Until the recent past, the Caustic Soda industry has conjured up a crude image of high pollution and energy consumption. Old technology adopted the highly polluting mercury and asbestos. When Japan was hit by the minimata disease, the Government of India imposed a directive on all caustic-chlorine industries to scrap mercury cells in the production process and change-over to a different system.
Unfortunately, at that time, the relatively energy efficient and environment-friendly Membrane Technology was in its infancy, developed only to a certain extent in Japan. CCAL and our Promoters came across Chlorine Engineers Corporation Ltd. (CEC), a Mitsui Group Company. CEC did not initially wish to transfer the sensitive, proprietary technology. However, after studying our track record and capabilities, CEC agreed to part with the technology.
Buying the knowhow, license and critical parts from the Japanese Company, we successfully assimilated the technology. We manufactured the electrolyser, brine treatment system, chlorine and hydrogen handling systems, and instrumentation from scratch, indigenously.
Sadly, the rest of the industry was not very interested in supporting our efforts to propagate this new pollution-free technology by investing in Membrane Technology. Management of other chloralkali plants expressed apprehensions as to whether these sensitive electrolysers would be viable in Indian electrical conditions, given the high risk of power fluctuations and disruptions. Taking up the challenge, our promoters established the Kalapet Plant, in 1985.
Financial institutions, similarly, were reluctant to take the risk on the innovative new technology. Chemfab Alkalis therefore took out a Public Issue, which was over-subscribed – thus proving that the public, at least, was better inclined to embracing modern technologies!
After Chemfab Alkalis Ltd. made a success-story of membrane technology through its plant (capacity: 25 tonnes per day) both Government and Industry were thrilled to embrace the incredible advantages of this technology. Using Membrane Technology at the Kalapet Plant, CCAL proved that it was possible to totally avoid using mercury in Caustic Soda Plants, and get a power saving of 30 percent at the same time!
The Government of India also made a major policy decision: “No permission will be granted for new Caustic Soda Plants using Mercury Cell, nor for expansion of [then existing] Mercury Cell plants. All future Caustic Soda Plants in the country shall employ only Membrane Cell Technology.”
A truly landmark moment in the history of CCAL!