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NYS Governor's Awards for Pollution Prevention - Alox Corporation

Alox Corporation, Niagara Falls

Background

Alox Corporation was founded in 1926 to manufacture synthetic acids for lubricant additives. Today, Alox is a worldwide marketer of corrosion inhibitors to compound blenders of metalworking fluids, rust preventatives, aerosol products and industrial coatings, Alox does not sell finished goods; products made from Alox additives, under many trade names worldwide, assist in the manufacture of steel parts for automobiles, appliances and furniture as examples.

Methodologies and Procedures

A methanol reduction/recycling project was undertaken for two primary reasons. The first was to reduce the amount of soluble organics in the sewer outflow to the Niagara Falls Waste Water Treatment plant. The previous method of production required contaminated methanol to be sent to the sewer.

The second was to decrease the amount of raw material required. Reuse of what was formally contaminated methanol increased efficiency by reducing the amount of methanol by approximately 50 percent.

The project involves the recovery of methanol and recycling through distillation. Distillation to separate water and methyl alcohol is standard technology well known throughout the industry. The recovery step of this particular process, however, is unique. A major intermediate product for the production of corrosion inhibitors is a methyl ester of the base acid. For many years the practice has been to use methyl alcohol in excess to drive the reaction to completion. The formation of water during the reaction slows and finally stops the reaction. Popular wisdom among the technical staff had been that product specifications could not be achieved without a large excess of alcohol.

A long series of reactions and tests were first performed in the laboratory. Equipment was set up to simulate the injection of methanol into the base acid that was heated to a temperature above the boiling point of methanol. Exact plant conditions could not be simulated, but the results were promising enough to continue work.

Following the positive outcome from laboratory tests, trial runs moved into the plant. This was accomplished by slowly injecting methanol into a line circulating the base acid. Although the base temperature was above the boiling point of methanol, the slightly increased pressure in the circulation line kept it in contact with the acid and allowed the reaction to occur. When the mixture in the circulation line was returned to the reaction vessel, the methanol evaporates, carrying the water of the reaction with it. This vapor mixture was condensed and sent to a holding tank which was set up to pump the water-alcohol mixture to a distillation column that was set up when the reaction started. The methanol was recovered through distillation and returned to the tank used to inject it into the reactor. What was created was a unique closed-loop system with methanol being reused and only water going to the sewer.

Over 30 different test runs were made and studied in the plant to establish initial conditions, temperature requirements and raw material injection rates into the base material. Tests were simultaneously performed on final products to assure that quality specifications were met.

Benefits

The modified production approach reduced the amount of methyl alcohol required from approximately 2,180 pounds per batch to approximately 1,090 pounds per batch; a 50 percent reduction in the amount of methyl alcohol required.

Raw material savings amount to approximately $31,000 per year based on current prices.

Formerly, the excess methyl alcohol was being sent to the sewer and subsequently to the Niagara Falls Waste Water treatment plant. This is a batch process, with production occurring once a day, five days a week annually. The new process resulted in a reduction of over 280,000 pounds of methanol a year.

Reduction in sewer fees are estimated at $40,000 annually.

As a premium, the new production procedure does not require added manpower or time. Also, the same high quality (ISO 9001) products are being manufactured.

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

This page was last modified March 8, 1999


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