Chlorine chemistry is a critical element of sustainability, resource conservation, and energy innovation.
Chlorine chemistry is an important component in the development and manufacture of materials that make vehicles lighter—thereby increasing gasoline mileage. Unlike most other plastics, which are manufactured wholly from fossil fuels, cost-effective polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is comprised of 57 percent chlorine. Chlorine is needed to recycle aluminum beverage cans. Chlorine helps remove impurities in melted aluminum during the recycling process.
Polyurethane foam insulation, manufactured using chlorine chemistry, increases the energy efficiency of home heating and air-conditioning systems, reducing energy bills and conserving natural resources. Energy-efficient polyvinyl chloride (PVC) windows reduce home heating and cooling costs and fossil fuel energy-associated greenhouse gas emissions. Vinyl windows are low maintenance, eliminating the need for paints, stains, strippers and thinners. Research indicates manufacturing vinyl windows requires one-third of the energy needed to manufacture aluminum windows.
Chlorine Gas Is an Energy Efficient Disinfectant
According to this study, on a supply chain basis, chlorine gas uses 36 percent less electricity than the next most efficient technology. The use of chlorine gas also releases significantly fewer greenhouse gasses than other disinfectants and minimizes the total amount of material transported compared to three of the most common chemical disinfectants.
Chlorine chemistry plays an important role in harnessing solar energy—purifying the silicon found in grains of sand and helping transform them into solar panel chips. Wind turbine blades of chlorine-based epoxy resins help convert wind power into electricity for a clean, renewable, greenhouse gas-free energy source.
Clean, energy-efficient hybrid vehicles contain electric motors powered by nickel metal hydride battery packs. These batteries, which last longer than the most advanced lead-acid battery, use potassium hydroxide—a co-product of chlor-alkali production—as an electrolyte.
An Industry Committed to Sustainability
Through advances in technology and operating practices, the chlor-alkali industry is reducing its environmental footprint:
- The U.S. industry reduced its total emissions of chlorinated chemicals to air and water by more than 80% from 1988 to 2004, as reported under EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) program.
- The industry has reduced its dioxin releases by 55% in the first five years that these chemicals have been reported under EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory program (2000-2004). According to EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment, the chlor-alkali industry is a small source of dioxin, representing less than 1% of total quantified emissions in the U.S.
- The industry reduced its use of mercury 94% from 1996 to 2005 and reduced releases of mercury to air and water by 49% since 1988. Today, only 9% of chlorine production capacity in the U.S. uses mercury cell technology and announced plans for either closings or conversions should further reduce the chlorine produced by the mercury cell process another 20% by the end of 2007.