Albert Waalkens, MSc., Pure Infinity
Styrene emission in the Composite industry
Styrene is a component that is used as solvent in the making of polyester products. Everybody knows the material where boats are made of: that is either polyester or composites. The material is increasingly used in the production of cars, busses and planes. Also in bridges and other structures Styrene is frequently used. The industry in which these products are made are defined as the Composites Industry.
To get the typical rigid characteristics, the polyester is reinforced with glasfiber. Hence the name glasfiber reinforced plastic (GRP) or Composites. The big advantage of GRP is that its strength can compete with steel structures but has only a fraction of the weight. Composites have, due to their low weight, a big role in reducing energy usage in transport.
During production between 2 % – 10 % of the input of styrene will escape to the atmosphere as industrial styrene emission. Numerous efforts have been done to minimize this styrene emission during production, but it is not possible to bring this back to zero.
Styrene is part of the family of VOC’s, volatile organic compounds. Part of the definition of VOC’s is that these components cause a couple of negative environmental impacts. This is mainly due to the formation of ozone and fine-dust that happens when VOC’s (styrene) are degraded in the atmosphere by the presence of sunlight and NOx. This will result in the formation of photochemical SMOG.
Ozone and fine dust have several negative effects, severe health effects occur even at the low concentrations in the atmosphere. Symptoms in people with respiratory and cardiovascular diseases will increase, even a connection with early aging is suspected. Ozone has a negative effect on plant growth and has an increasing effect on global temperature.
Legislation around styreen emission
In 1991 many European countries, the USA and Canada signed the Geneva protocol that looked on a reduction of VOC emissions with 30% in 1999. In 1999 these agreements have been intensified in the Gothenburg-protocol. In this protocol each country has a national emission limit (Richtlijn 2001/81/EG). The EU has put this protocol in the NEC-protocol (Richtlijn 2001/81/EG) and with that it is obligatory for all EU member states.
For removing the fraction of styrene that emitted in the atmosphere in the Composites industry there are roughly 3 End-Of-Pipe technologies available. Adsorption, Burning and Biological Treatment.
Albert Waalkens is Managing Director of Pure Infinity which has developed various biological technologies for the biological treatment of VOC’s in the industrial emissions. Please get in touch if you would like to know more about the possibilities in your factory.