What Is The Cost of a Good Idea?

February 25th, 2011

When it comes to State or Federal governments making policies about health and safety issues, oftentimes it’s the emotional argument that is most persuasive. But for every perceived winner there may be many invisible losers. For example, when economist Henry Hazlitt points out that when a windstorm breaks 100 windows, the guy who fixes the windows gets a lot more business, thus increasing the net economic activity of the community. He may even have to hire someone to help him fix the windows. This creates “jobs.” So one could argue that the destructive windstorm is good for the economy! But hold on. The money that the homeowners spent on the window repairman now cannot be spent with the grocer, or the tailor, or the college, or the rent. These are the invisible victims of the windstorm, and their loss never gets factors into the equation.

When well-meaning rules, regulations or laws are instituted, it is imperative we fully explore the consequences of each one of them, including the hidden victims, not just the visible winners.

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Conflict vs Collaboration

February 7th, 2011

Left vs Right. Democrats vs Republicans. Liberals vs Conservatives. Socialists vs Capitalists. Seem like everything these days is couched in terms of two sides, fighting it out. But in reality, collaboration is the source of most progress in today’s world. For example, today, green advocates and chemical companies are working together to give consumers fantastic new products that both protect the environment and protect lives, see previous post on new green innovations. Unfortunately, it doesn’t make the front pages because conflict sells newspapers. Too bad.

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Not Your Father’s Chemical Company

January 28th, 2011

Green chemistry

Most of us were raised to think that certain industries are just a necessary evil, like chemical companies. Dirty, scary, and liable to put things in the ground, air or water that were not good for us.

In reality, many of these companies have not only joined the green revolution, some of them are actually leading it with new innovations and by investing millions of dollars in research. This dedication to find new solutions not only makes life better, but it is keeping us safe.

Here are just a few green technologies and initiatives from a new generation of chemical companies.
Albemarles‘ Earthwise division is making green flame retardant products that go into electronics and furniture to keep us safe from fires.

Eastman Chemical company bets on green chemistry and launches a material used to make plastic products that are free of bisphenol A (BPA).

Dow Chemicals commits to a five-year partnership with The Nature Conservancy. Its aim is to create a set of tools and methodologies other companies can use to integrate the economics of ecosystem services in business decision-making.

The lesson here is chemical companies and the innovations they contribute to society are vital to quality and healthy living. Just because we think something is true, it may not still be true.  Know the scientific facts, not just what someone may have told you.

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Young Scientists Embrace Chemistry

January 14th, 2011


Meet Rick Jones, Research & Development Advisor, as he shares chemistry with our young and curious citizens.

The series presents scientists and business professionals who contribute to the development, progress and implementation of the innovative chemistry products of Albemarle and the Earthwise Initiative.

How do young students become interested in chemistry and science?
For some, it may start with a classroom visit from Mr. Chemist, also known as Richard (Rick) Jones, Research & Development Advisor at Albemarle, who has played a special role in grooming the chemists and scientists of the future.

Beginning in 1992, spurred on by an initiative of the American Chemical Society, Rick became interested in teaching chemistry to young students to spark their interest in science.

Initially, he would ask students about the impact of science on everyday life. “For young elementary school children, I would talk about trees and how chemical processes transformed them into paper and then into books. Or I’d explore how oil becomes processed into plastic and that turns into action figures,” he remembered.

Instead of seeing science as “too hard,” Rick spoke about common sense and the need to work hard and apply thinking and stick to it skills. “I would remind the students that new products are always being invented and that even these cool ideas could become better through science.”

One very popular experiment involves marshmallows placed in a glass vacuum tube to demonstrate the relationship between air pressure and volume. When the vacuum tube is sealed shut, Rick utilizes a vacuum pump and withdraws the air from the glass tube. This permits the air bubbles in the marshmallows to expand, and the marshmallow becomes as big as a tennis ball, for a few seconds. When the vacuum is turned off and air refills the glass tube, the force of the atmospheric pressure causes all the air bubbles to deflate and the marshmallow shrivels down to a miniature size.

Students love to watch the reaction of a carbonated soda, like Sprite or Diet Coke, with a Mentos candy, which is attached to a wire coat hanger and then pushed into a two-liter soda bottle. The dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2) in the soda reacts to the pock-marked surface of the candy chemically; each bump on the candy provides a site for the dissolved carbon dioxide to attach itself and then escape from the liquid soda. The reaction releases all the dissolved carbon dioxide at once. As the CO2 seeks to separate from the liquid soda, it surges through the bottle, causing a geyser-like eruption of at least 15 feet.

Through the years, Rick also trained more than 75 Albemarle employees to perform these demonstrations and workshops.

