A FOCAL POINT FOR PROCESS – The pharmaceutical, packaging and storage exhibition group has been an integral part of ACHEMA for a long time – Biotechnology process engineering ACHEMA

A FOCAL POINT FOR PROCESS

BY ELISABETH SKODA

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Antitrust: Commission confirms unannounced inspections in the styrene monomer – European Commission – Statement – Antitrust Commission styrene monomer purchasing sector

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European Commission -Statement 

 

Antitrust: Commission confirms unannounced inspections in the styrene monomer purchasing sector

Brussels, 8 June 2018

Antitrust Commission styrene monomer purchasing sector The European Commission can confirm that on 5 June 2018 its officials carried out unannounced inspections in several Member States at the premises of companies active in styrene monomer purchasing.

The Commission has concerns that the inspected companies may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union). The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities.

Styrene monomer is a chemical product used as a base material for a number of chemical products such as plastics, resins, rubbers and latexes. These products are then used in a very wide range of applications (insulation, packaging, etc.).

Unannounced inspections are a preliminary step in investigations into suspected anticompetitive practices. The fact that the Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself. The Commission respects the rights of defence, in particular the right of companies to be heard in antitrust proceedings.

There is no legal deadline to complete inquiries into anticompetitive conduct. Their duration depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of each case, the extent to which the undertakings concerned co-operate with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defence.

STATEMENT/18/4101

Press contacts:

Ricardo CARDOSO (+32 2 298 01 00)

Lucia CAUDET (+32 2 295 61 82)

Maria SARANTOPOULOU (+32 2 291 37 40)

 

General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email

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Growing Demand For Quality Control Of High-Tech Materials: Loepfe Successfully Participated At Techtextil USA – Quality Control HighTech Materials Loepfe Techtextil USA

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Growing Demand For Quality Control Of High-Tech Materials: Loepfe Successfully Participated At Techtextil USA

Quality Control HighTech Materials Loepfe Techtextil USA WETZIKON, Switzerland —  The market for technical textiles is steadily growing since several years. Typical applications include the production of fabrics for airbags, tire cords, filtration materials, architectural fabrics, sailcloth, and many others. The quality requirements for many of these fields – especially for safety-critical applications – are very high. The challenge for weaving mills is the production with zero-defects. During the Techtextil show, which has been held in Atlanta/Georgia, USA, end of May, Loepfe experienced very strong demands for their yarn control solution WeftMaster FALCON-i.

“Today, technical textiles are included in nearly every aspect of human lives covering a variety of different needs. Especially producers from the US are keen to find simple solutions, which contribute to high-quality end products. The reliable quality control of high-tech materials through the precise sensor technology of FALCON-i has satisfied many of our customer’s needs”, says Luc Vanoverschelde, Product Manager at Loepfe.

In quality sensitive applications even smallest knots, fluff, filamentation, thick places and capillary breaks have to be eliminated before being interwoven into the fabric. To monitor such unwanted yarn faults on the running threads, the WeftMaster FALCON-i is installed before or after a weft feeder. The yarn control system ensures reliable control of latest high-tech materials such as carbon fibers, monofilaments, multi-filaments as well as spun yarns in any material composition. Even conductive yarns can be processed without any restriction. The sensor works reliably with colored yarns and measures unaffected by vibrations. Static electricity or electromagnetic fields have also no influence on the results, as the sensor housing is made from shielding material.

The sensitivity level of the FALCON-i can be set either manually or automatically. The thread to be monitored is guided through the optical measuring field by yarn guides placed before and after the sensor virtually contact-free. An output signal triggers the required action, as soon as a defect has been detected. The microprocessor-controlled sensor provides many options for connection to machine controls. Furthermore, the weft sensor function can be integrated into FALCON-i. This option allows elimination of a further yarn guiding contact before the fabric production.

Loepfe’s optical yarn defect sensor FALCON-i is not only complementing the various available knotless weaving concepts, but can also be used in many different processes down the textile production chain, wherever an individual yarn monitoring should ensure quality.

Source: Loepfe Brothers Ltd.

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What Do the Latest Developments Mean for OPEC and Oil? – Latest Developments OPEC Crude Oil

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What Do the Latest Developments Mean for OPEC and Oil?

