Friday, May 23, 2014

Transition to safer chemicals success story:Safer Processes

Designing a Safer Process for Chemical Manufacturing

DuPont Corporation

DuPont is a large chemical manufacturer that makes products for many industries — agriculture, marine, healthcare, energy, food and beverage, and mining, to name a few. Methyl isocyanate (MIC) is a highly toxic, irritating and flammable chemical that is commonly used to produce the carbamate pesticide methomyl; it is often manufactured in a separate production unit at facilities and stored in large pressure vessels. Following the 1984 deadly MIC release from the Union Carbide facility in Bhopal, India — where approximately 30 metric tons of toxic MIC escaped from a storage tank into the atmosphere in less than an hour killing thousands and injuring hundreds of thousands — DuPont implemented a new technology for producing methomyl at its plant in LaPorte, Texas. DuPont converted the less acutely toxic chemical methylformamide into MIC as a vapor-phase (rather than liquid) on an as-needed basis, which was immediately consumed in a subsequent reaction, leaving very little MIC in the system at one time and removing phosgene from the production process. DuPont's method reduced worker handling of several toxic chemicals; eliminated the need to transport, store, and transfer MIC and phosgene; and addressed lifetime cost issues.

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