🏭 Sarnia is getting started
Origin finished building it's first site, Cabot is making more carbon black, and disposable globes.
Good morning. Some new roles were posted to The Column's job board over the weekend—if you want to join a team that's commercializing a sustainable route to acrylonitrile, be sure to scroll to the bottom of today's edition!
From the condenser:
· Origin finished its first site
· Cabot is making more carbon black
· POTD: disposable gloves
Origin finished building its first site
Sustainable chemicals startup, Origin Materials, has completed the construction of its first commercial-scale site in Sarnia, Ontario.
A little background:
After buying a plot of land on the St. Clair River from Arlanxeo in 2018, Origin finalized plans to build their first commercial-scale site: a $125 million plant capable of processing 25,000 tons of wood waste per year into primarily chloromethyl furfural (CMF) and hydrothermal carbon (HTC). (CMF is a platform molecule that can be used to produce polyethylene terephthalate among many other molecules and materials, and HTC seems similar to carbon black.)
Summing it up:
It can take a long time to go from plant announcement to fully operational, so to speed things up Origin decided to build the site by piecing together 17 core process modules (courtesy of Koch Modular). Now that construction is complete, Origin will start commissioning the site in hopes of starting up within a few months.
Origin has signed $9 billion worth of off-take agreements—needless to say that this 25,000 ton per year site is not meant to satisfy that demand—instead, the site gives Origin's customers an opportunity to qualify products that it makes with Origin's chemicals, and it gives Origin an opportunity to prove that it's process is profitable.
Cabot's carbon black is for batteries
Boston-based specialty chemicals company, Cabot Corporation, is planning to expand its carbon black production in Pampa, TX with a $90 million investment.
When we talk about carbon black, we're really referring to a bunch of different carbon blacks, all of which are different varieties of aggregated carbon nanoparticles. Those nanoparticles vary by size and surface chemistry, and the aggregates they form vary in size (number of nanoparticles per clump) and structure (branch length, etc.). In any case, we typically make those carbon nanoparticles via the incomplete combustion of some petroleum-based feedstock. That feedstock might be heavy oil for the carbon black that goes into tires, and it might be acetylene for the carbon black that goes into lithium-ion batteries (LIBs).
So, what's going on here?
If we want to make more electric vehicles (EVs), we need to make more LIBs, and if we're going to make more LIBs, we're going to need more of all of the materials they consist of. So yes, that does mean more lithium and more rare earth metals (like cobalt), but that also means more carbon black, because carbon black dramatically improves the conductivity of the cathode, improving battery efficiency. (In simple terms, this basically works by forming little conductive carbon bridges between lithium metal oxide particles).
Cabot's carbon black expansion at their Pampa site should be complete by the end of 2025, but it's just a piece of their grander plans: the company has found that carbon nanotubes and other nanostructures are highly complementary to carbon black (for EV applications), so they've allocated another $110 million towards increased carbon nanotube production and blending capacity.
Some more headlines
- Posco is going to build a silicon anode (instead of graphite) production plant
- ExxonMobil made its FID on a small renewable diesel site in Canada
- Fairbrics raised $20 million to build a pilot line for its CO2 utilization tech
- Dow is planning to cut costs by $1B, including a layoff of 2,000 employees
- Haldor Topsoe can now sublicense another company's renewable fuels tech
Product of The Day
Today, we're breaking down disposable gloves.
If you're a fan of sanitation and hygeine then you're probably a fan of disposable gloves as well. For the most part you'll see three main types of disposable gloves out in the wild: latex, nitrile, and vinyl—which is great for distinguishing them, but not so great for actually understanding what those materials are.
Latex, often referred to as natural rubber, is more accurately defined as the cis isomer of 1,4-polyisoprene that we harvest from rubber trees. Nitrile gloves are made from a copolymer of acrylonitrile and butadiene called nitrile butadiene rubber. Vinyl gloves (the only ones that aren't form-fitting) are made of polyvinyl chloride(PVC), but require abnormally high levels (about 30%) of plasticizers like DEHP, DINP, and BBP to offer PVC some flexibility.
- Course: We think of chemical plants in terms of unit operations. To understand the industry you need to learn about those units.*
- Video: Are you still a student? Give Shawn Esquivel's video on the most important skills to learn a watch.
- Guide: If you’ve been looking for a breakdown of biobased fuels, then look no further.
What did you think of today's edition?
Some open roles
Interested in working for a high-growth company in the chemical industry? The Column partners with the most disruptive companies to find the best talent—and that could be you:
- A early-stage company is developing a sustainable route to acrylonitrile and is looking for process engineers. (Oakland, CA)
- A post-SPAC company scaling carbon-negative PET just finished building their first site, and needs an engineer to support research and product development in the lab. (Sacramento, CA)
- A post-Series D startup is combining enzymatic and metal catalysis to shorten the chemical value chain, and needs a bioprocess engineer for tech transfers and scale-ups. (Houston, TX)
If either (or both) of those roles sound interesting, or if you'd like to be considered for future opportunities, take 2-minutes to join The Column's talent pool.
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