Over a ten-year period, from 1992 to 2002, Rick calculates that he and his colleagues conducted about 500 science shows for 18,000 students in local schools as part of a national community outreach program, and the number continues to grow.

In addition, Rick was involved in Albemarle’s participation at local and regional science fairs, where Albemarle would host a booth. The science demonstrations were performed for nearly 10,000 students over the years.

Rick’s enthusiasm for inspiring young scientists has never wavered.

“To this day, I meet students of all ages who recognize me from a single appearance in their classroom, which may have been last month or 10 years ago. It’s a thrill to know I’ve had an impact on a young person’s interest in chemistry and science,” he marveled.


Left: Albemarle’s President Luke Kissam, Center: Rick Jones, Right: Albemarle’s COO John Steitz
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“The Law of Unintended Consequences” Strikes Again!

January 10th, 2011
Eco man changes world with green chemistry

How many times do we read about laws that are passed with the best intentions, only to end up doing the opposite? Remember when Congress taxed yachts to try and get more money from rich people? They figured since only multi-millionaires buy yacht, this was a perfect way to get more money without hurting any poor or middle-class people. Uh, not quite. Turns out that the rich folks just bought their yachts overseas, and the poor and middle class folks who worked at the shipyards in the northeast US lost their jobs. Whoops!

Same thing is happening with so many called environmental laws. To protect us from what are claimed to be dangerous chemicals, activist are urging the outlawing of chemicals that are put into sofas and TV’s to keep them from burning. Problem is, without the chemical, people die in fires a lot more frequently.  http://tinyurl.com/2blx6nw>

Stop and think before you have a knee-jerk agreement with someone who says they are trying to protect you or help you with a new law or regulation. Often times the net result is not what they intend. And often it is the opposite.

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Part Two of Mahmood Sabahi’s Interview

November 13th, 2010

Meet the EarthWise Team is a series of inspirational and often untold stories about the people behind important solutions, technologies and products that make our lives better and safer every day.

The series presents some of the key scientists and business professionals who have contributed to the development, progress and implementation of the green chemistry products, processes and principles ofAlbemarle and the Earthwise Initiative.

According to Mahmood Sabahi, green metrics represent the next phase of green chemistry.

Please explain green metrics.
Through the American Chemical Society’s Manufacturers Roundtable, and its Green Institute, as well as the American National Standards Institute, I have been participating in and following the discussions of green metrics with great interest.

These groups are developing ways that companies, and, by extension, their customers and ultimately consumers, can measure their “green-ness.” Developing the standards for green metrics is a complex issue that started in the pharmaceutical industry and now is generating more interest in the chemical industry. One goal is to earn a green label for consumer products; the cleaning products industry is already involved in this process.

At Albemarle, we’ve generated interest in green metrics through the TEAL program (Technology Emphasis on Albemarle’s Green Chemistry). As a leader of the TEAL program, I work with my colleagues to promote the principles of green chemistry and engineering, raising awareness of R&D and manufacturing, implementing green metrics for evaluation of manufacturing processes and developing new and safer products and processes, identifying opportunities for greener process and products, identifying and recognizing green process/ product accomplishments, and conducting life cycle inventory analysis (LCI) wherever applicable. Internally, we evaluate our manufacturing practices with the goal of improving atom efficiencies, reducing waste, reducing our carbon footprint, and utilizing renewable resources wherever possible. Plus, each year, the TEAL team evaluates Albemarle employees’ accomplishments in green chemistry/engineering and the best practices are recognized formally by the management as a way to highlight the development of newer and more eco-friendly products. We also arrange seminars and educational programs and help implement the principles of green chemistry and green engineering throughout the research area. At the individual level and among the various teams groups, we have a tremendously positive response as more people see these initiatives as “doing the right thing.” Across the chemical industry, I anticipate similar initiatives will be rolled out.

I am a firm believer that the industry and the EPA must work hand in hand to create changes in environmental awareness among manufacturers. If regulation is imposed from above without extensive discussion among industry participants, it will not happen with the same degree of success as when market participants are involved in the process from the bottom-up. As green metrics become more embedded into the thought, strategy, research and production of the chemical industry and across many sectors, we all stand to benefit.

How would you characterize the other scientists with whom you work?
One of the most rewarding aspects of my professional work at Albemarle is communicating and working in a team environment with a large group of very talented and smart people. I especially value their rather diverse technical and cultural backgrounds. Although the original light bulb or idea usually shows up in one person’s head, bringing that idea to life and pushing it through to commercialization is only possible through collaboration and teamwork. It really takes a village to commercialize a product, as we have seen with GreenArmor! I have been fortunate to be involved with many very successful teams over my career.

