Profiting from Cleaning the Air: The Green in Green Business

Business Oriented Air Quality News January/February 1998

Inside this Issue:

The “Green” in Green BusinessBusiness Updates

Index of Topics in Past Issues

Profiting from Cleaning the Air: The Green in Green Business

Pollution is their business. Reducing pollution, that is. For companies developing environmentally friendly technologies,  profit margin can depend on parts per million of pollutants removed.  This kind of company is good for a region’s economy, notes Ram Natesh, Director of Economic Development for Santa Barbara County:  “The environmental technologies industry is typically clean, doesn’t require additional infrastructure, and tends to generate high-paying jobs – a key priority for our county.”

Low-Cost Catalysts     

Natesh points to Catalytic Solutions, Inc., (CSI) as a local example. CSI, a Santa Barbara start-up, is developing a low-cost coating for use in catalytic converters.  The coating of a catalytic converter is the catalyst for chemical reactions that transform hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide in vehicle exhaust to non-polluting substances.

CSI’s President and CEO Bill Anderson, former president of Applied Magnetics Corp., and member of the Santa Barbara Industrial Association, notes that coatings in use today are made with precious metals, including platinum, palladium and rhodium, with a cost per ounce ranging from $200 to $700. The CSI coating is made of ceramic oxides, with an average material cost of $10 per ounce. 

The cost difference could free up funds for additional emission-control equipment in today’s cars and trucks, and could make it affordable to use catalytic converters in a wider range of applications as well, such as on engines of lawnmowers, or of older, high-polluting cars. It could also increase use of catalytic converters in emerging markets in Eastern Europe, South America, and Asia, where cost is a particularly critical issue. In addition, the ability of    CSI-coated converters to work with sulfur-rich fuel may open the door to applications with large stationary engines.

CSI’s founder and Chief Technical Officer Steve Golden developed the material working closely with the Materials Research Lab at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB). Tests have verified that CSI’s coating can withstand the extremely high temperatures reached in catalytic converters (@ 1300o F) with the same effectiveness in reducing    pollutants as coatings in use today.

Anderson notes that if the region could attract more companies in related areas of this industry, “it would certainly encourage UCSB to expand its test facilities, and we could attract more research dollars. Right now, we are using lab facilities as far away as Riverside and Torrance for some of our vehicle tests.”  

CSI received initial research funding from NGK, a Japanese company that is one of two major producers of catalytic converter substrates worldwide. CSI is currently working with several companies, including Chrysler and General Motors, to assess real-world applications in cars, as well as in motorbikes, the cause of significant pollution problems in urban areas of Southeast Asia.

CSI-coated catalytic converters are also being tested locally, by Turbodyne. While CSI is still in the product development phase, Turbodyne has 75 employees at its Carpinteria facility, and several hundred employees at plants worldwide.

Reducing Emissions           Ed Halimi, Chairman of the Board and CEO, describes a new product, the Turbopac 2500.   The 2500 is a high-speed turbo-compressor that increases intake airflow for large heavy-duty four-stroke and two-stroke engines. Halimi explains that vehicle exhaust emissions are typically high during engine start and acceleration, when additional fuel flows to the engine while the airflow remains constant. The extra fuel does not burn properly – resulting in additional emissions in the vehicle exhaust.  The Turbopac 2500 maintains an optimal fuel/air ratio – thereby reducing emissions, and improving vehicle performance and fuel economy.  The product is particularly effective reducing emissions of carbon monoxide and particulate matter, and Turbodyne is testing its product in conjunction with catalytic converters, including the CSI product, which are more     effective in reducing nitrogen oxide emissions.  Halimi reports that the Turbopac 2500 is currently     in use at several locations      worldwide, and is under    consideration for certification  by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the Urban Bus Retrofit Program. This program requires bus operators in metropolitan areas (population of more than 700,000) to use an EPA-   certified kit when rebuilding bus engines. Turbodyne has an exclusive agreement to sell its product through Detroit Diesel, one of the world’s largest            manufacturers of bus engines, with 540,000 engines in the aftermarket. Halimi estimates a sales potential of $2.2 billion in this market. Halimi projects a growth of    up to 1,000 new jobs at the Carpinteria location in the next five years if the Turbopac 2500 meets sales expectations. He believes the region could become a center for research in this area, and was instrumental recently in starting the Propulsion Research Institute,  a non-profit based in Carpinteria, led by a former head of engine and parts    development for Volkswagen. Halimi comments: “The momentum is already there for this business. It’s happening.”

