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Impacts of the Sulphuric Acid Industry on the Enviroment
Transcript of Impacts of the Sulphuric Acid Industry on the Enviroment
Acid rain is a mixture of wet and dry deposition from the atmosphere containing higher than normal amounts of nitric and sulphuric acids. (EPA)
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Vol XCIII, No. 311
Positive Environmental Effects of the Sulphuric Acid Industry
Negative effects of the Sulphuric Acid Industry on the Environment:
During production, handling and storage of sulphuric acid, despite precautions taken by the industry, there is always a risk of accidental leaks which will have an impact on the environment. Also some industrial plants of the sulphuric acid industry practice improper methods of disposing the chemicals.
The gas irritates the throat and lungs and, if there are fine dust particles in the air, can damage a person's respiratory system.
Sulphur oxides combine with other substances in the air to produce a haze that reduces visibility.
Sulphur dioxide is a major contributor to acid deposition (acid rain)
Sulphur is widely applied in industries and emitted to air, due to the limited possibilities of destruction of the sulphur bonds that are applied. The damaging effects of sulphur with animals are mostly brain damage, through malfunctioning of the hypothalamus, and damage to the nervous system.
Emissions of Sulphur Dioxide:
Emissions of Sulphur:
Impacts of the Sulphuric Acid Industry on the Enviroment
The primary sources of sulphuric acid emissions are the industries that manufacture it or use it in production. Some of the industries that use it in production are the metal smelters, phosphate fertilizer producers, oil refiners, the chemical industry, battery manufacturers, manufacturers or fabricated metal products, manufacturers of electronic components, and manufacturers of measuring and controlling devices. Sulphuric acid is a highly corrosive compound that mixes with water, and it causes problems for the environment as it kills plant life. In waterways it readily mixes with the water. Ingestion of this water by wildlife results in illness and sometimes death. The acid typically gets into water because of improper disposal, but it also can be airborne from factories. This airborne sulphuric acid can be inhaled by animals and humans.
Release of sulphuric acid into environment
Sulphuric acid is a very reactive and corrosive compound that harms plants and animals that come into contact with it. Sulphuric acid is soluble in both water and ethyl alcohol and it can cause fires with other combustible materials. It is the world's largest-volume industrial chemical.
The production of sulphuric acid by the sulphuric acid industry reduces sulphur dioxide emissions to the atmosphere since some sources of sulphur dioxide are the by-products of other processes such as the extraction of metal ores from sulphide ores and the decomposition of calcium sulphate in the manufacture of cement. The industry moderates sulphur dioxide emissions by using the large amounts of SO2 produced from these processes for the manufacture of sulphuric acid in the contact process while any emissions of sulphur dioxide from the contact process itself is minimal. Emission of sulphur dioxide from the contact process is minimized by recycling unreacted sulphur dioxide and scrubbing tail gas with a basic solution such as ammonium or sodium hydroxide (A scrubber is another group of devices that control gaseous emissions, especially acidic gases). Tail gas is a gas produced in a refinery that is not required for further processing. Tail gas treatment improves the air and reduces effluents from sulphuric acid plants.
Other recycling done by the sulphuric acid industry which limits the release of harmful or toxic chemicals into the environment are such that:
The spent sulphuric acid from the chemical industry is recycled and regenerated. Large amounts of sulphuric acid are used as catalysts in the chemical industry and needs to be replaced with fresh concentrated acid when diluted or contaminated .Thermal decomposition of spent sulphuric acid gives sulphur dioxide which is regenerated into clean sulphuric acid which can be reused in any process.
Sulphuric acid production is a net producer of energy. Heat evolved in the process is used to turn water into steam which is used to generate electricity. No carbon dioxide is formed as fossil fuel is not used. Carbon dioxide is part of a collection of gases that negatively influence the quality of our air and increase the greenhouse effect. Greenhouse gases have a direct negative influence on the environment.
Seepage of sulphur dioxide from the industry have several negative effects on the environment:
• Sulphur dioxide can harm crops and trees, textiles, building materials, animals, and people either as a result of exposure to long-term low concentrations or short-term high concentrations.
• It turns leaves yellow and decreases the growth rate of crops. It also corrodes metal, and causes building materials and textiles to deteriorate and weaken.
Industrial emissions of sulphuric acid can produce elevated concentrations in the atmosphere. Sulphuric acid will exist as particles or droplets which may dissolve in clouds, fog, rain, dew, or snow, resulting in very dilute acid solutions. In clouds and moist air it will travel along the air currents until it is deposited as wet acid deposition (acid rain, acid fog, etc).
Acid rain, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is a mixture of wet and dry deposition from the atmosphere containing higher than normal amounts of nitric and sulphuric acids. Sulphuric acid will exist as particles or droplets which may dissolve in clouds, fog, rain, dew, or snow, resulting in very dilute acid solutions
Acid rain has several negative impacts on the environment. These include:
• Acid rain affects aquatic environments such as streams, marshes and lakes. This causes a condition known as chronic acidity, which means that water has a constant low pH level. Acid rain causes a kind of domino effect that ultimately leads to a reduction in fish population numbers or even complete elimination of fish species from a body of water. This affects the food chain and reduces biodiversity. At pH 5, it is hard for fish eggs to hatch; at even lower pH levels, some older fish will die.
• Acid rain is responsible for slow growth in some forests. Acid rain causes the leaves and needles on trees to turn brown and fall of instead of thriving. In some serious cases, whole trees or certain areas of the forest just die off as a result of the effect of acid rain.
• Plant growth may be stunted due to weakened roots brought on by acid rain exposure. As with trees, other plants suffer from damaged leaves and lost nutrients washed away by acid rain. Plants that are not killed by acid rain remain weak and more easily killed by environmental hazards like strong winds.
• Acid rain leads to the corrosion of metals like bronze and the weathering of stone, marble and paint. Acid rain can also deface the surface of buildings, leading to an increase in maintenance costs.
• Effects on soil vary from region to region due to a difference in buffering capacity. Buffering capacity is the degree to which the soil is able to neutralize the acidity in rainwater. Soils with a high buffering capacity protect affected plant life from nearly all effects of acid rain. Soils with low buffering capacity have a very poor ability to absorb rain acidity, which leads to an increase of acidity of the soil. This can lead to severe damage to plants in the area.
Note that there are variations of the level of chemical emissions for individual industrial plants of the sulphuric acid industry. Some may be environmentally conscious while others are not.
Canada's sulphur dioxide emissions are about 15 percent of those of the United States, and Alberta's emissions are about 15 percent of Canada's. In 1988, 626 kilotonnes of sulphur dioxide were emitted in Alberta.
Sulphur trioxide is generally emitted with sulphur dioxide at about one to five percent of the sulphur dioxide emission rate. Emissions of sulphur trioxide is also detrimental to the environment; it is also a contributor to acid rain.