Latest Developments OPEC Crude Oil
Recent announcements by Saudi Arabia and Russia, that they were considering raising production, threw global energy markets into turmoil. Crude has gyrated wildly in recent weeks, as the market digested this news about an unexpected build in U.S. oil inventories, along with stronger than anticipated demand and emerging supply constraints. Higher oil prices and fears of how they will affect global economic growth has put pressure on OPEC to open the spigots and boost production. There are even whispers that the U.S. government has quietly asked Saudi Arabia and other OPEC members to expand production by up to one million barrels daily to bolster global supplies and alleviate supply shortages.Even the one-time eternally bearish investment bank Goldman Sachs has taken a bullish tone and claims that even if an additional one million barrels were added to global oil supplies, inventories would dwindle, and prices would keep rising. 

This all sounds very positive for oil and energy stocks, but there are signs that if OPEC increases production, it could depress the price of crude. 

Now what?

It has been rumoured that OPEC and Russia are currently considering putting somewhere between 800,000 to one million barrels daily of oil supply back on to the market. The sharp deterioration in Venezuela’s oil output, and the curtailing of Iran’s plans to significantly grow production after the U.S. pulled out of the controversial nuclear deal have created an opportune time for OPEC to boost production and claim further market share.

It would be quite easy for OPEC to expand production by this amount, because it has been estimated by the U.S. Energy Information Administration that OPEC has almost two million barrels a day of spare capacity. When coupled with recent considerable U.S. production gains and the substantial spare capacity that exists in the Permian Basin, this could cause oil to soften.

For March 2018, U.S. oil production shot up to a record all-time high of 10.47 million barrels daily, and there are signs it will keep growing at a rapid clip.

You see, the volume of drilled but uncompleted wells grew to a record high of 7,677 with the majority located in Permian Basin. The U.S. rig count climbed to 1,060 rigs its highest number since March 2015. It is forecast that the tempo of activity, particularly in shale oil basins, will continue expanding at a solid rate, because West Texas Intermediate (WTI) is trading at well over US$60, which is significantly greater than the estimated breakeven price for the majority of shale oil drillers of US$50 per barrel or less.

Even if OPEC boosts production, it is unlikely that oil will fall as sharply as some analysts have predicted. Firmer demand growth sparked by an improving global economy will underpin prices and prevent oil from plummeting to the lows witnessed in 2016. 

So what?

Many oil companies, including Baytex Energy Corp. (TSX:BTE)(NYSE:BTE) and Crescent Point Energy Corp. (TSX:CPG)(NYSE:CPG), have reduced costs to the point where they have a breakeven WTI price of US$40 a barrel. That means even if crude slumps to US$60 a barrel, which is plausible in the current environment, they will continue to generate free cash flow and be able to invest in their operations.

What is becoming increasingly clear is that regardless of current developments, oil will, over the long term, rise in value, driving the shares of upstream oil producers higher. While Baytex has gained an impressive 45% since the start of 2018, Crescent Point has substantially lagged behind, only gaining 1%, and that — along with its high-quality assets and solid balance sheet — makes it an attractively valued opportunity for those investors betting on higher oil.

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90% of plastic polluting our oceans comes from just 10 rivers – Over the last decade we have become increasingly alarmed at the amount of plastic in our oceans – 90% plastic polluting ocean 10 rivers

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90% of plastic polluting our oceans comes from just 10 rivers

90% plastic polluting ocean 10 rivers

UNEP GRID Arendal/Lawrence Hislop Marine litter affects communities and seas in every region of the world, and negatively impacts biodiversity, fisheries and coastal economies.

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Alex Gray, Formative Content

Over the last decade we have become increasingly alarmed at the amount of plastic in our oceans.

More than 8 million tons of it ends up in the ocean every year. If we continue to pollute at this rate, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean by 2050.

But where does all this plastic waste come from?

Most of it is washed into the ocean by rivers. And 90% of it comes from just 10 of them, according to a study.

Rivers of plastic

By analyzing the waste found in the rivers and surrounding landscape, researchers were able to estimate that just 10 river systems carry 90% of the plastic that ends up in the ocean.

Eight of them are in Asia: the Yangtze; Indus; Yellow; Hai He; Ganges; Pearl; Amur; Mekong; and two in Africa – the Nile and the Niger.

“We were able to demonstrate that there is a definite correlation in this respect,” said Dr. Christian Schmidt, one of the authors of the study from the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research. “The more waste there is in a catchment area that is not disposed of properly, the more plastic ultimately ends up in the river and takes this route to the sea.”