Mahmood Sabahi, thank you for sharing these developments regarding green metrics.

Want to meet more of the Earthwise Team? Meet Joe LaymanDanielle Goossens and Richard Denison.

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How Can Green Chemistry and Engineering Principles Drive Innovation and Profits?

November 10th, 2010

Yes they can. Developing new products, reducing waste and carbon footprints, saving money, and improving profits are all by-products of smart green chemistry.

And that’s the daily challenge for Mahmood Sabahi.
Meet the Albemarle and Earthwise Team is a series of inspirational and often untold stories about the people behind important solutions, technologies and products that make our lives better and safer every day.

The series presents some of the key scientists and business professionals who have contributed to the development, progress and implementation of the green chemistry products, processes and principles of Albemarle and the Earthwise brand.

Albemarle Corporation, headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is a leading global developer, manufacturer, and marketer of highly-engineered specialty chemicals for consumer electronics, petroleum refining, utilities, packaging, construction, automotive/transportation, pharmaceuticals, crop protection, food-safety and custom chemistry services.

The Earthwise™ brand represents a family of products that follows strict environmental-friendly standards, along with practicing green chemistry principles and include new green fire safety alternatives to existing fire safety solutions.

Meet Mahmood Sabahi
Please summarize your background.
My name is Mahmood Sabahi; I am R&D Advisor for new products and new processes development at Albemarle Corporation. I am from Tehran, Iran and received my undergraduate and Master degrees at Shiraz University (formerly Pahlavi University). I was awarded my Ph.D. in physical organic chemistry at Syracuse University. After teaching at Kerman University in Iran and later at the University of Arizona, I joined Albemarle in 1990. I have worked on new product development throughout my career here, although at one point, I managed R&D for agricultural and pharmaceutical products. Currently, I focus on new products and processes, from the early stage to commercialization.

My research on green processes and technology advancements has earned awards, as well as grants to fund new ideas. I hold 27 US patents and published 15 papers in scientific journals.

Did your interest in scientific research start as a college student?
As the first member of my family to graduate from high school, I was determined to go to university. My parents were very supportive of my education, even though only 5% of high school graduates in Iran went to college. At that time, the University had a collaborative agreement with the University of Pennsylvania. Through the classes taught by some of the best Iranian and Penn faculty, I saw the big picture of science and research. I search for new knowledge, and I have always been inspired by the great thinkers and inventors.

How would you characterize your research interests and accomplishments?
My research covers pure chemistry, applied chemistry, process development, and development and commercialization of new products. I have always tried to understand how the molecules behave and then make them do what I want them to do! I address the needs of society and the market with a focus on the environment, while generating new science, proprietary knowledge and technology, and new products. The majority of these accomplishments are captured in my scientific papers and patents.

As an example, I invented a new class of amine-phenolic antioxidants for automotive oils that received a green recognition letter from the EPA. I also developed greener processes for the manufacture of two commercial antioxidants, one of which is already implemented.

One of these antioxidants is a component in the additive packages for the engine oil of automobiles. The growing market and the need for increased volumes required that we move the manufacturing process to another plant with larger capacity. This represented an opportunity to re-evaluate the production process, especially how to make it greener and more economical. Through intense R&D effort, we eliminated one hazardous chemical, reduced the cycle time and saved energy, eliminated a hazardous waste stream, and improved the atom efficiency of the process by an order of magnitude. Clearly, incorporating green chemistry had an enormous and highly positive impact on many aspects of that production process.

As part of our sustainability efforts, I am working with researchers and faculty at the Georgia Institute of Technology on the life cycle assessment (LCA) of certain products. The LCA focuses on the systematic analysis of the potential environmental impact of products, taking into account the gamut from the manufacture of components from natural resources to the processes that bring them to the marketplace and finally, their decomposition and return to the nature.

Externally, I am involved in the Green Chemistry Institutes of American Chemical Society (GCI-ACS) and Albemarle sponsored the 14th Annual Green Chemistry and Engineering conference this year. With my colleagues, I participate in round table discussions with other chemical manufacturers; we also monitor the development of sustainability metrics and green standards by GCI-ANSI (American National Standards Institute), and communicate with leaders in academia. Learning from and benchmarking with the leaders of sustainability and green chemistry/engineering in the pharmaceutical industry is another major focus. This year, we are planning to compete for the Presidential Green Chemistry and Green Engineering Award that is sponsored by the EPA.

