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Extracts from Nandini Chemical Journal, Nov 2004

Sea Buckthron|Sodium Hypochlorite|Molasses Based Products

Highlights of Some of the Articles
WHITHER INDIAN PETROCHEMICAL INDUSTRY ? Though several hundred millions of rupees have been invested in setting up massive petrochemical projects in India during the last few decades, one is not certain as to whether such massive efforts and investments have provided commensurate benefits. Obviously, the right approach to evaluate the benefits arising out of any efforts should be on the basis of the confidence generated and self sustaining progress achieved commensurate with the investments and efforts put forth. From this view point, the Indian petrochemical industries cannot be said to have crowned itself with glory. First, let us take the technology scenario. Even after setting up several refineries and petrochemical downstream products such as Ethylene, Benzene, Propylene etc. the fact is that the Indian petrochemical industries still largely depend upon the multinational companies based in developed countries to provide technology and engineering collaboration for designing and setting up of new projects or expansion of existing ones in India In other words, the dependence of Indian petrochemical industries on overseas organizations for technology support have not become less over the last few decades. Whatever significant exports from the technology view point that have taken place from India are in the form of manpower exports, where Indians have been offered jobs abroad for operating the projects or carrying out design and detailed engineering services mostly at lower and middle level for overseas organizations. The technology independence in the field of petrochemical industries achieved by India is far from satisfactory. Apart from technology aspects, let us take the raw material scenario. With the depleting natural gas and crude reserves in the known and established wells, the country is still facing the grim scenario of excessive dependence on international sources for Indian crude oil and natural gas requirement. In other words ,Indian petrochemical industries are severely vulnerable to the international supply and price pressure, which provides an uncertainty about the future. The truth is that the country has built large petrochemical capacities without ensuring the supply of basic feed stocks from dependable sources. Though announcements have been made from time to time with regard to new gas discoveries and success of exploration efforts, many of them have been proved to be over optimistic and misleading as in the case of Krishna Godavari and Cauveri Gas Basin. There is a tendency to rush to the press about the announcements with regard to success of gas exploration even before completely establishing the feasibilities , as in the case of several announcement of Reliance Group in recent times 
While some worthwhile efforts have been put forth to set up LNG terminal, only Dahej terminal in Gujarat has been completed. Many other announced projects such as LNG terminal at Kochi, Ennore near Chennai, Visakhapatnam etc. have been non starters and are very uncertain as on date. The cost factors relating to the delivered price of LNG are still a cause of concern and may very well lead to higher feed stock price for the Indian petrochemical industry in future
Given the present petrochemical feedstock scenario in India and the international supply uncertainties, one wonders as to whether India should any more focus on setting up large scale petrochemical industries at all. A careful assessment of country's strength has to be made, based on which long term strategy should be evolved and worked out. Particularly in areas like petrochemicals where India has no inherent strength, blind copying of developed countries or China would do more harm than good. It is high time to realize that petrochemical industries need not be the be all and end all of industrialization and economic growth. There are a large number of other areas where the country has enormous strength and pumping of massive resources into such areas can be more rewarding and beneficial, both in the short and the long run. There are many petrochemicals that can be produced even more profitably and in an environmentally superior way from agro and natural resources, which are plentifully available in the country. Such areas have to be quickly short listed and focused to achieve tangible and overall benefits. Further, industrialization and growth of income have to be necessarily accompanied by employment generation and equi distribution of income, particularly in a poverty stricken, populated and developing country like India. The investment oriented petrochemical industries do not generate employment to the adequate level. India has to focus necessarily and largely on the agro chemical sector, which appears to be the only way of sustaining the nation's progress in chemical sector in all round manner. Massive investments are called for in agro chemical projects, which have to be necessarily at the cost of petrochemical projects. For example, the molasses based derivatives, Jatropha based vegetable oil/ fuel, setting up of edible oil industry and large scale cultivation of edible crops, important chemicals that can be produced from sea water and brine and large capacity creation of nuclear power projects, setting up of coal bed methane gas projects are amongst a few of the large number of non petrochemical possibilities ,where the national efforts have still not been focused to the extent of requirement. A bold decision not to focus in a big manner in petrochemical sector will help in diverting the national efforts to areas of greater opportunities.
