Can Chlorine Cut its Energy Bill Even Further?
Nevertheless, it should no one should expect chlorine producers to cut their energy bill much further: The amount of energy required for the electrolysis to break-up the sodium chloride molecules is unavoidable. "Chlorine is stored energy", explained Dieter Schnepel, Eurochlor chairman and Vice-Chairman of Dow-Stade – one reason why it is also so reactive.
Accordingly, the association Eurochlor is campaigning for the recognition of chlorine-alkali chemistry as a secondary emitter in emissions trading with corresponding rights. Companies are already saving hydrogen through the material use of the reaction product, of which 89% is used as a base chemical, for steam generation or for fuel cells. The use of depolarised cathodes, can even, in some cases, prevent the emergence of hydrogen entirely.
Modernize or Tear Down: The Mercury Question
The disposal of residual mercury from old plants is a cause of great concern for plant operators: Experts estimate that up to 6000 tonnes have to be disposed of after 2017. But where to get rid of toxic transition metal? Exporting elemental mercury is prohibited under new EU regulations as the substance is used for gold mining in many countries. This controversial method often causes major environmental damage and health risks for miners and local population alike.
The new rules also prescribe a stabilisation of waste as mercury sulphite, as the material is much less dangerous to man and environment in this state. The stabilised mercury can then, for example, be stored as hazardous waste in underground storage in salt domes, such as the salt mine Herfa-Neurode, Germany, one of Europe’s largest storage areas for highly hazardous substances. In fact, it is the very same salt that is used as a raw material for chlorine production that serves as a repository for toxic waste from the manufacturing process.
What About the Mercury?
However, the capacity for mercury stabilization in the EU is limited - and the substance may be stored on the company premises for no longer than one year before the site is effectively regarded as landfill and must operate according to the appropriate rules and regulations. This period ends after another five years; although a one-off extension for a period of three years is possible in exceptional cases.
In view of the limited capacity for the stabilisation of mercury, experts believe that mercury will trouble the industry long after 2017. Therefore, Eurochlor organised a workshop on the implementation of examples of good practice for association of companies in 2016.
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