Water wins: when sustainability is part of the corporate culture

“Sustainability is best played together. It’s rewarding to see what we started and to see it develop first in the other teams in our factory, and finally in Lubrizol. —Kalli Stull

As a decades-old specialty chemical company, the team at
Lubrizol knows a thing or two about teamwork. The world leader in chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) resins and compounds was the first to use CPVC in piping systems in 1959. Today, it continues to lead the industry with brands like than BlazeMaster®, Corzan® and
FlowGuard Gold® — manufacturing its resins and compounds in four plants worldwide.

In 2019, Kalli Stüll — Responsible for the resins sector for the company Louisville, Kentucky which today employs around 150 people — had the opportunity to spend a week at the Lubrizol resin factory in Delfzijl, Netherlands, along with five other team members. The objective: to exchange best practices in terms of energy and water efficiency and learn about process improvements that could be duplicated in the we. Over the course of a week, they made several field trips and took lots of notes.

When they returned, the team went on a hunt and came up with a list of potential projects they could explore in terms of cost and energy efficiency. Their initial list was just north of 100 possible ideas. According to Stull, the initial motivation was twofold: Identify opportunities for cost reduction and/or environmental improvements. Once the team started rolling out the projects, the feedback quickly became evident.

The team paid particular attention to how the Dutch factory used a variety of strategies to reduce its dependence on fresh water. As part of their own due diligence, they began looking at the life cycle of their water use looking for opportunities to better reduce, recycle or reuse. An example: Could they recycle their neutralized waste stream during the waste treatment process to reduce the amount of fresh water used each time?

The answer was yes, and this change alone should help the plant reduce water consumption by almost 10% year over year. Other projects implemented in 2020-2021 include:

  • Identify where and how much fresh water could be removed throughout the manufacturing process,

  • Experiment with modifications to the water treatment process,

  • Identify lines where recycled water could be introduced, and

  • Determine where to introduce reuse of process water instead of fresh water.

In total, these projects have helped the Louisville team reduce its water consumption by 16.7% year over year. These efforts also enabled the plant to win the american chemistry board Awards for Energy Efficiency and Waste Minimization, Reuse and Recycling in 2020. For Stull, this experience underlined the importance of having the whole team on board.

Learn more about Lubrizol’s sustainability-focused teamwork here.