PPG Industries (NYSE:PPG) operates a chlor-alkali plant in Natrium, West Virginia (near New Martinsville, WV) and is one of the last mercury-based chlor-alkali factories in the country.
Originally built in 1943, the PPG Industries factory started out as a mercury-free facility, but in 1957, the company added a mercury-based portion to the factory.
The mercury-free portion of the factory has been modernized several times to newer mercury-free technology, but the mercury-cell portion is still reliant on technology developed in the 19th Century. Not only does this technology require tons of mercury to be used annually, it is extremely energy-intensive and costs millions of dollars to maintain.
More than 100 factories around the world have switched from mercury-cell technology to mercury-free technology in the chlor-alkali industry. Oceana estimates it would take PPG Industries about $70 million to modernize its facility – or about the same amount that the company has spent on pollution control technology over the past decade.
If the factory were to modernize to mercury-free technology, it could slash energy consumption by up to 37 percent while increasing operating capacity by up to 80 percent. For PPG Industries, mercury-free technology could save about $14.7 million over five years in energy savings alone.