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Business Updates

Joslyn Electronic Systems of Goleta, featured in the May 1997 issue, reports good results from use of its new aqueous cleaning system, made possible by APCD’s Innovative Technologies Group (ITG) and the Institute for Research and Technical Assistance (IRTA).   Compliance Manager Terry Hite estimates the company has saved more than $40,000 in costs over the previous system, which relied on ozone-depleting chlorinated solvents.   Says Hite: “When you look at the results, you can’t help but wonder: ‘Why didn’t we switch sooner?'”

Viscarra’s Furniture Refinishing of Goleta, profiled here a year ago, is using their new high-pressure water spray rinse system on 98% of stripping jobs.  Made possible by APCD and IRTA, the new system has reduced emissions, materials costs, and employee exposure to toxic substances over the previous system, which used a lacquer thinner.If you own or operate portable engines and portable engine-driven equipment you may need to either register your equipment with the California Air Resources Board or obtain a permit from the APCD. Once registered in the Statewide Portable Equipment Registration Program, eligible engines and equipment units can operate throughout California without individual permits from local air districts.

The Portable Equipment Registration Program became effective on September 17, 1997. All portable engines and portable engine-driven equipment must be registered by March 16, 1998.

A portable engine is an internal combustion engine that can be moved or carried from one location to another, and that does not remain at a single location for more than 12 consecutive months. Engines used to propel mobile equipment or a motor vehicle of any kind are not eligible for registration. A portable equipment unit is a portable piece of equipment that is associated with, and driven solely by, a portable engine, and that emits pollutants in addition to the emissions of the portable engine.

Portable engines include, but are not limited to, internal combustion engines used in the following: cranes, pumps, welders, well drillers, woodchippers, military tactical support equipment, power generating units, diesel pile-driving hammers, service or work-over rigs, dredges on boats or barges, and compressors.

Portable equipment units include, but are not limited to, the following portable engine associated units: abrasive blasters, concrete batch plants, and equipment for sand and gravel screening, rock crushing, and pavement crushing and recycling operations.

Offshore portable engines and portable equipment units are not eligible at this time. The Air Resources Board will collect a fee of $90 per portable engine or portable equipment unit registered, good for three years. (The fees for military tactical equipment vary.)

Information about the Statewide Registration Program can be obtained via the Internet from the California Air Resources Board at or by calling the Registration Information Line at (916) 324-5869.

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Vandenberg Emission Reduction Project Gets “John Hancock”

President Clinton’s “Reinventing Government” initiative hit home on Nov. 3, when three agencies signed a landmark agreement to reduce air pollution in Santa Barbara County.

Vandenberg Air Force Base, in cooperation with the Environmental Protection Agency and APCD, is the first Department of Defense facility to participate in the Environmental Investment Air Initiative (ENVVEST). ENVVEST, part of the “Reinventing Government” initiative, allows military installations, working with federal, state, and local regulators, to reduce environmental program costs and test alternative, cost-effective practical approaches to environmental clean-up.

“ENVVEST trades paper work for performance,” said Sherri Goodman, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Environmental Security.

The culmination of a two-year effort among the agencies, ENVVEST waives Vandenberg’s requirement for a Title V permit if the base applies the cost savings to emission reduction strategies. Specifically, Vandenberg will acquire environmentally-friendly equipment beginning with modern boilers for the base’s power station, which will reduce ten tons of emissions annually by 2002. This agreement is expected to serve as a model for similar programs at other bases throughout the country.

“ENVVEST is an example of our nation’s and our county’s vision and new direction in environmental protection,” said Air Pollution Control Officer Doug Allard, who participated in the signing ceremony, attended by approximately 100 project participants, dignitaries, and Community Advisory Board members. “Rather than using the traditional ‘command and control’ approach, we are working hand-in-hand with permitted facilities like Vandenberg to achieve emissions reductions. This is a common sense trade-off that will result in better air quality for the residents of our county.”

APCD Division Manager Terry Dressler added, “We are looking forward to implementing ENVVEST and expanding on it to continue to achieve superior environmental benefits using innovative strategies.”

For more information on ENVVEST, call Terry Dressler, (805) 961-8829.

Contents of this issue

| On the Air | Index of past issues

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