A new plant producing the sustainable substance known as carbon black is coming to the Port of Redwood City.
The Port Commission approved a three-year lease Feb. 26 for Boxer Industries Inc., a Redwood City-based clean-tech startup that uses natural gas to create chemical compounds and commodity materials.
Among those is carbon black — not to be confused with black carbon — a powder used as reinforcing filler in most rubber products, including tires, hoses and belts. It is also a common pigment found in paints, inks and plastics.
“Boxer’s process, which utilizes natural gas instead of crude oil as a feedstock, is more efficient as well as significantly more environmentally friendly,” said Mike Giari, executive director of the port.
The company will simply pilot the new technology and is not expected to grow into a full-scale operation at the port.
“This is like an incubator for [research and development] for an industrial company,” Giari said.
The plant will operate on roughly .67 acres of port property on Hinman Road near Sims Metal Management and the Kaiser Cement silos, a plot previously used for construction offices and equipment storage.
It is expected to produce 190 metric tons of carbon black annually, which will be stored in bulk containers and bags on site and then transported off the premises for shipment to customers 25 times each year.
After a California Environmental Quality Act review in November, the Port Commission approved a mitigated negative declaration, a less stringent environmental process, for the proposal.
“Any impact of the project can be mitigated to an acceptable level,” Giari said about why the negative declaration was conducted rather than an environmental impact report.
“The only emissions were the dust from construction. Everything else is either burned off or it’s so small that it’s way below the threshold limits that the air quality management district would require,” Giari said. Possible soil and groundwater contamination will be carefully monitored, he noted.
Boxer Industries raised $10 million in funding in April of last year and was drawn to the port because of the availability of otherwise scarce industrial land in close proximity to Silicon Valley resources, according to Giari.
“It will be able to use the port’s industrial area, as well as its geographic location near centers of R&D and venture capital, to develop new green technology for industrial manufacturing,” Giari said.
It will take an estimated four to six months to prepare the property and construct a foundation for the facility. The plant itself will be mostly built off-site and trucked into the port on skids. Final installation and assembly will take less than a month.
Once the plant is up and running, operating hours will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week, and three to four employees will be present during those times. Up to 11 engineers will support the project from a nearby office.