Materials Balance for Bromine, Chlorine, Sulfur, and Nitrogen in Europe

Norberg-Bohm V, Yanowitz J, & Prince J (1988). Materials Balance for Bromine, Chlorine, Sulfur, and Nitrogen in Europe. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-88-073


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An understanding of the flow of toxic materials through industry and into the environment is one of the major tasks for the IIASA Study, "The Future Environments for Europe: Some Implications, of Alternative Development Paths". Toxic chemicals represent a great threat to the environment, and yet they are commonly used in industrial societies. A sustainable development path would require that usage and disposal of toxic chemicals be compatible with the long-term health of humans and the natural environment. Examining the current and past flows of these materials is a starting point for understanding options for management of their use and disposal, and the impact these options might have on the economy and society.

The method chosen to analyze this problem is a materials balance approach in which toxic chemicals are traced as they move through the industrial economy; from extraction to production to intermediate uses and finally to end uses. The methodology and its advantages and disadvantages are discussed in some detail in Chapter 2. The implementation of this approach will become apparent in Chapters 3 through 6 as four individual chemical elements are studied.

The four elements examined are bromine, chlorine, sulfur and nitrogen. These chemicals were chosen from a list of 15 which were of particular interest because of the exceptional biological activity of many of the compounds derived from them. The major goal of the project was to develop process-product flow diagrams for these elements showing their pathways through the industrial economy. Each of Chapters 3 through 6 contains a discussion of production processes, major uses, process-product flow diagram(s) and an Appendix with detailed information about the chemical transformations involved in each of the processes. In addition, further investigations including quantitative analysis and discussions of the applicability of this approach for a given element are included in some of the Chapters.

Chapter 3, Bromine, presents a detailed qualitative material balance and a more aggregated quantitative material balance for the Netherlands and the United States for 1978 and 1985. The selection of these two countries was based solely on available data. Although the U.S. is not formally part of the study, it is useful as it more closely represents the Western European consumption pattern on average than the Netherlands. While the quantitative analysis focuses only on two countries for two years, it does demonstrate both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the material balance approach. Bromine consumption is an interesting case as it has been heavily impacted by the phase-out of leaded gasoline and strong market shifts are expected in the future.

Chapter 4, Chlorine, presents an in-depth qualitative materials balance and a look at the pathways of chlorine into the environment based on its pattern of end-use consumption. Currently, millions of tons of chlorine are produced each year for use as a disinfectant and in the organic and inorganic chemical industries. Many of the end-uses of chlorine result in eventual releases into the environment of various compounds which have a significant effect on environmental quality. Organic chlorine compounds are of great use to man because they are not readily biodegradable and they are chemically stable. However, because of these qualities they represent some of the most difficult disposal problems of any anthropogenic material.

Chapter 5, Sulfur, presents a thorough qualitative analysis of the industrial processes and an in-depth discussion of the applicability of the materials balance approach to sulfur. A large portion of anthropogenically mobilized sulfur is from the burning of fossil fuels and the smelting of ores, two processes where sulfur is not an intentional product, simply an unavoidable one. The bulk of scientific study of sulfur wastes is concentrated on these areas due to their contribution to the acid rain problem. The analysis presented here shows that over half of the total anthropogenic sulfur budget in Europe is from industrial sources other than fossil fuels and ore smelting. This is a fairly surprising result. Thus, the flow of sulfur through the industrial economy in Europe is significant and greater understanding of the eventual disposal of this sulfur is needed. In addition, sulfuric acid is the number one industrial chemical based on the tonnage of production. It is used in a myriad of industries where it is generally consumed in the process and not embodied in the end product. This presents difficulties in the implementation of the materials balance analysis for sulfur.

Chapter 6, Nitrogen, presents the process-product flow diagram for nitrogen. About 95% of the anthropogenically mobilized nitrogen is in the form of ammonia. Therefore, this chapter concentrates on the production and eventual end-uses of ammonia. While the process-product diagram is quite thorough, due to time constraints, further discussion and analysis of nitrogen is left as a future research topic.

This report is the first step toward completing the task of understanding the impact of toxic materials in Europe. Future analysts may use the process-product diagrams and the analysis presented in this report as a starting point for a historical reconstruction which then could be used for building future scenarios of chemical flows of toxic materials.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Working Paper)
Research Programs: Environmental Monitoring Activity (MON)
Young Scientists Summer Program (YSSP)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 01:58
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2016 13:49

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