Owens Corning switches to oxygen at Texas plant

Owens Corning was due to launch new glass melting technology at its Amarillo, Texas plant on 1 December 2006 that company officials say will cut costs, reduce emissions and help in the fight against g…

Owens Corning was due to launch new glass melting technology at its Amarillo, Texas plant on 1 December 2006 that company officials say will cut costs, reduce emissions and help in the fight against global competitors. The Amarillo plant, one of the largest glass-melting facilities in the world, makes more than 350 products used to reinforce plastic structures. The furnaces at the plant, which have been burning a mixture of natural gas, are being re-engineered to burn nearly pure oxygen extracted from the air. Owens Corning is putting USD 3.5 million into the technology, USD 3 million of which is for an oxygen-production plant. “We“ve installed a plant that generates 95% pure oxygen. Instead of using normal air to mix with natural gas to burn in our furnaces and melt our glass, we“re using that 95% pure oxygen to mix with the natural gas and melt our glass”, Richards said. Ernie Stidham, the plant“s technical leader, said Praxair will produce oxygen for the Amarillo plant“s furnaces under a long-term contract. At the end of November 2006, plant engineers began installing new oxygen-fed burners in one of the plant“s furnaces. Amarillo workers who run the plant“s furnaces have also been trained in operating and maintaining the equipment. Stidham said the new technology marks a major investment in its Amarillo operation and into US manufacturing. The new operation will provide a more efficient combustion system for melting glass that will cut energy costs and reduce nitrous oxide and particulate emissions. “We get the double benefit of not only reducing our emissions and becoming more environmentally friendly but we also get to reduce our costs a little bit”, he said. Owens Corning is facing stiff competition, particularly from Chinese manufacturers. Richards said the project will help the company remain competitive and maintain its long-term Amarillo presence. The plant here opened in 1979. “It“s good for the environment and it lowers our operating costs in the face of an increasingly competitive international market”, he said. “We love Amarillo and we want to be able to stay here for another 28 years”.