Schmidt and his team found that the quantity of plastic per cubic metre of water was significantly higher in large rivers than in small ones.

 90% plastic polluting ocean 10 rivers

Image: Statista

The rivers all had two things in common; a generally high population living in the surrounding region – sometimes into the hundreds of millions – and a less than ideal waste management process.

The Yangtze is Asia’s longest river and also one of world’s most ecologically important rivers. The river basin is home to almost 500 million people (more than one third of China’s population). It is also the biggest carrier of plastic pollution to the ocean.

Recently, however, China has made efforts to curb waste.

For years the country had imported millions of tons of recyclable waste from overseas, but a growing recycling burden at home prompted the government to shift its policy.

Last year, it ended imports of “foreign garbage”. Recently it extended the ban to metals, saying stopping imports of foreign waste was “a symbolic measure for the creation of an ecological civilization in China”.

And this year China has ordered 46 cities to begin sorting waste in order to reach a 35% recycling rate by 2020.

According to the UN Environment Program head Erik Solheim, while China is the biggest producer of plastic waste, it is also making major efforts to curb it.

“If there is one nation changing at the moment more than anyone else, it’s China … the speed and determination of the government to change is enormous,” said Solheim

The Indus and the Ganges, which flow through India, carry the second and sixth highest amounts of plastic debris to the ocean.

Several years ago, the Indian government launched the Namami Gange project in a bid to clean the Ganges, but recently the National Green Tribunal, India’s dedicated environmental court, said that “not a single drop of the Ganga has been cleaned so far”.

At the United Nations Environment Assembly in December 2017, India along with 193 other nations, signed a resolution to reduce marine plastic waste.

Last year the National Green Tribunal introduced a ban on disposable plastics in Delhi, while non-biodegradable plastic bags are banned in many states.“Halving the plastic input from the catchment areas of these rivers would already be a major success,” says Schmidt. “To achieve this, it will be necessary to improve the waste management and raise public awareness for the issue. We hope that our study will make a contribution to a positive development so that the plastic problem in our oceans can be curbed in the long run.”

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WasteZero releases report on impact of pay-as-you-throw programs – WasteZero releases report PAYT

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WasteZero releases report on impact of pay-as-you-throw programs

The report contains direct comparisons of municipalities with and without PAYT programs in southern Maine.
Edited by Hilary Crisan

Municipal / IC&I

WasteZeroWasteZero releases report PAYT   , a certified B-Corp that partners with towns, cities, counties, state agencies and private organizations headquartered in Raleigh, North Carolina, has released a report analyzing the impact of unit-based pricing, also known as pay-as-you-throw (PAYT) programs, on residential trash. The report contains head-to-head comparisons of municipalities in southern Maine with and without PAYT programs. It reveals that, on average, municipalities with PAYT annually generate 44.8 percent less trash per capita and have 62.3 percent higher recycling rates than municipalities that do not.

Key findings include:

  • 9 of the 10 communities with the lowest annual pounds of trash per capita use PAYT.
  • For PAYT communities, the average pounds of trash per capita was 356.
  • For non-PAYT communities, the average pounds of trash per capita was 645.
  • For the PAYT communities, the overall average recycling rate was 33.1 percent.
  • For the non-PAYT communities, the average recycling rate was 20.4 percent.

The report uses data provided by Ecomaine, a nonprofit organization providing waste disposal, recycling and waste-to-energy solutions for municipalities in southern Maine based in Portland, Maine. For fiscal year 2017, WasteZero gathered data from 20 municipalities and included all Ecomaine customers who met the following criteria:

  • provide curbside trash collection service to residents;
  • provide curbside recycling collection service to residents; and
  • have clean data on file with Ecomaine.

The following data points were collected for each city or town:

  • population;
  • trash tonnage;
  • recycling tonnage;
  • recycling rate; and
  • whether the municipality uses a PAYT trash program.

Of the twenty municipalities identified, 11 have bag-based PAYT systems and 9 have no PAYT programs.  For each municipality, WasteZero calculated the average pounds of trash thrown away per person during fiscal year 2017.  The company then ranked the communities based on how much trash per capita they generate. The report is available at wastezero.wpengine.com/resources/analysis-of-payt-impact-in-southern-maine-ecomaine.

