Cleaning up its act: Chemours breaks ground on $100 million plant to reduce emissions

Cleaning up its act: Chemours breaks ground on $100 million plant to reduce emissions

FAYETTEVILLE, NC (WECT) - Chemours leaders broke ground on a $100 million plant they say will reduce emissions by 99 percent or more.

In May, the company announced it would invest the money to build the plant in response to a 60-day notice from the NC Division of Air Quality.

At the future site of the plant, hundreds of Chemours workers wearing bright orange T-shirts gathered to hear remarks from Brian Long, manager of Chemours' Fayetteville Works site, Paul Kirsch, president of Chemours Fluoroproducts, and Ray Britt, chairman of the Bladen County Board of Commissioners.

Long spoke at length about reducing emissions, and the company’s commitment to corporate responsibility.

“We told our community we were going to stop our wastewater discharges. We did that," Long said during an audio-only interview. Chemours has not allowed WECT to conduct any on-camera interviews of its staff, and continued that policy Tuesday.

However, this was not done voluntarily. The NC Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) ordered Chemours to stop discharging wastewater into the Cape Fear River in October 2017.

“We told our community that we were going to design, build, and install two carbon absorption units in May of this year which reduced our emissions by about 40 percent," Long said. "We also told the community we were going to install another scrubbing system in our plant. We’ve done that. When we start up in November, we will reduce our emissions by 80 percent. So again, today is all about reaffirming our commitment to this community, to reducing our emissions, investing $100 million so that ultimately we will have an emissions reduction of 99 percent, hopefully greater.”

Many of these stipulations also came as orders from the NCDEQ, which in May said the Chemours Company must reduce air emissions of GenX compounds by at least 97 percent by Aug. 31, according to a proposed DEQ court order filed Monday.

Leaders say the new plant will use thermal oxidation to reduce air emissions by 99 percent or greater. It is expected to be completed in about a year.

“Think about a large incinerator," Long said. "Most people understand kind of what an incinerator is. It’s something that gets very high temperatures, something goes into it and it’s destroyed, right? That is essentially what a thermal oxidizer is, except what we’re putting into that is not paper or wood or coal. We’re actually putting a vapor stream that has some small level of compounds out of our process that are combined with that vapor stream so when the vapor stream enters the thermal oxidizer, they’ll be destroyed.”

Incinerators produce emissions and when asked if this process will have additional emissions, Long said only a small amount of carbon dioxide will be emitted.

On the topic of accountability for reducing emissions, Long explained the company will work with regulatory agencies to provide accountability.

When asked if this plant was a way of asking for forgiveness for the thousands of people whose drinking water had been tainted by GenX produced by Chemours, Long responded it is an opportunity to lead in the space of sustainability.

“We have issues, air emission issues. We have water issues to deal with," Long said. "We have the technology and the capability and the resources to do it. We’ve put world-class technology in place to make us better than anybody in the world.”

The emissions control facility is expected to be completed in about a years time.
The emissions control facility is expected to be completed in about a years time.

Many leaders of Bladen County’s government have historically supported Chemours throughout numerous chemical spills and wastewater and air emissions of GenX and other PFAS compounds because of the company’s economic importance to the area.

County Commissioner Ray Britt said Tuesday he was excited about the innovation.

“I don’t see how anybody couldn’t be excited about the innovation and investing $100 million in a world-class facility to set a standard going forward of being environmentally friendly," Britt said. "I commend them for that, and I’m sure all the residents, whether you’re pro, con, or indifferent, should be very grateful of that.”

Britt said county commissioners have allowed state regulatory agencies to regulate the water, but are prepared to request that more be done if this project does not live up to expectations.

“I think this is just one step," Britt said. “If it shows they need to do more, from what I’ve been told and what I’ve seen demonstrated here today, I don’t think there’s any stopping them spending money to see that it is environmentally friendly. Anything more that has to be done, I feel confident they will do that.”

Chemours leaders announced new corporate responsibility commitments Tuesday. By 2030, company leaders plan to do the following:

  • Reduce greenhouse gas emission intensity by 60 percent
  • Reduce air and water process emission intensity by 60 percent
  • Reduce landfill volume intensity by 70 percent

Copyright 2018 WECT. All rights reserved.