Union Carbide

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Union Carbide Corporation
Type Subsidiary
Industry Chemical manufacturing
Founded 1917
Headquarters Houston, Texas, USA
Key people Patrick E. Gottschalk, CEO & President
Products Bulk Chemicals
Ethylene
Ethylene Derivatives
Revenue US$7.33 billion (2009)
Parent Dow Chemical Company
Website Unioncarbide.com
1922 advertisement for Union Carbide gas lighting. Electric lighting was not yet common in many rural areas of the United States.[1]

Union Carbide Corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary (since 2001) of Dow Chemical Company. It currently employs more than 2,400 people.[2] Union Carbide produces chemicals and polymers that undergo one or more further conversions by customers before reaching consumers. Some are high-volume commodities and others are specialty products meeting the needs of smaller markets. Markets served include paints and coatings, packaging, wire and cable, household products, personal care, pharmaceuticals, automotive, textiles, agriculture, and oil and gas. The company is a former component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.[3]

Founded in 1917, the company's researchers developed an economical way to make ethylene from natural gas liquids, such as ethane and propane, giving birth to the modern petrochemical industry. Before divesting them, the chemical giant owned consumer products Eveready and Energizer batteries, Glad bags and wraps, Simoniz car wax, and Prestone antifreeze. The company divested other businesses before being acquired by Dow Chemical on February 6, 2001, including electronic chemicals, polyurethane intermediates, industrial gases and carbon products.[4]

History[edit]

The Union Carbide and Carbon Corporation was formed in 1917 from the merger of the former Union Carbide founded in 1898 and the National Carbon Company founded in 1886. These companies made carbon rods for arc lights and electrodes for electric arc furnaces, and produced aluminium.[5] Other companies merged included Linde Air Products, maker of liquid oxygen, Prest-O-Lite, manufacturer of calcium carbide, and Electro Metallurgical. In 1920 the company set up a chemicals division which manufactured ethylene glycol for use as automotive antifreeze. The company continued to acquire related chemical producers, for example, the Bakelite Corporation became a division in 1939. The company changed its name to "Union Carbide Corporation" in 1957 and was often referred to as Carbide. It operated Oak Ridge National Laboratory from 1947 until the late 1970s.[6]

Ucar batteries was Carbide's industrial and consumer zinc chloride battery business. The business including Energizer alkaline batteries was sold to Ralston Purina in 1986, following a hostile takeover attempt.

After the Bhopal disaster, Union Carbide was the subject of repeated takeover attempts. In order to pay off its debt, Carbide was forced to sell many of its most familiar brands such as Glad Trashbags and Eveready Batteries. Eventually, Carbide was bought by Dow Chemical in 1999 for $8.89 billion in stock.[7]

Hawks Nest Tunnel disaster[edit]

The Hawks Nest Tunnel disaster took place between 1927 and 1932 in a West Virginia tunnel project led by Union Carbide. During the construction of the tunnel, workers found the mineral silica and were asked to mine it for use in electroprocessing steel. The workers were not given masks or breathing equipment to use while mining. Due to silica dust exposure, many workers developed silicosis, a debilitating lung disease. According to a marker on site, there were 109 admitted deaths. A congressional hearing placed the death toll at 476.[8]

Asbestos mining and 'Calidria' brand fibers[edit]

In the early 1960s, Union Carbide Corporation began mining a newly identified outcrop of chrysotile asbestos fibers near King City and New Idria, California. The fibers were sold under the brand name "Calidria", a combination of "Cal" and "Idria." These fibers were sold in large quantities for a wide variety of purposes, including addition into joint compound or drywall accessory products.[9] Union Carbide sold the mine to its employees under the name KCAC ("King City Asbestos Mine") in the 1980s, but it only operated for a few more years.[citation needed]

Bhopal disaster[edit]

Main article: Bhopal disaster

The Bhopal disaster was an industrial disaster that took place at a Union Carbide India Limited pesticide plant in the Indian city of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Around midnight on 3 December 1984, methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas was accidentally released from the plant, exposing more than 500,000 people to MIC and other chemicals. The government of Madhya Pradesh confirmed a total of 3,787 deaths related to the gas release. It left an estimated 40,000 individuals permanently disabled, maimed, or suffering from serious illness, making it one of the world's worst industrial disasters.[10][11] Union Carbide was sued by the Government of India and agreed to an out-of-court settlement of US$470 million in 1989. The plant site has not yet been cleaned up.

