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Birla group and OPAL in chemical industry
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Birla Carbon partners American Process to improve fuel efficiency of tyres; Birla Carbon, a flagship business of the $ 41 billion Aditya Birla Group, will collaborate with American Process Inc (API) in the US to explore the technical and business potential of combining carbon black and nanocellulose to improve the performance and sustainability profile of tyres.
Two companies have signed a joint development agreement in this regard last recently. While Birla Carbon is one of the leading producers of carbon black, American Process is a bio-refinery technology firm focused on industrial scale-up of production technologies for renewable materials, fuels and chemicals from biomass.
Initial evaluations suggest synergies between Birla Carbon and API’s BioPlus nanocellulose products to significantly lower the rolling resistance of tyres. Research indicates that up to 20 percent of a vehicle’s fuel efficiency is impacted by the rolling resistance of tyres. Increased commercialisation of low rolling resistance tread material is a key technology development focus area identified in Birla Carbon’s 2016 Sustainability Report.
Over 70 percent of the world’s carbon black is consumed by the tyre industry, with carbon black constituting 25 percent of the tyre weight. Within the tyre industry, there are ever-increasing demands to improve rolling resistance, traction and fuel economy while maintaining tyre safety and affordability. In addition, with growing populations, economies, and mobility throughout the world, the industry must ensure that technology developments are sustainable and environmentally friendly.
“Low rolling resistance has been and has become an ever increasing area of investment and technological development for tyre manufacturers in all aspects of tire technology including design, construction and materials. The synergies between carbon black and nanocellulose offer an exciting opportunity to meet the performance and environmental demands placed on us as a responsible manufacturing entity in a global society,” said Charles Herd, director of Birla Carbon’s rubber black technology.
Theodora Retsina, CEO of American Process Inc, added, “In addition to its exceptional sustainability profile, nanocellulose offers tremendous performance improvements for a variety of materials applications including rubber. With strength equivalent to carbon fibre, nanocellulose can improve the strength, durability, and toughness of composites. It also shows unique synergistic effects with other filler materials like carbon black in improving composite performance.”
Nanocellulose is a versatile high-strength, light-weight renewable biomaterial that Thomson Reuters named as one of the top 10 technologies that will change the world by 2025. API estimates the near-term global market size for nanocellulose to be 3.7 million tonnes per year. To serve the market, API has developed two distinct nanocellulose production processes, BioPlus (for various enduses including reinforcement of plastics and rubber) and BioPlus GreenBox (for brown packaging and plastics reinforcement).
While API has a pilot scale plant of capacity 500-kg per day at its Thomaston Biorefinery in Georgia (USA), Birla Carbon has a technology centre at Marietta (USA). “This partnership has many synergies including Birla Carbon’s technical expertise, rigorous and disciplined development program, and world-class research facility in Marietta, Georgia. Our ability to offer large-scale quantities of a variety of nanocellulose products with various particle sizes and surface chemistries also enhances the development process,” stated Kim Nelson, API’s VP of nanocellulose.
Birla Carbon’s footprint extends across 12 countries with 16 manufacturing facilities. The company provides a complete portfolio of products across ASTM grades and specialty carbon blacks to meet the specific end requirements across tyres, rubber, plastics, coatings, inks and other niche industries. The company has two technology centres at Marietta (USA) and Taloja (Maharashtra), besides well-equipped laboratories across its manufacturing units providing for continuous R&D.
PM Narendra Modi inaugurates OPaL's Rs 30,000-cr petrochemical complex; Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday dedicated ONGC Petro additions Ltd (OPaL) petrochemicals complex, located at Dahej (Bharuch, Gujarat) to the nation.
OPaL is a joint venture company promoted by ONGC, Gail and GSPC, implementing a grass root integrated petrochemical complex located in Special Economic Zone (SEZ) under Petroleum, Chemical and Petrochemical Investment Region (PCPIR) at Dahej, Gujarat.
This is the single largest petrochemical plant in India and at full capacity, will annually produce 14 lakh metric tonnes of polymers - viz. linear low density polyethylene (LLDPE), high density polyethylene (HDPE), polypropylene (PP) - and 5 lakh metric tonnes of chemicals such as benzene, butadiene, and pyrolysis gasoline which will increase chemical industry opportunity in India. The product warehouse is one of the largest in India with an area of 128,250 square metres.
OPaL would use ONGC’s captive feed of C2+ streams (ie, ethane, propane and butane) from C2-C3 extraction plant, and naphtha from Hazira & Uran to produce polyethylene (PE) and polypropylene (PP).
Set up with an investment of Rs 30,000 crore, the plant is strategically located in the petrochemicals and chemical hub of the country with excellent connectivity, creating an integrated ecosystem.
The project will further result in the growth of new downstream plastic processing industries in the country, generating further investment of Rs 40,000 crore and over 20,000 indirect employment opportunities, giving major thrust to government’s Make in India programme. The increased use of polymers will also reduce burden on traditional materials like wood, paper, metal and will help in conserving natural resources like water and energy and promote food safety & food conservation.
OPaL is targeting to corner a marketshare of 13 percent in the polymer sector by 2018. The company would also contribute in encouraging polymer consumption in the country & its products will be used for important sectors like infrastructure, housing, packaging, irrigation, automotive, healthcare etc.
The average per capita consumption of polymers in India is 10 kg, compared to a world average of 32 kg. There is tremendous potential for growth of the sector catalysed by growth drivers such as increasing middle class, higher disposable income and urbanisation.
The petrochemical sector in the country has witnessed a robust annual growth of 10-12 percent in the last decade, and is expected to grow at a rate of 12-15 percent in the next decade.

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