Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.
Chemical manufacturing creates products by transforming organic and inorganic raw materials with chemical processes. Chemicals generally are classified into two groups: commodity chemicals and specialty chemicals. Commodity chemical manufacturers produce large quantities of basic and relatively inexpensive compounds in large plants, often built specifically to make one chemical. Commodity plants often run continuously, typically shutting down only a few weeks a year for maintenance.
Specialty-batch or performance chemical manufacturers produce smaller quantities of more expensive chemicals on an "as needed" basis that are used less frequently. Often there is only one or a limited number of suppliers producing a given product. In contrast to the production of commodity chemicals, batch manufacturing requires that the raw materials, processes, operating conditions, and equipment change on a regular basis to respond to the needs of customers.
There are approximately 13,500 chemical manufacturing facilities in the United States owned by more than 9,000 companies. Facilities are located all over the country, with many companies in Texas, Ohio, New Jersey, Illinois, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and the Carolinas. The specialty-batch chemical sector is composed primarily of small companies, with more than 89 percent employing 500 or fewer employees. The chemical industry is an essential contributor to the U.S. economy, with shipments valued at about $555 billion per year.
The Chemical sector produces a multitude of environmental impacts. It is one of the largest users of natural gas, which is required for energy and as a feedstock. The sector emitted more than 1.5 million tons of criteria air pollutants, of which more than 80 percent were carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen oxides (NOx) (NEI, 2002). Nearly half of these emissions are energy related. The Chemical sector also manages a huge amount of chemicals that are reported to EPA's Toxic Release Inventory. About 5 percent of the more than 10 billion pounds of chemicals managed are disposed of or otherwise released to air and water, while the rest goes to treatment, energy recovery, and recycling.
You can find recent data and trends for this sector in the Chemical Manufacturing chapter of the 2008 Performance Report (PDF) (10 pp, 1MB, About PDF).
The performance trends for the specialty-batch chemical sector are highlighted in the most recent Sector Performance Report.
The Chemical Manufacturing chapter in the report, Energy Trends in Selected Manufacturing Sectors: Opportunities and Challenges for Environmentally Preferable Energy Outcomes (PDF) (12 pp, 316K, About PDF), outlines the trends and opportunities in energy use for this sector.
- Synthetic Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association
- American Chemistry Council
- American Chemical Society
- American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE)
- Consumer Specialty Products Association
- Council for Chemical Research
- Soap and Detergent Association
- EMS Implementation Guide for the Specialty-Batch Chemical Manufacturing Industry
- Voluntary Programs Guide: Specialty-Batch Chemical Sector (2004)
- There are several other chemical-related documents and links on the Compendium of Chemical Tools Web site (see description below under Sector-related Links).
- Compendium of Chemical Tools is a collection of Chemical Manufacturing Sector work.
- ChemAlliance: Industry Compliance Assistance Center
- Clean Air Act: Rules and Implementation
- Emergency Planning for Chemical Spills
- Green Chemistry Program
- Inventory Update Rule (IUR): for the partial updating of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Inventory Database
- Overview of the Chemical Manufacturing Industry
- Project XL: Akzo Nobel Chemicals
- Project XL: Crompton Corporation
- Project XL: New England University Labs
- Sector Notebook Reports: Inorganic Chemicals or Organic Chemicals
- 33/50 Success Stories
- Waste Minimization Program
Industry Sector Notebooks
- Profile of the Inorganic Chemical Industry (1995) (PDF) (131 pp, 589K, About PDF)
- Profile of the Organic Chemical Industry 2nd Edition (2002) (PDF) (133 pp, 566K, About PDF)
- EPA's Office of Compliance and Enforcement has published extensive work related to regulatory compliance in the Chemical sector. For more information see the Compliance Assistance Chemical Web site.
- ChemAlliance is the compliance assistance center for the chemical industry. Funded by EPA's Office of Compliance and Enforcement and operated by a partnership of environmental professionals in government, industry, and academia, ChemAlliance is a source of up-to-date information concerning the environmental regulations affecting the chemical industry.