December 12, 2011 8:34:00 AM
PEARLINGTON -- Granulated activated carbon used to purify water, air, food and medicines has been processed in south Mississippi and shipped around the world for two decades.
The Calgon Carbon Corp. plant in the Port Bienville Industrial Park will mark its 20th anniversary Wednesday. The company is the world's largest manufacturer of activated carbon products, with more than 100 types of granular, powdered and pelletized activated carbons made from coal, wood or coconut.
The Sun Herald reported the plant was opened in Mississippi in 1991 because of its location on the Gulf of Mexico, said Jim Sullivan, vice president of American operations for the Pittsburgh-based company.
Bituminous coal mined in Kentucky, West Virginia and other areas is trucked to Pearlington. There the coal is processed to produce activated carbon, loaded onto ships and sent to U.S. and world markets, Sullivan said.
The plant quickly reopened two months after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It produces about 40 million pounds of granular and powdered activated carbon annually.
Despite current market fluctuations, Calgon Carbon and its Pearl River Plant are benefiting from new worldwide environmental standards. A $13 million project to expand the capacity of the plant is under way and should be completed by mid-2012.
"A lot of our products are related to the environment," Sullivan said.
The company developed purification systems for drinking water and wastewater systems and pollution abatement.
"We're seeing expanding demand for our product. We also are growing in emerging markets," he said, including Asia, China and India.
The company has 1,200 employees worldwide, including 45 employees in Pearlington, where James Bihl is plant manager.
The plant is the second largest in the company and Sullivan said Calgon Carbon is considering other expansion opportunities on its 100-acre site in South Mississippi.
Calgon Carbon got its start in carbon production during World War II when coconut shells couldn't produce enough granular activated carbon used in military gas masks. Pittsburgh Coke and Chemical developed an activated carbon product from bituminous coal, and the new company was formed. Calgon Carbon's research team has developed materials to deal with environmental regulations that remove by-products from water purification and pending regulations to reduce mercury emissions from coal-generated power plants.
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