Ethics Report

799 WordsOct 21, 20134 Pages
Technical Background of PVC Production The primary purpose of the Formosa-IL plant was to produce PVC for commercial use. PVC is widely used all throughout the world today in many products such as: clothing, construction materials such as piping and windows, credit cards, and children’s toys. Vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) is the key material from which PVC is made. VCM has a molecular weight of 62.5 g/mol and a boiling point of -13.9 °C. The problem with VCM is that it is a very hazardous material at standard conditions. It is highly flammable and potentially explosive. VCM can also be a carcinogen. Since the explosion was not caused by a tank producing VCM, we will not delve into the production process of VCM. In the Formosa-IL plant, a slurry of liquid VCM, water, suspending agents, and reaction initiators were reacted in a reactor under heat and pressure. The products were then sent to a series of equipment which removed residual VCM. The PVC was then ready to be dried, sifted, and sent to storage bins. Figure 1 diagrams a simplified version of the PVC1 process. Typically, a reactor was overseen by two operators, a poly operator and a blaster operator. The poly operator manned the controls from the upper level and performed tasks such as adding the reactants, controlling temperature and pressure of the reactor, and readying the reactor for cleaning upon completing a batch. The blaster operator was in charge of opening and closing of transfer and reactor valves and cleaning the reactor. The blaster operator cleaned the reactor by “opening the reactor manway, powerwashing PVC residue from the reactor walls, and opening the reactor bottom valve (if not left open from the transfer) and drain valve to empty cleaning water to floor drains.” The poly operator had a higher understanding of the science behind what was going on in the reactor, and was

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