot said in a statement.
The nearly 60-year-old plant—built by Cabot in 1952—manufactures a broad range of carbon blacks for tires, industrial rubber and specialty applications. It's the second of the company's U.S. production sites to complete the installation of emissions control equipment.
In 2017, Cabot performed similar emissions control upgrades at its plant in Pampa, Texas. There, the company said it reduced NOx emissions by 67 percent, eliminating 1,500 tons of emissions over three years.
"Our Pampa, Texas, facility is a smaller site, and as a result, was a much smaller investment. The focus was predominantly on reducing NOx emissions," Cabot said.
For more than a decade, the Boston-based carbon black maker has had its sights set on cleaner production with an eye on reduced emissions. In 2014, it reached an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, pledging to invest in emission reduction technologies at its U.S. production sites—in Pampa, Franklin and Ville Platte, La.
Cabot believes it is the first carbon black manufacturer to sign a Consent Decree with the U.S. EPA that includes a national enforcement initiative to control air emissions from industrial sources. This, it said, helps it to solidify its reputation as a leader in the industry and in the communities where it is has a presence.
"Advancing progress in sustainability is one essential way we will continue to demonstrate and maintain our leadership in the chemical industry," Martin O'Neill, senior vice president of safety, health and environment and government affairs, said in a statement.
"We understand that we have an obligation to lead by example in our industry and are doing so through projects like the emissions controls work in Franklin," he said. "We look forward to continuing to collaborate across our global network to push ourselves and our industry to innovate for a more sustainable future."
Several organizations and publications have recognized the sustainability strides Cabot has made.
Among the accolades recently earned was a platinum rating from EcoVadis, a provider of business sustainability ratings, intelligence and collaborative performance improvement tools for global supply chains.
Cabot also has been listed among Newsweek's Most Responsible Companies.
"We are proud that our sustainability efforts and performance have been recognized by several external organizations, including customers," Cabot said. "We firmly believe that our steadfast commitment to excellent sustainability performance is not only critical to our long-term success but is a key differentiator in our industry."
The Franklin project, in particular, was a test of Cabot's commitment to its emissions reduction pledge, according to Bart Kalkstein, president of the Reinforcement Materials segment and the Americas region. The latest phase in the project was launched in 2019 and was met with a number of challenges including hurricanes Laura, Sally, Delta and Barry, the COVID-19 pandemic and the winter freeze that gripped Louisiana and Texas in mid-February.
Cabot not only overcame these challenges to ensure that the project was completed as scheduled, but it proactively worked to mitigate schedule and safety risks, both for its own employees and the contractors working on the project.
"This project," Kalkstein said, "was a true testament to our values and commitment to safety and sustainability."
But it wasn't just the efficiency of the project that made Cabot proud.
"We had to complete the tie-in of the emission controls to our existing plant while continuing to serve customers during a time of record demand," Cabot said. "This required months of planning and close coordination between our construction, operations, commercial and supply chain teams to ensure that our customers continued to receive the same high level of service they have come to expect from Cabot."