By Corning Painter

We can think of air emission controls at chemical plants as filters that catch targeted materials from a stack like the way a coffee filter holds back the grounds.

The analogy does a great job describing the technology’s function with basic language. However, the comparison fails to convey the complexity and enormity of the systems that Orion S.A. has installed at our U.S. plants over the past five years – our biggest sustainability-related initiative in the company’s history. Indeed, it is simply our largest project since we became Orion.

As we come close to completing the undertaking, I thought this was a great time to share a few reflections about how significant finishing the air emissions projects will be for the environment and Orion’s continued investment in sustainability and growth.

I am sure most people who are not familiar with the carbon black business – and even many industry insiders – would be amazed at how massive and complex the controls equipment is. It is one of those things you need to see in person to fully appreciate.

Air emissions equipment at Orion's plant in Louisiana.
Air emissions equipment at Orion’s plant in Louisiana.

I will always remember a recent visit to our plant in Ivanhoe, Louisiana, when I climbed the 150-foot structure that is part of the new system installed at the facility. From the platform, I could look out and see miles and miles of sugar cane fields and other farmland stretching far into the distance. Just below me, the hulking, gleaming components of our system – including a thermal oxidizer, waste heat recovery boiler and huge catalytic beds – took up large areas of space in the middle of our production equipment. At the edge I could see the new cogeneration equipment that a partner company is installing to generate electricity from our steam.

One of my colleagues aptly observed that the Ivanhoe project was like building a separate chemical plant inside of an operating carbon black production facility. At the Louisiana plant, Orion was the first in the carbon black industry to install technology that captured emissions and converted them to sulfuric acid, the world’s largest volume industrial chemical, ranging in use from fertilizers to traditional car batteries.  It was a major milestone in Orion’s commitment to developing circular solutions for our waste streams.

I have been thinking a lot about this lately as we near the end of an extremely arduous journey that began when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency directed all the carbon black producers in the U.S. to reduce nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate emissions.

Orion reached an agreement with the EPA in December 2017 about how to proceed with the project and began upgrading the emissions control systems at its four U.S. plants.

Frankly, the mandate created colossal challenges for us – both financial and technical. No other carbon black producer has as many plants in the U.S. as Orion does. With four facilities in the country, installing the systems would involve a massive price tag – about $300 million.

Adding to the burden, Orion was still a relatively new and very lean company, carved out of the German chemical company Evonik Industries just a few years before. The scale of these projects was huge for us. Ivanhoe alone was larger than either of our greenfield projects in Huaibei, China, or La Porte, Texas. We were not initially geared up for the challenge.

Part of the air-emissions system at Orion's plant in Borger, Texas.
Part of the air-emissions system at Orion’s plant in Borger, Texas.

Building such emissions-controls systems is a huge task during normal times. And we all know the past three years have been far from normal!

Just as we were in the middle of the five-year initiative, the Covid-19 pandemic began ravaging the world, disrupting our suppliers and steady progress. Supply chain disruptions increased costs and limited the availability of building materials or delayed deliveries.

I am extremely proud that our entire team stayed committed to the goal. It is times like these when companies can show they are serious about their core values and actually live them. And that is exactly what Orion did.

We value accountability, and for us that means putting safety first and adhering to the highest standards of integrity. Innovation is another core value, and in this case, it was about finding ways to limit our emissions. Finally, building enduring relationships is our third value. For us, this includes being a positive member of our communities.

We finished our first EPA project in 2020 at our plant in Orange, Texas. The second one was commissioned in Ivanhoe in late 2021.

Most recently, our facility in Borger, Texas, was upgraded in late 2022 with a system that reduces nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions by 90 percent, a decrease that amounts to about 23 total metric tons per day. Our final project in Belpre, Ohio, is on track to be completed in 2023.

Finishing the work will be a huge milestone for Orion. We will continue to make other major investments in sustainability-linked projects: water conservation, lithium-ion battery materials, circular economy and research focused on one of the biggest challenges in our industry – CO2 emissions. The solutions we are working hard to develop go beyond the ongoing efforts to improve yield and efficiency. They include the exploration and use of alternative feedstocks, alternative fuels, alternative production technologies, cogeneration and carbon capture and storage options.

These projects will create a virtuous cycle where our investments generate cash, which in turn fuels future investments and the transformation of our company.

All of us at Orion can look back at the past five years and feel an extreme amount of pride. We stayed committed during intensely trying times and honored our agreement to make our facilities cleaner, leading to a big impact for the environment and health in our communities.

