DuPont Titanium Technologies has managed to cut its energy consumption per pound of product by nearly 30 percent - saving more than $100 million in the process as oil prices hover at the $100 per barrel threshold. The business estimates that it has saved the equivalent of three million barrels of oil since 2001.
DuPont Titanium Technologies is the world's largest manufacturer of titanium dioxide (TiO2), a white pigment widely used in the coatings, plastics and paper industries to make products white, bright and opaque.
"There's no one great 'eureka' moment in this kind of effort," said Rick Olson, vice president and general manager -- DuPont Titanium Technologies. "Every one of our sites around the world is tracking down every possible opportunity to save energy. It all adds up, one motor and one valve at a time, day after day. This work is never finished."
Some fixes are fairly obvious, such as replacing aging electric motors with newer, more efficient models. Others require more study and sophistication.
For example, plant control rooms have been upgraded with new hardware and software to provide operators with more detailed, real-time information so that they can fine-tune operations. Plants have also implemented technology for energy recovery and reuse, such as salvaging heat energy from steam.
DuPont also saves energy by inventing new pigment products that require less energy to manufacture. A new grade of TiO2 for use in coatings is one such product introduced in 2007. It replaced a more energy intensive grade.
"By 2015, we expect to be able to make twice as much TiO2 per unit of energy as we did in 1991," Olson said. "Saving energy, and consequently reducing emissions, is good for our world and good for our business. This kind of disciplined effort is part of our sustainability plan for our existing plants and it is being designed into our new site in China."
DuPont has announced plans to build a new, world-class TiO2 plant at Dongying in the People's Republic of China. Total investment for the project is estimated at $1 billion. When completed, this will be DuPont's largest single investment outside the United States. The plant will use the chloride method of manufacturing titanium dioxide, as do DuPont's other TiO2 plants. The chloride method is superior to the older sulfate process in energy efficiency and environmental performance.
DuPont currently operates plants at DeLisle, Miss.; New Johnsonville, Tenn.; Edge Moor, Del.; Altamira, Mexico, and; Kuan Yin, Taiwan, all of which use the chloride manufacturing process. It also operates a finishing plant at Uberaba, Brazil. Technical service centers are located in Uberaba; Mechelen, Belgium; Kuan Yin; Wilmington, Del.; and Shanghai, China, to serve the European, Middle Eastern, U.S. and Asian markets.
DuPont -- one of the first companies to publicly establish environmental goals 18 years ago -- has broadened its sustainability commitments beyond internal footprint reduction to include market-driven targets for both revenue and research and development investment. The goals are tied directly to business growth, specifically to the development of safer and environmentally improved new products for key global markets.