Stem cells are immature cells that mature into differentiated cell types. They are abundant in embryos, bone marrow and umbilical chords and can be harvested for transplant. Scientific research is currently focused on two kinds of stem cells: embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. The most versatile stem cells, called pluripotent stem cells, are present in the first days after an egg is fertilized by sperm. This article also discusses the following aspects:
  • Therapeutic cloning
  • Biomedical research
  • Stem cells grow blood vessels in eyes of mice
  • Stem cells `arrest brain damage’
  • Cooling therapy
  • Stem cells can treat heart attacks
  • Status in USA
  • Status in Saudi Arabia
Chemical Industries Association based in Chennai, India organised an Interactive Seminar on Molasses based Products at Chennai, India on 26th October 2004. A number of important papers were presented in the Seminar,. The highlights of a few papers are presented. The Interactive Seminar was addressed by a number of Senior Chemical Engineers and Technologists including the following: * Mr.P.K.N.Panicker, President, Chemical Industries Association and former President, Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers * Mr.P.Pandey, General Manager,Lacto Chem Limited, Chennai * Mr.K.Govindarajan, Former Dy.General Manager, Indian Oil Corporation - Consultant * Dr.D.M. Mohanta, Senior Chemical Engineer and Consultant * Dr.J.D.Ramanathan, Pharmaceutical Scientist and Consultant. Valedictory address was provided by Mr.S.James Frederick, Chairman, Coramandel Indag Group, Chennai. Declining Molasses based industry in India The Interactive Seminar on molasses based projects organised by Chemical Industries Association expressed its concern about the poor exploitation of molasses resources in the country, most of which are simply being converted to alcohol for human drinking purposes, a wasteful and counter productive exercise. A number of molasses based products like L-Lysine, Glutamic acid/Monosodium Glutamate and Itaconic acid and others are being imported in the country due to the absence of capacity creation. In the case of other products such as Citric acid, the country's experience has been disappointing. Though a number of projects have been set up for the production of Citric Acid acquiring technology from overseas sources , the only one unit namely Solaris Biochemicals, Gujarat is presently in operation. However, this unit uses starch as raw material and not cane molasses. Ofcourse, one happy signal is successful production of Lactic Acid as well as Ephedrine Hydrochloride from cane molasses by a few number of units in the country. The most disturbing aspect is about Oxalic acid, which is not produced from molasses in India but from sugar. Inspite of producing Oxalic acid from sugar, which is a costlier input, the country is able to export substantial quantity of Oxalic acid, though it is much less than what China does. If the country would produce Oxalic acid from cane molasses, the cost of production will come down and the competitive edge in the international market will substantially improve. One aspect that became clear during the Interactive Seminar was the fact that the country's technology capability in the field of downstream products from molasses by fermentation route is far from adequate. There is a view that the quality of the Indian molasses is some what inferior to that available in some other countries mainly due to the high ash content in Indian molasses. Further, spores have to be developed for fermentation and has to be suitable for Indian cane molasses for the production of downstream products which have not yet been adequately developed. Though Biotechnology area has received considerable impetus in the country, most of such efforts in Biotechnology have been directed towards bio pharmaceutical and related areas and not in the traditional areas such as development of adequate fermentation technology based on Indian cane molasses. It appears that the country has a far way to go. Speakers in the Seminar repeatedly emphasised the need for focussed attention to develop appropriate fermentation technology for utilisation of Indian cane molasses for the production of several down stream products in an optimum manner, such as Oxalic acid, Citric acid, L-Lysine etc. Another observation made in the Seminar was the restrictive policy of the government in alloting cane molasses for the production of cane molasses based derivative products. Most of the molasses based products produced in India such as Lactic acid, Ephedrine Hydrochloride and others do not call for large quantity of molasses in view of comparatively small production capacity in the country. The requirement of cane molasses for such derivative products would represent only small percentage of the total cane molasses produced in the country. The Indian breakthrough in production of Lactic acid and Ephedrine Hydrochloride are of such high quality that the country should feel proud about such achievements. At the same time, the Government's refusal to allot cane molasses for the production of such important molasses based derivative products makes sad reading. APPLICATION SECTOR FOR MOLASSES Application potential of Molasses was extensively discussed during the interactive seminar by Mr.P.K.N.Panicker, President, Chemical Industries Association and Former President, Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers. LACTIC ACID FROM MOLASSES Excerpt from the paper presented during the interactive seminar by 
