First Chemical, a DuPont Company, has called Jackson County home for more than 40 years. Today the company has embraced the new trend of "sustainability," or environmentally responsible manufacturing. At First Chemical this has meant reducing emissions by more than 60 percent, and growing their business through the introduction of new environmentally beneficial products and services.
The success of First Chemical is proof that a cleaner environment can be good business.
Safety Comes First
Safety is a core value for First Chemical, and their parent company, DuPont. The site is building an impressive track record for safe operation.
"We've worked more than 912 safe days and counting without a workplace related injury, meaning that our 2007 safety performance was "zero injuries," said Tommy Cochran, First Chemical Safety Manager and longtime Pascagoula resident. "Last September we set a new First Chemical injury-free record, and so every day we work safely is a record-setting accomplishment."
Cutting Chemical Emissions by More Than Sixty Percent
"If you're looking for a big industrial polluter, you'll have to keep looking," said Cari Field, environmental resource. "First Chemical is responsible for less than one percent of Jackson County's chemical emissions, and the company's emissions do not rank in the top 75 for the state of Mississippi.
The site has gone to great lengths to improve environmental performance. A report released by the EPA in Feburary 2008 shows that the site has reduced chemical emissions by 14 percent in the last year, and by more than 63 percent since 2000.
"We've spent millions of dollars on new technology and new equipment since Hurricane Katrina, which has taken our environmental performance to new levels," Field said. Other improvements in procedures and processes can be traced back to 2002, when the site was acquired by DuPont.
"DuPont brought a new focus on process safety management and disciplined operation to the site, and we've benefitted from that," said Cochran.
Sustainable Products and Services are Key to Future Growth
In addition to improving environmental controls, the company has found that offering environmentally beneficial products and services can be good for business. The company calls this concept "sustainability," and DuPont, First Chemical's parent company, has set aggressive goals to earn billions through this type of product by 2015.
"The fact is that our specialty products and services offer the greatest growth potential for our site, rather than more traditional commodity businesses," said Ray Marsh, site human resources manager. "We hired nine new full-time employees and five contractor employees to staff our specialty chemicals business last year."
One example of the growth of specialty business at the site involved a $22 million investment to turn idle equipment into a new fluorotelomer manufacturing unit. The project helped DuPont meet a global environmental commitment and won national awards.
"Some people had concerns when this project was announced, but we've proven that we can operate the technology safely and reliably," Field said. Environmental test data submitted to the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and released to the public record shows that emissions from the fluorotelomer unit are much lower than originally expected.
"It turns out that our treatment technology was even better than we thought, with less than 0.03 pounds of PFOA emitted from the site in the last year," said Field. "That is many times lower than our commitment of less than two pounds per year, and demonstrates that we can operate this technology safely and responsibly."
In the future, site leaders believe that the trend toward renewable fuels and feedstocks will present new opportunities for the chemical industry.
"You're talking about manufacturing that start with corn, produce useful products and emit water instead of pollution. That's definitely the kind of innovation that gets us excited," said David McMellon, supply chain manager. "I see bio-based manufacturing as a real opportunity for this site in the coming years."
Earning the Community's Trust
First Chemical has been a Mississippi company since its founding in the late 1960s, and community involvement has always been an important part of the company's values.
"We understand in order to do business in Jackson County we need the trust and confidence of the community on our side, said James Freeman, manager of operations and maintenance. "Our mission every day is to operate our plant in a way that we earn and increase that trust."
Freeman is the Manager of Operations and Maintenance for DuPont First Chemical's Pascagoula operation. He's also a lifelong Jackson County resident, with the exception of nine years when he managed the company's Baytown, Texas operation.
The company also believes in giving back, in the form of projects that improve the quality of life for area residents. In 2007 the site donated more than $75,000 to community projects (a 35 percent increase over 2006), with a focus on education and hurricane recovery.
Some of the programs sponsored by the company include "Chemistry Camp" at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College; a significant contribution to the construction of coastal nature trails through the Audubon Society, and more than $10,000 in college scholarships for local students.
"We always want to do more to support the community," said Freeman. "Pascagoula is a great place to do business, and the community deserves our support. After all, we live here, too."
First Chemical, so named because they were Mississippi's first chemical company, began operations in 1967. The company was acquired by DuPont in 2002 and remains a wholly owned subsidiary. The Pascagoula plant employs approximately 170 people and produces aniline, and a wide range of other specialty chemicals.
DuPont is a science-based products and services company. Founded in 1802, DuPont puts science to work by creating sustainable solutions essential to a better, safer, healthier life for people everywhere. Operating in more than 70 countries, DuPont offers a wide range of innovative products and services for markets including agriculture and food; building and construction; communications; and transportation.
DuPont First Chemical - By the numbers
134 DuPont employees, 35 contractor employees
912 safe work days and counting
Only 0.9% of Jackson County chemical emissions come from First Chemical
$75,000 donated to community service projects
- Aniline, used to make insulation for automotive and industrial products
- Nitrobenzene, used to make acetaminophen pain reliever and other pharmaceuticals
- Forfac® firefighting foam to fight aviation, military and industrial fires
- Other specialty chemicals