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NYS Governor's Awards for Pollution Prevention - Owens Corning, Delmar Plant

Owens Corning, Delmar Plant, Fuera Bush, New York

Background

Owens Corning is a world leader in building materials and glass fiber composites systems. Founded in 1938, the company had sales of $4.8 billion in 2001 and employs about 19,000 people worldwide in manufacturing, sales and research with joint venture and licensee relationships in more than 30 countries on six continents. The Delmar plant, located in Feura Bush, New York, employs nearly 360 people who support and operate two fiberglass building insulation manufacturing lines and their supporting utilities. Delmar, one of 13 "glass" insulation plants operated in North America by Owens Corning, first began production with one product line in June 1976. A second product line was added in June 1978.

Methodologies and Procedures

Starting in 1999, the Owens Corning, Delmar facility began producing molten glass with a newly developed furnace technology on one of its two fiberglass building insulation manufacturing lines. This new furnace concept, which eliminates a mixed glass batch ingredient that contributed significantly to the emission rate of a specific air pollutant, features molten glass manufacturing technology and processes that were developed at Owens Corning's Science and Technology Center. Additionally, the Delmar facility incorporates an operational feature that helps to reduce the fresh water supply burden that the facility places on Delmar's city water system. These features not only benefit the environment, but they are also integral parts of a manufacturing activity that provides an exceptional, high-quality product.

On a regular basis, it is necessary to rebuild the plant's glass melting furnaces as their refractory structure wears and eventually reaches the end of its useful existence. In 1999, when one of the plant's two furnaces was scheduled to be rebuilt, Owens Corning took the opportunity to install an oxygen-fuel fired glass melting furnace to replace its existing electric energy furnace. This new furnace proved successful. In 2000, when the second of the two furnaces was scheduled to be rebuilt, Owens Corning installed a second oxygen-fuel furnace which began operation in early 2001. This oxygen-fuel technology is a state-of-the-art molten glass manufacturing process that significantly reduces emissions of a criteria pollutant that contributes heavily to acid rain and ozone formation.

Molten glass production is an inherently energy intensive process. Historically, the Delmar plant used electricity as the furnace thermal energy source for melting the raw ingredients that make up the base glass used to produce fiberglass insulation. In making the conversion to the upgraded oxygen-fuel glass melting technology, the facility was able to incorporate new operating practices that enabled the plant to reduce air emissions.

Oxygen-fuel technology uses pure oxygen instead of air to combust natural gas and produce the thermal energy that is required to melt raw materials and produce molten glass. Use of oxygen eliminates nitrogen from the combustion process and reduces the amount of natural gas that is needed as compared to ordinary fossil-fuel fired furnaces that acquire oxygen from ambient air. Also, by using oxygen-fuel instead of electricity, Owens Corning was also able to completely eliminate a highly reactive nitrogen-bearing material that had been a required ingredient in the mixed glass batch formulations. Elimination of direct mixing of ambient nitrogen within the furnaces' burners and of the nitrogen compound from the mixed batch created an annual reduction of more than 270 tons per year of nitrogen oxides, or NOx emissions, from the Delmar facility. This family of pollutants contributes to the formation of acid gases and ozone.

The Owens Corning Delmar facility has instituted additional pollution prevention initiatives aimed at conserving water. Water is an important component of the fiberglass manufacturing process. Water is used to keep the equipment clean and running efficiently as an ingredient of the binder and as a scrubbing medium in a number of air pollution control devices that clean some of the plant's exhaust air streams. After it is used, the water is cleaned on-site and then reused in the manufacturing process, thereby eliminating the need to discharge water to the environment.

Water that is used in the manufacturing process or in the pollution control devices is either reused or lost through evaporation and must be replenished every day. To aid in their conservation efforts, the facility collects nearly 15 million gallons of rainwater on-site and reuses it in the manufacturing process. This represents approximately 40 percent of the plant's annual water use. This significantly reduces the quantity of water purchased from the Town of Bethlehem and helps the community's water conservation efforts.

Benefits

The following is a summary of emission reductions and other environmental benefits that have been achieved through pollution prevention by Owen Corning's Delmar plant:

  • Plant-wide reduced NOx emissions by more than 270 tons/year.
  • Reduced power plant emissions.
  • Water conservation of 40 percent of the plant's annual water use.

In addition, Owens Corning fiberglass building insulation saves energy and reduces emissions associated with the production of electricity by utilities.

Any comments or questions?
Contact us at: 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-1750;
518-402-9469 (phone); 518-402-9168 (fax)


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