Seeing an opening for a second U.S.-based supplier of chlorinated paraffins, Qualice LLC recently launched operations in North Carolina.
Charles “Chuck” Davis, president of the venture, said his company’s new facility fired up its first chlorinating unit on April 1, and within a couple weeks had its initial batches of waxy, very long-chain chlorinated alpha olefin out the door to lubricant industry customers.
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Chlorinated paraffins have been used since the 1930s in lubricants as extreme-pressure additives and to reduce friction in metal removal, drawing and stamping operations. About half of CPs go into making lubricants and additives, and the rest go into plastics, rubber, paints, adhesives and other specialties.
North America’s list of CP manufacturers once included Dover Chemical, Keil Chemical, Occidental Chemical, Pioneer Cos. and others, but only Dover remains after a period of intense consolidation about 10 years ago. Ineos Chlor is the leading importer of CP into the United States.
That leaves a market void that Qualice can fill, as an alternative source of domestic supply, Davis said. While declining to disclose its capacity, he told Lube Report the company has room to grow and add chlorinating units, and hopes someday to capture 30 percent of the domestic market. “That’s several years out,” he added.
Qualice was formed in 2012. It is an affiliate of and shares a site with Trinity Manufacturing, a privately held chemical firm in Hamlet, N.C. “Trinity is basic in chlorine, and uses it to make other products such as sodium hypochlorite bleach, hydrochloric acid and other chlorine products and derivatives,” Davis said.
In cutting oils, CPs “help build ‘body’ in the fluid,” explained James MacNeil, Ph.D., who joined the start-up as product manager last year. MacNeil worked for Dover Chemical until 2006, formulating metalworking fluids and lubricant additives, with and without chlorine, and also managing its Hammond, Ind., works.
Users of CPs face regulatory hurdles that make product selection critical, MacNeil said. The chemicals are classed by carbon chain length and by degree of chlorination, and are sorted into short-chain (C10 to C13), intermediate-chain (C14-C17), and long-chain products (C18-C30). After the National Toxicology Program designated short-chain CPs as carcinogenic in 1989, many fluid formulators switched to mid- and long-chain products or dropped them entirely.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency now is scrutinizing mid-chain CPs for their persistence in the environment and potential bioaccumulation in humans and wildlife. It has estimated that 150 million pounds of CP (all types) are used yearly in the United States, although others say it’s not even half that any more.
This is why Qualice will focus on making very long carbon-chain products, C21 and up, MacNeil emphasized. It sells these under the CPar brand, with chlorine levels ranging from 43 to 48 percent by weight. CPar W-40AO, an alpha olefin with 43 percent chlorine, was selected to be the first product out the chute because it is light in color and closest in viscosity to the mid-chain CPs that many customers use now, he told Lube Report.
In Detroit last month at the annual meeting of the Society of Tribologists and Lubrication Engineers, MacNeil noted that the EPA recently mandated new Chemicals Abstract Service numbers and more precise chemical descriptions for all CPs, as part of its chemical review. Qualice already obtained new CAS numbers, filed the required Premanufacturing Notices, and complies with the Toxic Substances Control Act, he said.
MacNeil called “pessimistic” the suggestion that CPs might be phased out completely in the next decade, and believes a lot of customers using long-chain CPs will stick with them. “Very long-chain chlorinated paraffins have a clean bill of health in the United States, Canada and Europe,” he declared. “There’s no regulatory reason not to use them.”
Very long-chain CPs have good solubility in cutting oils, he went on, but they are not a direct drop-in for the mid-chain products. “If you’re using them as emulsifiers and for emulsification, you may need to rethink your formulation some,” MacNeil said. “Also, EPA now is doing risk assessments on the mid-chain products, and it’s hard to know what they’ll do. So it’s not a bad idea to look at alternative formulations using long-chain products now.”
Davis and MacNeil said Qualice has a secure and cost-advantaged supply of chlorine, thanks to the Trinity connection. “Being backward-integrated in chlorine means we don’t have to transport chlorine by rail,” MacNeil pointed out. “Chlorine is expensive now to move by rail, and the costs for insurance and railroad transport are only going to increase in the future.”
Plans are to expand production in Hamlet and add more storage tanks as the business grows, Davis said. “For now, we’ve been sending out lots of samples and offering formulating help for customers who want to use these products.”