Bulk Commodity Chemicals – Unpronounceable and Unprecedented

Chemical production is truly one of the great wonders of the modern world. Scientists and chemists from all around the world have discovered, synthesized, and mastered these lab-made compounds that permeate our everyday lives.

I can’t even begin to get one-millionth of the information available on chemical production into this blog, let alone begin to explain the incredibly complex process involved. However, we have been chipping away at matter and taking notes for a very long time.

So let’s start off with some not-so-basic questions that most of you should not be able to answer!

  1. How much adipic acid do you have in your bedroom?
  1. Is there butyl acetate inside your fridge?
  1. Do you have methyl methacrylate sitting in your driveway?
  1. Where is all vinyl acetate in your house?

If you couldn’t answer any of those questions, don’t feel bad at all. I have a feeling that only a select few would be able to correctly answer those questions or describe the chemicals noted. My good friend from our hometown could, but he has a PhD in inorganic chemistry from NWU and he works for Honeywell UOP….

Chemical Production Facility

Pictured: There's a lot going on inside this facility

The global market for chemicals is absolutely massive. I won’t go into too much detail, so I’ll just focus on the Canadian market. In 2016, the Chemistry Industry Association of Canada released some very interesting data on the status of chemical production in Canada. Here are some of the more pertinent details:

  1. Total value of production was $56 billion
  2. Directly employs 87,500 Canadians
  3. Over $6 billion paid in annual wages
  4. Indirectly supports 525,000 jobs across the country

The reason the chemical production industry is so large is simple: we are surrounded by items made with adipic acid, butyl acetate, methyl methacrylate, and vinyl acetate! Sitting at my desk writing this blog, I can see results of chemical production everywhere around me. I kept point 5 from the CIAC report for here:

  1. 95% of manufactured consumer goods require some form of chemistry

From the keyboard I am typing on, to the monitor showing my work, it’s almost unavoidable. My coffee mug, the pens, the desk, the calculator, the phone, the carpeting on the floor, the paint on the walls, the tiles in the ceiling, the foundation our building sits on, the clothes on my back, etc. etc.

Chemistry is all around us

Solids, liquids, and gases, oh my!

Just like our unofficial slogan, “From alfalfa to zinc” implies, several granular and powdered chemicals are shipped in bulk packaging. When you are making a batch of chemicals that weighs thousands of kilograms, your ingredients are not measured in tablespoons!

If you are in the business of manufacturing, processing, or transporting chemicals, we would love to talk with you. We can’t help with the chemistry, but we do have an unofficial PhD in bulk packaging.