Union Carbide in Australia[edit]

Union Carbide's operations in Australia commenced in 1957 when they purchased the plant of the Australian owned company Timbrol Ltd. The Tibrol factory was on the shore of Homebush Bay in the Sydney suburb of Rhodes. Homebush Bay is on the Parramatta River which flows into Sydney Harbour. Tibrol produced phenol, the insecticides chlorobenzene/chlorophenol/DDT, and the herbicides 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T. Union Carbide continued the production of the 2,4-D and 2,4,5-T until 1976 and chlorobenzene/chlorophenol/DDT until 1983. Union Carbide also commenced the production of Bisphenol A in 1960 and Phenol Formaldehyde resins in 1964.[12]:9

Union Carbide reclaimed land on neighboring properties by depositing spent lime and ash into the adjacent marshes in Homebush Bay. This practice, which had been approved by the Maritime Services Board, ceased in 1970.

Union Carbide ceased operations in Australia in 1985.[13] In 1987 the New South Wales Pollution Control Commission ordered Union Carbide to remediate the site. This work, which cost Union Carbide $30 million, was conducted between 1988 and 1993. The work involved excavation and encapsulation of the contaminated soil.[14]

In 2004 the minister for planning granted consent for additional remediation of the former Union Carbide site to proceed including parts of Homebush Bay.[15] Approximately 900,000 tons of soil were excavated from the Union Carbide site, 190,000 tons of soil from the adjacent Allied Feeds site and approximately 50,000 tons of sediment from the bay. Remediation of the Allied Feeds Site was completed in August 2009, Homebush Bay sediments in August 2010, and the Union Carbide site in March 2011. The value of the remediation work was $35M for the Allied Feeds site and $100 million for Union Carbide site and Homebush Bay sediments.[16][17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Robert T. Beall (1940). "Rural Electrification" (PDF). United States Yearbook of Agriculture. United States Department of Agriculture. pp. 790–809. Retrieved 2012-01-08. Of the more than 6.3 million farms in the country in January 1925, only 204,780, or 3.2 percent, were receiving central-station electrical service. 
  2. ^ Union Carbide Corporation, About Us. Accessed May 31, 2011.
  3. ^ History of DJIA, globalfinancialdata.com
  4. ^ Union Carbide Corporation, History, Accessed July 9, 2008.
  5. ^ Themistocles D'Silva, The Black Box of Bhopal: A Closer Look at the World's Deadliest Industrial Disaster,Trafford Publishing, 2006 ISBN 1-4120-8412-1, page 27
  6. ^ See the Oak Ridge National Laboratory article.
  7. ^ Warren, Susan (5 Aug 1999). "Dow Chemical to Acquire Union Carbide --- Deal, Valued at $8.89 Billion, Would Position Firm to Challenge DuPont". Wall Street Journal A3. 
  8. ^ "Hawk's Nest Tunnel Disaster". West Virginia Department of Culture and History. Retrieved 2008-11-25. 
  9. ^ LA Times, "Case Hinges on Material Witness", Lisa Gurion, September 26, 2004
  10. ^ Eckerman, Ingrid (2001) Chemical Industry and Public Health — Bhopal as an example. Accessed 8 November 2010
  11. ^ Eckerman, Ingrid (2005). The Bhopal Saga—Causes and Consequences of the World's Largest Industrial Disaster. India: Universities Press. ISBN 81-7371-515-7. 
  12. ^ "Redevelopment and Remediation of the Rhodes Peninsula". NSW Leglisative Council. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  13. ^ "Union Carbide Australia Ltd. (1950-1985)". National Library of Australia. Retrieved 21 June 2014. 
  14. ^ "Environmental Impact Statement - Remediation of the Lednez site, Rhodes and Homebush Bay". Parsons Brinckerhoff. Retrieved 27 June 2014. 
  15. ^ "Assessment Report". NSW Government - Department of Planning. Retrieved 29 June 2014. 
  16. ^ "Former Lednez/Union Carbide Site & Homebush Bay Remediation". Thiess Services. Retrieved 29 June 2014. 
  17. ^ "Former Allied Feeds Site Remediation". Theiss Services. Retrieved 13 July 2014. 

External links[edit]