From municipal sewer systems to commercial roofing and so much in between, the Magnesia Specialties Division is bringing sustainability to the people.
The scene ought to be familiar. You pull into the driveway and as your little one bolts through the garage door toward the restroom at warp speed, you stroll to the mailbox, noting in the background the laughs and cheers of children playing basketball in the street three houses over.
You go in through the garage, closing the door the little one left wide open as you sift through magazines and junk mail to find the bills. There’s a flush and the sound of water running before she runs to the kitchen and starts toward the refrigerator. You don’t notice that she’s spilled her drink on the floor until you’ve nearly slipped. With a deep sigh, you reach for a paper towel.
It’s widely known that Martin Marietta’s aggregates form the foundation of our daily lives from the street in which the neighborhood kids play to the garage floor your daughter flies over while trying to avoid an accident. But look deeper.
The paper on which your magazines and utility bills are printed. The fixtures in your bathroom. The sewer system into which your toilet empties. These are the aspects of life in which you’ll find the products of Martin Marietta’s Magnesia Specialties Division.
With operations in Woodville, Ohio, and Manistee, Michigan, Magnesia Specialties is not only one of Martin Marietta’s most profitable and consistent businesses, but also one of its most environmentally friendly; its products are sold across 36 countries and offer environmental benefits that are too vast to measure fully.
“Magnesia Specialties’ products are made from naturally-occurring materials that are run through an environmentally-friendly process that uses recycled water,” says Aileen Gibson, Magnesia Specialties’ vice president of technical services. “Not only can these products be used for a host of environmental purposes, the byproduct is put to good use as feedstock.”
While Magnesia Specialties offers a variety of products, many of the division’s highest sellers belong to the magnesium hydroxide product line.
Available in both powder and slurry forms, unique chemistry and physical property attributes allow these products to offer superior performance in many applications, says Doug Bopst, the division’s vice president of sales.
“If you were to ask our customers – or even our competitors – who has the highest quality performing magnesium hydroxide slurry products, they would say Martin Marietta,” he says. “We have the right raw materials and a unique process that allows us to make the best products available in the marketplace.”
FloMag® H, for example, is a stabilized magnesium hydroxide slurry product that is widely used to treat wastewater on both an industrial and municipal level.
Developed in the early 1990s, FloMag® H is used by big-name companies bringing to market everything from beer, to poultry and beef products, to the jelly in your refrigerator. When used industrially, the product adds alkalinity to wastewater, modifying pH levels to meet strict EPA standards and allowing for a cleaner discharge of water, which is good for the environment, Bopst says.
FloMag® H acts similarly when used in municipal sewer systems, where it elevates the pH of sewer water to prevent the formation of sulfuric acid. This helps prevent corrosion in concrete sewer lines, thus prolonging the lifespan of the system’s infrastructure. In this application, the product also serves a valuable safety function by decreasing levels of the potentially lethal hydrogen sulfide gas. As a result, men and women working in the sewer systems and those living above it are generally at less risk, Bopst says.
“Another vital component of FloMag® H is its efficiency,” he says. “Because the product has greater alkalinity strength when compared to other treatment methods, less of it is required, and less of it needs to be transported. This makes FloMag® H more cost-effective for our customers, and reduces CO2 emissions associated with transportation. It is also non-hazardous, so it poses no threat to the environment or to customers handling the product, which has been a great selling feature.”
Magnesium hydroxide is also used as a raw material in a number of other customer processes, providing enormous benefits to the environment.
- MagChem® products are used to increase fuel efficiency in a variety of industries, including gas turbine electricity generation in the Middle East.
- Versamag® is used in solid composite material that forms lightweight and easy-to-clean bath and shower wall surrounds, bath tubs, and bath fixtures. These bath products are certified to meet low chemical emissions and strict indoor air quality standards.
- UtiliMag® H can be used to make coal-fired power plants run more efficiently. When utilized in the boilers of such plants, the product alleviates corrosion and works to mitigate sulfur emissions that might otherwise contribute to acid rain.
- CellGuard® products are often used in the paper industry, where they increase the yield of wood pulp by as much as 3 percent. The result is a diminished need for fresh lumber from our forests.
Another significant magnesium hydroxide product line – one that is expected to grow substantially in the coming years – is MagShield®, a powder product used as a flame retardant in commercial roofing.
Bob Gutowski, director of engineering services at the Manistee plant, says that in addition to suppressing flames and smoke, thermoplastic polyolefin (TPO) roofing membrane made with MagShield® appears white in color, a feature that can have a tremendous impact on the environment.
According to the White Roof Project, a non-profit aiming to have an environmental impact by teaching about the benefits of white rooftops, white roofs can reduce air conditioner usage by up to 40 percent in the summer, a substantial energy and cost savings.
“This is a growing market for us that’s required several expansions since the 1990s,” Gutowski says. “MagShield is non-hazardous, inexpensive and friendly to the environment. We are learning more about it as we go and are constantly trying to make it perform at the highest level for our customers.”
Gutowski, who is responsible for engineering and then improving upon Magnesia Specialties’ production processes to ensure maximum sustainability, says seeing the various environmental applications for these products has been incredibly rewarding.
“So much of my time is spent working to minimize our impact on the environment, so it’s neat that so many of the products we make help other companies meet that same objective,” he says.
For Magnesia Specialties Division President John Harman, magnesium hydroxide products perfectly illustrate Martin Marietta’s motto: It’s not just what we make, it’s what we make possible.
“Our teams are working constantly to ensure our products are always of the highest quality and meet the ever-changing demands of our customer base,” he says. “As we look to the future, the growth and change that will inevitably come to our business is exciting. We’re truly proud that Magnesia Specialties products are among the many our company offers that benefit the communities in which we live.”