Olin Invests in Shipping Bleach | Chemical & Engineering News
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Web Date: November 16, 2009

Olin Invests in Shipping Bleach

Security: Chemical company unveils line of special bleach railcars
Department: Business | Collection: Homeland Security
News Channels: Environmental SCENE
Keywords: bleach, chlorine, security

Responding to public concern over the shipping of gaseous chlorine, Olin is developing a fleet of rail cars specifically designed to carry bleach. The company, a leading producer of chlorine, says it expects to have a fleet of 100 such rail cars in service by the end of the year and more than 300 of them by the end of 2010.

Chlorine and bleach have long competed in water purification, paper bleaching, and other applications. Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, however, the shipping of chlorine gas by rail has come under scrutiny for its vulnerability to a potentially deadly attack. Bleach, in contrast, is a liquid that poses much less danger.

Recently, the household bleach company Clorox said it would stop making bleach from shipped chlorine. Instead, the company will purchase high-strength bleach and dilute it down to household strength (C&EN, Nov. 9, page 12). Household bleach is a 6% solution of sodium hypochlorite, whereas high-strength bleach is as high as 15% sodium hypochlorite.

Olin says it plans to use its rail cars to begin shipping high-strength bleach. Shipping bleach long distances can be uneconomical because of its low concentration, but Olin says its new car will cost-effectively ship bleach over distances of more than 1,000 miles.

"This innovative rail car technology will allow us to ship bleach more efficiently over longer distances," says John McIntosh, president of Olin's chlor-alkali division. "This step will be good for our customers, our company, and the environment."

Olin says it is positioned to deliver bleach by rail to densely populated areas such as New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston. Olin will also ship bleach from its chlorine plant in Henderson, Nev., to customers in the Western U.S. Clorox wouldn't identify its future bleach suppliers, though it did say the first plant it will convert to diluting bleach is in Fairfield, Calif.

Manufacturing bleach, made by reacting chlorine and sodium hydroxide, was traditionally an unimportant sideline for chlorine companies. Olin signaled a greater focus on the bleach business in 2006 when it announced plans to spend close to $12 million to double its bleach output across four chlorine plants.

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