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Sea change: VIMS professor studies effects of microplastics on the ocean – Studies effects microplastics ocean

Studies effects microplastics ocean Studies effects microplastics ocean  Studies effects micStudies effects microplastics ocean Studies effects microplastics ocean Studies effects microplastics ocean plastics ocean  Studies effects microplastics ocean  

Sea change: VIMS professor studies effects of microplastics on the ocean

Anyone who has ever struggled with knowing which plastic items they can or cannot place in their recycling bin will appreciate the complex task facing Professor Rob Hale and his students at William & Mary’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Studies effects microplastics ocean
Mark LaGuardia collects samples from a freshwater stream for analysis of flame retardants.

Hale began studying plastics in the 1990s after he and Marine Scientist Mark La Guardia discovered high levels of flame retardants in fishes from the James River. They quickly realized these compounds, added to household plastics to reduce their flammability, were somehow escaping their confines and entering the aquatic environment.Subsequent groundbreaking research by Hale’s team and others revealed high levels of flame retardants in wastewater, e-waste sites, sewage sludges, soils, sediments, and indoor dust; as well as in minnows, earthworms, insects, birds of preydeep-sea squid and other organisms. Related research — based on concerns that these chemicals persist in the environment and tend to accumulate up the food chain — revealed health impacts in both wildlife and people, and led to worldwide limitations on the use of the most troublesome flame-retardant compounds.

Hale’s early experience with plastics research has now poised his team for a leading role in addressing the most recent worry about plastics in the environment — the growing concern about the effects of microplastics in the ocean.

Embrace the complexity

To study plastics and plastic pollution, Hale says, “you have to embrace the complexity — plastics are not just one thing. They’re not just bottles, or bags, or cellphone cases, or the foam in your couch.”

Studies effects microplastics ocean
Beaches worldwide are now home to a bewildering array of plastic debris.

Hale and his team, including La Guardia, Drew Luellen, Matt Mainor, Ellen Harvey and master’s degree student Kelley Uhlig, have analyzed products made from polyethylene, polyurethane, polyvinyl chloride, polystyrene, polypropylene, polyamides and biopolymers; these are just a subset of the thousands of plastic varieties in common use.Adding even more complexity is that a single class of plastics can itself contain multiple variants. Polyethylene, for example, comes in at least 11 different “flavors.” Moreover, manufacturers infuse plastics with an array of additives designed to enhance their intended purpose — whether it be for flexibility, strength, durability or other qualities.

In 2013, Hale received grants from NOAA’s Marine Debris Program and the EPA to look at how four different types of plastic and their additives behave under various environmental conditions.

“When we started these projects,” he says, “We thought it would be pretty straight-forward — we’d go out and analyze what’s in the different polymers, then test those for toxic organic pollutants. But we quickly discovered that most of the plastics are a black box. You don’t know what’s in them.”

Studies effects microplastics ocean
Researchers in Kirk Havens’ lab at VIMS are working to replace plastic shotgun wads with biodegradable alternatives. (CCRM photo)

Hale says the additives can also be tremendously complex.“You have hints about certain ones — polyurethane foam cushions probably have brominated flame retardants — but depending on their age, the manufacturers may have changed what they put in, so it’s kind of a moving target. We saw very early on that some of the foam had polybrominated diphenyl ethers, but it also had the next-generation brominated flame retardants mixed in, and it had phosphate-based flame retardants as well.”

He adds that the plastics “probably had other chemicals in them that aren’t even on our radar screen. So if you observe a toxicological effect following exposure, you have a heck of a time figuring out what chemical or mixture is causing it.”

Research is just beginning

The practical consequence of this complexity is that research into the environmental impacts of plastic pollution is just beginning. Meredith Evans, a doctoral student studying plastics in Hale’s lab, says, “A lot of people don’t understand just how much research could be done in this area. We could work on this for years and years and still be pulling stuff out to ask questions about.”

Studies effects microplastics ocean
Meredith Evans with the treatments she used to test the effects of various types of plastics on microbial communities in sediments.

As an example, Evans points to an experiment she ran in a class in Aquatic Microbial Ecology recently offered by VIMS Professor B.K. Song, in which she placed different types of microplastics — polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, polyurethane foam and a biopolymer — into sediments collected from the floor of Chesapeake Bay.“I looked at how the different types of plastic affected the microbial community,” she says, “and saw that some types significantly reduced microbial populations, which could affect the processing of nutrients like nitrogen. But if I had used a polyethylene with different additives, my results may have been very different. It’s a challenge when we’re in the field because there are so many possibilities for what could be out there.”