If you think of yourself as an ESG investor, I encourage you to consider an investment in a company like Orion that is working to transform the footprint of an essential material. In fields like this, you can be a true impact investor.

Corning Painter is the CEO of Orion S.A. 

HOUSTON – Orion S.A. (NYSE: OEC), a specialty chemicals company, today celebrated the completion of its first greenfield project – a carbon black plant in eastern China that will supply fast-growing demand in Asia.

The facility in the city of Huaibei in Anhui province will produce carbon black for a variety of applications, including coatings, printing inks, rubber, polymers, fiber and rubber. The site’s two production lines have a total capacity of 70 kilotons per year.

“The Huaibei facility is a huge milestone for Orion. The state-of-the-art plant enables us to better support our Chinese customers with products that are made in China,” Orion CEO Corning Painter said. “Now we can reallocate production lines in the U.S. and Europe so that we can increase supply to customers in those markets.”

Orion’s other plant in China is in Qingdao in the eastern province of Shandong. The facility, built in 1994, produces carbon black grades for tires, mechanical rubber goods and specialty applications.

Painter commended everyone on the Huaibei project team for overcoming the extreme challenges posed by the Covid-19 virus.

“Despite the constant disruption during the worst periods of the pandemic, our employees, contractors and leadership team kept the project on track,” the CEO said. “As always, we put the safety, health and the welfare of our people first, providing nutritious meals, warm beds, testing and medical care. But still, it was the heroic dedication of our team that delivered this project under extremely trying circumstances.”

About Orion S.A.

Orion S.A. (NYSE: OEC) is a leading global supplier of carbon black, a solid form of carbon produced as powder or pellets. The material is made to customers’ exacting specifications for tires, coatings, ink, batteries, plastics and numerous other specialty, high-performance applications. Carbon black is used to tint, colorize, provide reinforcement, conduct electricity, increase durability and add UV protection. Orion has four innovation centers and produces carbon black at 15 plants worldwide, offering the most diverse variety of production processes in the industry. The company’s corporate lineage goes back more than 160 years to Germany, where it operates the world’s longest-running carbon black plant. Orion is a leading innovator, applying a deep understanding of customers’ needs to deliver sustainable solutions. For more information, please visit


William Foreman

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Government Affairs

Orion S.A.

Direct: +1 832-445-3305

Mobile: +1 281-889-7833


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Head of Investor Relations

Orion S.A.

Direct: +1 281-974-0155


BlackCycle is delighted to announce that this year we won the Recircle Award in the “Best Tyre Recycling Research Project” category.

The Recircle Awards is a global event designed to recognize the contribution of companies and individuals in the tyre manufacturing, retreading and recycling sectors towards the circular economy.

The BlackCycle project has been nominated two years in a row. In 2022, the project already receivedBlackCycle project wins Recircle Award in 2023. an honorable mention. This year, the Recircle award is a great recognition of the results of the project, which is co-funded by the European Union and involves 13 entities from five countries aiming to create a massive circular economy for tyres.

Orion is the only carbon black producer involved in the project.

Indeed, thanks to the BlackCycle project, the first sustainable carbon black (s-CB) produced from end-of-life tyre pyrolysis oil was made at the scale of several tons. That s-CB technology has been successfully introduced in a Michelin bus tyre along with other raw materials to get a sustainable rate of 58%.  All of that was made possible by the BlackCycle value chain driven by the stakeholders of the project.

Being honored with this award serves as evidence of the power of collaborative innovation and its impact on the tyre recycling value-chain on a global scale. The BlackCycle Project team is proud and honored to receive it and thanks all the people who voted for it.

The Blackcycle project will end in June 2024. More is coming. Please visit our website:

About BlackCycle:

BlackCycle (Grant agreement No 869625) is one of the R&D research and innovation projects funded by the European Commission under the EU’s Horizon 2020 research program to implement the concept of circular economy to the end-of-life tyres at the European level. The BlackCycle project has an upcycling ambition, targeting to create a circular economy of the end-of-life tyre (ELT) into technical applications like tyre industry by producing high technical second raw materials (SRMs) from ELTs. These SRMs will be used to develop new ranges of passenger car and truck tyres, which will be sold commercially in European and global markets. The BlackCycle project consortium is formed by 12 partners from 5 different countries (Orion, Ineris, Quantis, Icamcyl, Aliapur, CSIC, CPERI/CERTH, Sisener, Pyrum, Estato, Hera, and Axelera) and led by the French world leader in tire manufacturing Michelin,