W.R. Grace - BNL Press Release

ISSUED DECEMBER 10, 1997

CONTACT:
 For Grace: Mary Lou Kromer:
(561) 362-1331
Jane McGuinness:
(561) 362-1343
W. R. Grace
 Ruth Pachman:
(212) 521-4891
Jessica Barist:
(212) 521-4840
Kekst and Company
For Brookhaven:

Kara Villamil: (516) 344-5658

Statement by U.S. Secretary of Energy Federico Peña

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GRACE AND BROOKHAVEN NATIONAL LABORATORY DEVELOP FIRST PRODUCT TO CHEMICALLY ELIMINATE ASBESTOS IN INSTALLED FIREPROOFING

 

--Product Destroys Asbestos While Maintaining Original Materials' Fire-resistive Capabilities on Columns and Beams--

--Product Should Provide Significant Cost Savings to Building Owners--

 

BOCA RATON, FL & UPTON, NY, December 10, 1997-- W. R. Grace & Co. (NYSE:GRA) and the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory announced today a new product capable of destroying asbestos in installed fireproofing without diminishing the existing fire-resistive performance of the fireproofing material on columns and beams.

The new technique uses a foamy solution sprayed directly onto asbestos-containing fireproofing. The foam chemically digests asbestos fibers, dissolving them into harmless minerals.

When the treatment is done, the fireproofing is no longer a regulated material. The process is the first to chemically destroy asbestos without first removing the fireproofing.

Grace anticipates that building owners will realize significant cost savings from the new product. Current techniques for removing asbestos-containing fireproofing require the construction of air-tight barriers, labor-intensive scraping of the fireproofing, and the installation of new asbestos-free fireproofing. The new product eliminates the need to remove and replace older material and substantially reduces the time needed for the entire process. Moreover, the new process produces essentially no waste and is expected to save building owners the expense of disposing of regulated waste materials.

The new product is expected to be commercially available in early 1998.

Larry Ellberger, chief financial officer and acting chief executive officer of Grace, stated, "This product is an important advance in the science of asbestos abatement. Our scientists embarked on this research several years ago because it was a natural extension of our expertise and because we were committed to helping our customers find a more time-efficient and cost-effective alternative to asbestos removal. We are gratified by the excellent collaboration we have had with the scientists at Brookhaven, whose expertise in chemistry and materials science was a perfect complement to our scientists' knowledge of the product and its properties. Brookhaven's involvement was critical to the timely completion of this project. This is a win-win for Grace shareholders, building owners and industry-government cooperation."

Dr. Leon Petrakis, the senior scientist in charge of the project at Brookhaven, said, "We are delighted to have worked with Grace on this project. We believe our collaboration has led to a turning point in the important but until now rather overlooked science of asbestos abatement. This method could be used in thousands of schools, office buildings, hospitals, and other institutions around the country. We also believe it could lead to the development of a family of innovative materials that chemically digest asbestos-containing materials, with potential applications for addressing asbestos in thermal insulation at the Department of Energy, in other governmental facilities and in the utility industry."

Extensive Tests Performed

Full-scale tests performed with the new product by Grace and Brookhaven have confirmed that its use would reduce asbestos to less than 1 percent, which is the Environmental Protection Agency's definition of non-asbestos materials. The asbestos-neutralizing process was first evaluated in Brookhaven's unique testing laboratory, specially equipped to handle asbestos. It was then tested at a vacant four-story building with existing asbestos-containing fireproofing.

The treated materials were tested at the Underwriters Laboratories in Northbrook, Illinois, pursuant to U.L.'s nationally recognized test procedures. Those tests demonstrated that treated fireproofing maintained the same fire rating on columns and beams as the originally installed material.

All tests performed to date used Grace's asbestos fireproofing. Project scientists, who are knowledgeable about the composition of asbestos-containing fireproofing made by others, believe the process should be effective on most of those products as well.

Although most of the efforts thus far have been centered around spray-applied fireproofing, laboratory tests conducted by Grace and Brookhaven have confirmed that the digestion process should also be effective with acoustical plasters.

Grace expects to receive six patents for the new asbestos-neutralizing process. Brookhaven has received one patent relating to the process and is applying for two others.

Brookhaven and Grace also developed a new quantitative analytical method that detects chrysotile asbestos fibers in material containing as little as 0.1 percent of the fibers. Development of the technique utilized the powerful X-rays of Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source, as well as conventional laboratory instruments.

Scientific Cooperation at Work

The development of the asbestos-neutralizing process began at Grace several years ago. Through mutual participation in the Council for Chemical Research, scientists from Grace and Brookhaven met to discuss ways that Brookhaven could participate in the research.

"We recognized immediately that Brookhaven had many unique capabilities that could move this research along more effectively than if we had gone ahead alone," said David Myers, Grace's project manager. Among those special capabilities and facilities were the National Synchrotron Light Source, and the sophisticated laboratory where the first demonstrations of the process were performed.

The partners signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement, or CRADA, which provided for joint funding of the multi-million dollar project. The project also received funding from the Department of Energy, which represents cooperation within that agency, including the DOE's Office of Environmental Management and the Office of Energy Research. Initial funding also came from Brookhaven's pool of Laboratory Directed Research and Development funds and its Department of Applied Science.

Grace, based in Boca Raton, Florida, is a leading global supplier of flexible packaging and specialty chemicals with annual sales of $3.5 billion. Grace is the world's leading producer of spray-applied fireproofing--Monokote® MK-6-- to protect structural steel against damage from fire. Grace operates in more than 100 countries.

Brookhaven National Laboratory carries out basic and applied research in the physical, biomedical and environmental sciences and in selected energy technologies. Brookhaven is operated by Associated Universities, Inc., a nonprofit research management organization, under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.

 

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STATEMENT BY U.S. SECRETARY OF ENERGY FEDERICO PEÑA

Brookhaven Laboratory scientists have helped create an innovative, safe solution to a tough problem that affects people around the country. This is just one example of many achievements at Brookhaven, known for its contributions in medicine, basic research, energy and environmental science. Partnerships between Department of Energy laboratories and private industry consistently reap tangible rewards. In this case, we will make a difference in safely removing asbestos from schools, houses, offices and other buildings."

 

Electron micrographs of asbestos-containing fireproofing before (left) and after (right) treatment
with the W.R. Grace - Brookhaven process. Nearly all the asbestos fibers are digested into
amorphous minerals by the process, leaving fireproofing that is less than one percent asbestos,
and therefore not regulated, but that still protects building beams and columns from fire damage.