Plasma process to treat US chemical waste

dow Corning Corporation, the us- based silicon-manufacturing major, has announced it will use the plasma-based gasification process to recycle hazardous chemical waste. This will be the first commercial use of the Plasma Enhanced Melter technology in the us. Dow Corning will use the technology at its facility in Midland, Michigan.

The technology has been patented by the us- based Integrated Environmental Technology Inc (iet). The new technology heats waste to break the chemical bonds of organic components to convert them into hydrogen-rich gas. Inorganic components are converted into oxides of calcium and silicon, which are incorporated into glass-like material in a process called vitrification. These oxides are further heated to their melting points, turning them into a vitreous material. Dow Corning will use the technology to transform hazardous chlorinated organic liquids produced at its facilities into aqueous hydrochloric acid and clean synthetic gas (also called syngas).

Dow Corning will use these products as raw materials in its silicon-manufacturing facility instead of buying them. The project will also remove the need for off-site transportation and incineration of hazardous waste. The technology will help the plant recycle more than 6,600 tonnes of liquid hazardous waste per year and produce 12 million pounds of hydrochloric acid per year and 10.5 million British thermal unit of syngas per hour.

Though this will be the first commercial use of the technology in the us, iet says the technology has been in use in Japan and Taiwan for years. Meanwhile, Green Action, an international ngo, in its report Incinerator in Disguise, says there are problems with the plasma arc equipment used in the technology. Tests from the technology-provider iet revealed that the process does release toxic pollutants including dioxins, it says.