The industry and the regulatory agencies are focused on quantification of the Green Principles and Sustainability. The pharmaceutical industry is the leader in developing and implementing green and sustainability metrics in their new product development activities. These metrics help to assess the “greenness” and safety of a product and a process. They quantify raw material efficiency (known as atom economy), energy, waste, water, emissions, toxicity, and ozone depletion potential of a production process for a chemical. Some of these measurements are standard practice in our manufacturing. Our goal is to implement these measurements in the early stages of the development of new processes and new products.

We’ll talk more about green metrics in the next blog post.
I’m looking forward to it.

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ACS Webinar-How Chemical Policy Reform Can Spur Green Chemistry

November 8th, 2010

As part of American Chemical Society ACS Webinars: Green Chemistry & Sustainability Series Richard Denison, Senior Scientist at Environmental Defense Fund will give a presentation entitled “How Chemical Policy Reform Can Spur Green Chemistry” followed by a Q&A period.

November 18th from 2-3 eastern time

Please note that this Webinar is open to everyone and not only to ACS Members.

In the wake of the largest Gulf oil disaster or public concern over the chemicals in a baby bottle, how will changing legislation affect chemical professionals? Public policy has the potential to transform the chemical industries and set a new course for the next decade. Join our speaker, Richard Denison, and learn about the latest Green Chemistry policy developments (Safe Chemicals Act/TSCA reform) and how they may affect chemical professionals, chemical industries, and the future of green chemistry.

What You Will Learn
- The policy context for advancing Green Chemistry essentials you need to know
- How U.S. and international policy changes can support the development and use of greener chemicals
- How current policy is informing future legislation – Safe Chemicals Act/TSCA reform
- And much more

To register and find more details:

Meet Your Expert
Richard A. Denison is a senior scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. Dr. Denison has 25 years of experience in the environmental arena, specializing in chemicals policy and hazard, exposure, risk assessment and management for industrial chemicals and nanomaterials. He has published extensively and has testified before Congress many times regarding these issues.  Dr. Denison currently serves on the National Research Council’s Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology and on the Green Ribbon Science Panel for California’s Green Chemistry Initiative. He was a member of the National Pollution Prevention and Toxics Advisory Committee, which advised EPA’s toxics office.  Previously, Dr. Denison was an analyst and assistant project director in the Oceans and Environment Program, Office of Technology Assessment, United States Congress. Dr. Denison received his Ph.D. in Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry from Yale University.

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Albemarle Corporation to Participate in Morgan Stanley’s 2010 Global Chemicals Conference

November 8th, 2010

BATON ROUGE, La., Nov. 4, 2010 — Albemarle Corporation (NYSE: ALB) announced today that Mark Rohr, Chairman & CEO and Luke Kissam, President, will address investors at Morgan Stanley’s 2010 Global Chemicals Conference in New York City on Thursday, November 11, 2010.

The presentation materials will be available on November 11 through Albemarle’s website under the Investor Information heading.

About Albemarle
Albemarle Corporation, headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is a leading global developer, manufacturer, and marketer of highly-engineered specialty chemicals for consumer electronics, petroleum refining, utilities, packaging, construction, automotive/transportation, pharmaceuticals, crop protection, food-safety and custom chemistry services. The Company is committed to global sustainability and is advancing its eco-practices and solutions in its three business segments, Polymer Solutions, Catalysts and Fine Chemistry. Corporate Responsibility Magazine selected Albemarle to its prestigious “100 Best Corporate Citizens” list for 2010.  Albemarle employs approximately 4,000 people and serves customers in approximately 100 countries. To learn more, visit www.albemarle.com.

“Safe Harbor” Statement under the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995: Statements in this press release regarding Albemarle Corporation’s business which are not historical facts are “forward-looking statements” that involve risks and uncertainties. For a discussion of such risks and uncertainties, which could cause actual results to differ from those contained in the forward-looking statements, see “Risk Factors” in the Company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K.

CONTACT: Investor Relations, Sandra Rodriguez, +1-225-388-7654, Sandra.Rodriguez@albemarle.com, or Media Relations, Ashley Mendoza, +1-225-388-7137, Ashley.Mendoza@albemarle.com, both of Albemarle Corporation

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Manufacturers and Fire Safety Solution Suppliers Work Together to Increase Environmental Initiatives for Planet, Employers and Consumers

October 26th, 2010

Our Green lab from earthwise - VECAP

Meet Danielle Goossens, Global Product Stewardship Director
Meet the EarthWise Team is a series of inspirational and often untold stories about the people behind important solutions, technologies and products that make our lives better and safer every day.

The series presents some of the key scientists and business professionals who have contributed to the development, progress and implementation of the green chemistry products, processes and principles of Albemarle and the Earthwise brand.

