On the heels of Olin Corporation’s 2009 earnings announcement, ocean conservation group Oceana, working to persuade chlor-alkali manufacturers such as Olin Corporation to go “mercury-free,” urged the company to stop using polluting mercury-based technology in its Charleston, TN plant.
As Olin announces its 2009 earnings, Oceana argues that switching to mercury-free technology offers many bottom-line benefits. Olin’s modernization of the St. Gabriel, Louisiana, facility is expected to pay for itself in five years due to increased efficiencies.
“In 2009, Olin had more than $1.5 billion in sales and at the end of the year, the company had nearly $460 million of cash and cash equivalents on hand. Olin has more cash and cash equivalents on hand now than any other year in the past decade. If Olin were to modernize its Charleston, Tennessee plant, it could save an estimated $92.9 million over the life of the plant by cutting environmental costs and energy consumption. Despite this, the company has refused to modernize its plant,” said Simon Mahan, Oceana campaign analyst.
Oceana argued that Olin Corporation should install cleaner, more efficient, mercury-free technology in its chlor-alkali plants, similar to technology already in place in many US chlorine plants. Due to greater energy efficiency and other cost saving measures of the mercury-free technology, some modernized factories have recovered the cost of conversion within five years.
Relevant data about Olin’s Charleston, TN plant:
• Estimated one-time cost of Charleston plant conversion to mercury-free technology: $137 million
• Energy efficiency following conversion: 25 to 37 percent increase
• Annual energy cost savings from 25 percent increase in efficiency (conservative estimate): $11.4 million
• Annual estimated cost savings from eliminating mercury use: $2 million
• Estimated total conversion cost over 30 years: -$92.9 million (net savings)
The Olin Corporation operates two of four remaining U.S. mercury-based chlor-alkali facilities in Charleston, TN and Augusta, GA. The other 27 plants, which represent more than 95 percent of U.S. chlor-alkali industry capacity, already use clean, mercury-free technology, eliminating toxic mercury pollution.
More than 115 chlor-alkali facilities worldwide have already converted to the more efficient, mercury-free membrane-cell chlorine technology, including three of Olin’s other chlor-alkali facilities in the U.S. (McIntosh, AL; Niagara Falls, NY; St. Gabriel, LA). Modernizing chlor-alkali facilities saves hundreds of jobs and creates new jobs in communities surrounding these factories. Additionally, membrane-cell technology reduces electricity consumption by as much as 37 percent and can extend operating lifetimes by up to 40 years.
The Mercury Pollution Reduction Act (H.R. 2190/S. 1428) would require a phase-out of mercury-based chlorine production technology. When passed, the House version of the bill will give Olin Corporation and other companies the option to convert their facilities to mercury-free technology by mid-2015 or stop using mercury by mid-2013 if they refuse to modernize. None of Olin’s previous conversions to cleaner technology (McIntosh, AL; Niagara Falls, NY; St. Gabriel, LA) have taken more than three years to complete.
Oceana’s team of marine scientists, economists, lawyers and advocates win specific and concrete policy changes to reduce pollution and to prevent the irreversible collapse of fish populations, marine mammals and other sea life. Global in scope and dedicated to conservation, Oceana has campaigners based in North America, Europe, South and Central America. For more information, please visit http://na.Oceana.org.