Another question, says Hale, is whether Evans’ results were due to the additives in the plastic, or to the plastic itself. “The devil is in the details,” he says, “what kind of PVC it is, and what’s in the PVC, might actually control the outcome.”

“That always surprises people,” adds Evans, “how difficult it is to determine the type of plastic and the different compounds in it. I often hear ‘All plastic is the same,’ but it’s really not. The complexity makes it a very interesting and important research area.”

Future directions

Moving forward, Hale and Evans’ immediate plans are to study plastic pollution in two far-spread environments — coastal Alaska and St. Helena island in the South Atlantic. Other opportunities — several related to electronic manufacturing and recycling sites in China — lie on the horizon.

Evans plans to head to Alaska in July, in a collaboration with W&M Professor and Immunologist Patty Zwollo.

“There’s a very remote spot that gets a lot of plastics washing in,” says Evans. “It’s a unique study site because there are no other pollutants in the area besides plastic, so we can isolate the effects of plastic on that ecosystem. That’s really cool.”

Hale is already collaborating with colleagues at the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta to study whale sharks, filter feeders that ingest huge quantities of water to collect plankton and small fish and — in today’s ocean — inadvertent bits of floating plastic.

Studies effects microplastics ocean
There is growing concern that filter feeders such as whale sharks are ingesting large amounts of microplastics.

“If the whale sharks are eating microplastics,” says Hale, “one sure way of showing that is to look at their poop. As you might expect, that’s not the easiest thing in the world, particularly when you’re dealing with a pelagic species that shows up kind of opportunistically.”To surmount that challenge, Hale and his aquarium colleagues hope to collect poop not only in nature but in a much more accessible locale — the tank that holds the aquarium’s whale-shark pair.

Doing so offers an additional benefit — the opportunity to further test Hale’s notion that ocean microplastics aren’t necessarily of greatest concern in terms of human health.

“If you’re concerned about toxicological impacts with a contaminant,” says Hale, “ it’s probably going to occur where the levels are highest. When they make plastics, the additives are present in concentrations up to 10 percent by weight — a ludicrously high number compared to what might be on a bit of microplastic, which is measured in low parts per millions.”

Studies effects microplastics ocean
Microplastics in household dust is a known pathway of contaminant exposure to people. (Wikimedia photo)

The point, he says, is not that whale sharks or other organisms will experience no ill effects from ingesting microplastics in the ocean. It’s that whale sharks in an acrylic-walled aquarium may be exposed to much higher concentrations of flame retardants than their wild cousins — just like people are likely ingesting much higher concentrations of flame retardants from microplastics in household dust than by eating seafood in which these materials might have accumulated. LaGuardia is currently analyzing legacy and emerging flame retardants in household dust in collaboration with University of Cincinnati and NIH.

Studies effects microplastics ocean
Heart-rending images of sea turtles and other marine life has rightully raised public concern about plastic pollution.Microplastics are likely even more harmful.

A realist, Hale recognizes that humans are not going to stop using plastics anytime soon. Global plastic production has increased by more than 600 percent since 1975, and the amount of plastic entering the world’s oceans is projected to increase 10-fold by 2025. But he does think there are steps we can take to minimize their environmental impacts.“We have to re-think how we make, reuse, and dispose of these materials,” says Hale.

A better understanding of the environmental effects of microplastics and their additives is also key.

“Back when I started,” says Hale, “people thought that plastics on the beach just sat there, and if they broke into pieces we didn’t have to worry about them anymore. We thought plastics were simple. But now we realize they are not.”

“Public concern,” adds Evans, “often focuses on the visible plastic — like a six-pack ring wrapped around a turtle — but microplastics may well be more harmful.”

Studies effects microplastics ocean
Plastics on the road to microplastics. The particles eventually become small enough to be ingested by fish and other marine life. (Photo by James Leichter/Marine Photobank)

Microplastics exhibit greater surface areas and environmental reactivities than larger plastic pieces and are easily transported, says Hale.“Their small size allows them to be ingested by many types of organisms — from whales to humans. So for us it is a natural thing to study how water might affect transport and bioavailability from microplastics. That’s one of our major goals moving forward.”

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