Albemarle Corporation, headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is a leading global developer, manufacturer, and marketer of highly-engineered specialty chemicals for consumer electronics, petroleum refining, utilities, packaging, construction, automotive/transportation, pharmaceuticals, crop protection, food-safety and custom chemistry services.

Earthwise™ is a new division of Albemarle Corporation. The brand represents a family of products that follows strict environmental-friendly standards, along with practicing green chemistry principles and include new green fire safety alternatives to existing fire safety solutions.

Albemarle is the global leader in flame retardants. Flame retardants or fire safety solutions that are critical ingredients in many consumer electronic products, as well as the interiors of automobiles and airplanes, save lives and protect property from fires.

A group of manufacturers of flame retardants launched an initiative to raise awareness of best practices in chemical handling processes among the companies that utilize these flame retardants. Let’s learn more about the Voluntary Emissions Control Action Programme (VECAP) from Danielle Goossens, Global Product Stewardship Director at Albemarle, who is based in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium.

Danielle, tell us about your role at Albemarle and the VECAP program
I am Danielle Goossens and I direct health, safety and environmental issues for Albemarle in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, except for manufacturing plants. I make sure the company is in compliance with the regulations in all the countries we serve. I also manage product stewardship worldwide. Which means I advise customers, who are themselves manufacturers, on the best ways to handle the products they purchase from us and how to avoid any environmental releases.

I received my undergraduate and doctorate degrees from the Catholic University of Louvain (Belguim) in 1979. I have worked mainly in research at the University and at Belgian pharmaceutical companies. In 1992, I joined Ethyl (which later spun off its chemical businesses as Albemarle) as an analytical chemist. I then moved to the Customer Technical Service area and assumed my current role in 2008.

What exactly is VECAP? How does it affect consumers and businesses?
As a voluntary program that promotes best practices for the handling of flame retardant chemicals, VECAP has a rather pragmatic goal: to make sure the customers are using the product safely at every stage. Albemarle and other flame retardant producers together acted on their concerns to limit the possible ways that these chemical products might enter the environment during manufacturing processes. In 2004, the companies launched this pioneering program. It’s highly unusual that the industry developed VECAP on its own, because often government regulators impose these kinds of standards on industry.

The three companies who formed VECAP are Albemarle Corporation, Chemtura Corporation and ICL-IP. Together, they sell to more than 500 customers worldwide. In 2009, the members of VECAP surveyed more than 135 sites in Europe, and perhaps another 100 each in North America and the Asia/Pacific regions. The number continues to grow in 2010, of course. At each company, there are between three and eight professionals (engineers, scientists, technical and advocacy staff) involved in the efforts, as well as third-party independent consultants.

By adhering to the best practices advocated by VECAP in sensitive areas, the makers of the plastic products and components that use flame retardants will reduce the potential contamination of food, air, water and earth. Plus, they limit their own employees’ and, downstream, consumers’ exposure to chemicals.

Additionally, there is a certification component; Bureau Veritas is an independent auditor that will certify a company is VECAP compliant and a seal can be placed on their website and packaging. Albemarle’s Magnolia plant, which is the principal facility in the US that produces brominated flame retardants, has been certified.

Finally, it is important to note the methodology for the initiative is a model that has already been adopted for other products by several chemical companies and can be modified for use by manufacturers in other industries.

How do you work with customers to let them know about VECAP?
We conduct a survey in a face-to-face meeting with the customer who purchases our flame retardant solutions. We ask about certain practices and calculate the potential chemical emissions. We then share with them the best practices and perform a separate calculation for the emissions that would be produced by following these new procedures. In some cases, the difference is astonishing and customers are surprised to learn by how much they might lower their emissions and be eco-friendly to the earth and workplace, while making these simple changes.

For example, the area that can have the greatest impact on emission reductions is the handling and disposal of packaging. Albemarle delivers the flame retardant powder to the customer either in small paper bags or in polypropylene supersacs. The paper bag-type of package holds 25 kilograms. We determined that, in the process of emptying the package, there was a waste factor of 150 grams in each one.

In contrast, we suggest a 1,000 kilogram polypropylene bag, something that is 40 times larger, yet it has a remarkably lower waste factor: compare 500 grams remaining in the large bag to 6,000 grams for the many smaller ones. Customers immediately recognize the impact of the amount of product that is purchased and not wasted:

When it comes to disposing of the packaging, whether paper or polypropylene, we encourage our customers to incinerate the bags or to bury them in a chemically controlled landfill.

In many countries, it does not cost any more to implement this best practice and the payoffs in reduced waste and safer operations are obvious, as is the positive impact on the environment.

Please tell us about VECAP’s other areas of best practices in the next blog post.
That will be my pleasure.

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