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Carbon black from end-of-life tires

Black Bear Carbon's head of product development and R&D, Chris Twigg, reveals details of the company’s sustainable approach to producing the reinforcement filler, which is traditionally produced from oil feedstocks

 

What is your career background?
I have over 30 years’ experience in the rubber industry and worked in capacities of technical, production and general management in the South African rubber industry. I co-founded two rubber roller recovering operations from 2000 to 2005. Thereafter I moved back to Europe and was invited to join DSM Elastomers as a rubber technical expert. I joined Black Bear Carbon in 2011 as a co-founder, with the shared vision of producing high-quality carbon black from end-of-life tires. Black Bear Carbon is a pioneering circular-economy, technology-based company. Its patented technology facilitates the harvesting of carbon black from waste tires in a way that adds upcycled value. Within Black Bear I am responsible for product innovation and IP strategy. Our carbon blacks are fully able to replace furnace and gas black grades in a multitude of applications.

What are the key concerns around sustainability for carbon black production?
Regular production of carbon black and disposal of tires causes severe environmental damage and depletes Earth’s resources at a fast pace. Currently, oil is used to produce carbon black, causing 35 million tons of CO2 to be emitted. Likewise, huge amounts of tires are disposed, dumped, landfilled or burned, wasting valuable carbon black, given that carbon black accounts for up to 35% of the weight of a tire. With a single production line, Black Bear puts more than 15kton of waste tires to valuable use and saves more CO2 than one million trees consume. As consumers are increasingly concerned about the environmental footprint of the products they use, Black Bear enables carbon black users (e.g. tire manufacturers) to meet that demand by making high-quality products in a ‘greener and cleaner’ way – while maintaining (or in specific applications, improving) technical product performance.

How does Black Bear’s carbon black production process work?
Current manufacturers make carbon black by burning oil (the furnace process), emitting CO2 and polluting the environment. Black Bear creates carbon black from end-of-life tires, in a clean, sustainable way. To achieve this, we had to overcome two major obstacles that disqualified many previous initiatives: we had to be able to produce a consistent product at high quality; and guarantee low PAH (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). Therefore, we pre-selected our feedstock diligently and created a continuous process to ensure consistent, high-quality products with very good technical performance, e.g. mechanical and dynamic properties. Using this process, we’ve been able to lower the PAH content in our ‘green’ carbon blacks to a level that complies with EC commission regulation EU10/2011, and has PAH content of <5ppm (FDA method 63), and is free from dioxins, furans, PCB and PCP. Our production process effectively ‘cleans’ original carbon black input and restores surface chemistry. In the near future, our products and process will even be Cradle to Cradle certified.

For a feature on the carbon black market click here.

October 6, 2016

 

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