Mr.P.Pandey, General Manager-Lacto Chem Limited, Chennai, India
ETHANOL-TRASNPORTATION RISKS & QUALITY PROBLEMS IN GASOLINE BLENDING Excerpt from the paper presented during the interactive seminar by 
Mr.K.Govindararajan, Petchem (E) Consultants, Chennai, India
Sea-buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides L.) is a fascinating plant species. It is native to Europe and Asia and has been known and used by humans for centuries. In 1989, the first international symposium on sea-buckthorn was held in Xian, China; in 1993, the second symposium was held in Novosibirsk, Siberia. The medicinal value of sea-buckthorn was recorded in the Tibetan medical classic "'rGyud Bzi" in the eight century (Li and Guo 1989). The sea-buckthorn industry has been thriving in Russia since the 1940's when scientists there began investigating the biologically active substances found in the fruit, leaves and bark. The first Russian factory for sea-buckthorn product development was located in Bisk. These products were utilized in the diet of Russian cosmonauts and as a cream for protection from cosmic radiation. Sea Buckthorn is spelled sometime together as Seabuckthorn or SeaBuckthorn. The correct English spelling is Sea Buckthorn. This article also discusses the following aspects:
  • Chemical composition and nutritional values
  • Medicinal uses
  • Development in China
  • Development in Other regions
  • Indian Scenario
  • Botanical traits and cultivation practices
  • The process stream
  • Work on patent
  • Indian imports
Chemetics, a Canadian based organisation, has developed Integrated process for production of sodium hypochlorite. The process involves the use of common salt as main raw material. Salt would be electrolysed to produce chlorine and sodium hydroxide that would be mixed to produce sodium hypochlorite solution. Instead of buying and storing sodium hydroxide and liquid chlorine and then blending them to make sodium hypochlorite , Chemetics' integrated sodium hypochlorite process produces gaseous chlorine and sodium hydroxide directly from salt, to produce the Sodium hypochlorite in a fully integrated plant. The raw material is common salt (NaCl), which is inexpensive, safe, readily available, and easily transported and stored at site. The system operates with only small quantity of gaseous chlorine, avoiding the regulatory issues associated with the transport and storage of liquid chlorine that are involved in the conventional process. The production of sodium hypochlorite directly from salt via the integrated process offers the additional benefit of independence from the cyclical chlorine/caustic market, where smaller consumers such as sodium hypochlorite producers are forced to accept high spot prices or rationed supply. Chemetics claims that there would be cost savings by about 10% in it's integrated process compared to the conventional blending approach. Courtesy:Chematics, A division of Aker Kvaerner Canada Inc.1818 Cornwall Avenue, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6J 1C7, Phone: +1 604 734 1200, Fax: +1 604 737 4458 Website:
ASBESTOS ISSUES In an interactive session on `Asbestos: Corporate response to industrial health hazards," organised Kolkata recently by the Institution of Engineers (India) (IEI), West Bengal State Centre, Dr.Barry I.Castleman, a US-based environmentalist, researcher on health issues said that the fibrous product, cannot be used in a safe manner and hence should be banned, as already done in the UK and many other countries. Current EPA Regulations Regarding Asbestos • In 1978, EPA banned use of spray-on asbestos in USA. • In 1986, EPA required that all schools be inspected for presence of asbestos. This resulted in public fear and panic and hasty programs to remove asbestos, although removal was not required. 
• Current EPA recommendations are: 1) Remove asbestos only when it is severely damaged and beyond repair, 2) Otherwise, contain asbestos in place (repair if necessary).
IMPACT OF VEGOIL ON CHEMICAL FREIGHT RATES A decision will shortly be made on the new world wide conditions for the carriage of vegetable oils in bulk. The ruling could possibly have a big impact on ocean freight rates for chemical bulk cargoes. A brief synopsis of the background is given.
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