U.S. Energy Department seeks to improve chemical manufacturing

The U.S. Department of Energy wants to establish a new Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute to boost efficiency in chemical manufacturing. The Modular Chemical Process Intensification Institute will focus on developing breakthrough technologies to increase the energy efficiency of manufacturing processes used across a wide range of U.S. industries, including ethylene for plastics and biofuels used in sustainable transportation.

Specifically, the new institute will leverage approaches to modular chemical process intensification — like combining multiple, complex processes such as mixing, reaction and separation into single steps — with the goal of improving energy productivity and efficiency, cutting operating costs and reducing waste.

The Energy Department hopes that the development of new process intensification technologies will bring about major savings in energy-intensive sectors like chemical manufacturing, oil and gas refining, pulp and paper-making, food manufacturing, biofuels, fuel cells and other industries. The department said that this represents a critical step in the Obama Administration’s effort to double U.S. energy productivity by 2030.

Agricultural chemicals in drinking water linked to birth defects

Farming chemicals in drinking water can lead to birth defects, according to a study published in the journal Current Environmental Health Reports.

Researchers at Texas A&M University found that nitrates, atrazine and arsenic have all been linked to birth defects.

“In several case-control studies published since 2000, women giving birth to babies with neural tube defects, oral clefts and limb deficiencies were more likely than control mothers to be exposed to higher concentrations of drinking water nitrate during pregnancy,” the report said.

The researchers also found that higher concentrations of atrazine in drinking water were associated with abdominal defects, gastroschisis and other defects, while elevated levels of arsenic in drinking water were also associated with birth defects.

Drinking water from private wells is not regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, so the researchers recommend that the people using private wells get their water tested.

Honeywell to spin off resins & chemicals business

Technology and manufacturing group Honeywell revealed that it will spin off its resins and chemicals business into a standalone, publicly traded company named AdvanSix Inc.

The deal is expected to be completed by early 2017.

Honeywell’s resins and chemicals business manufactures Nylon 6, a polymer resin used to produce engineered plastics, fibers, filaments and films. These, in turn, are used in end products such as automotive and electronic components, carpets, sports apparel, fishing nets, and food and industrial packaging. The business also produces Sulf-N ammonium sulfate fertilizers and chemical intermediates, including phenol, acetone and Nadone cyclohexanone, and is the largest single-site producer of caprolactam.

Erin Kane will become president and CEO of AdvanSix upon completion of the spin-off. Kane currently serves as vice president and general manager of the resins and chemicals business.