The Chemical Notebook Visits Eastman

From Pittsburgh Chemical Day, I headed down to visit Eastman Chemical in Kingsport, Tenn., last week. There the company has opened a 30,000 metric-ton-per-year Tritan polyester copolymer plant. The product is a bisphenol-A-free alternative to polycarbonate for house wares and baby bottles. I toured Eastman’s Kingsport chemical complex, which was founded in 1920 by George Eastman to make wood alcohol. I have seen many chemical plants, but I’m not so sure that I have witnessed something of such a scale that wasn’t attached to an oil refinery. Here are some facts I jotted down on my notebook while on a bus tour of the site:
  • The site is situated on 858 acres.
  • 7,000 people out of Eastman’s 10,000 worldwide workforce are employed in Kingsport.
  • The site has 28 miles of paved roads and 37 miles of railroads.
  • Some 500 rail switches are conducted at the site each week.
  • The plant has 4 dedicated locomotives.
  • The site generates 160 megawatts of power.
  • The plant’s gasification unit, which makes acetyl products like cigarette filter tow, takes in 56 railcars of coal per day.
  • 450 million gallons of water are drawn from the Holston River every day to cool the site’s reactors.
  • The plant has two Subway restaurants, an Arby’s, a Honey Baked Ham, and other cafeterias.
  • The site has a gymnasium that offers classes to workers such as aerobics and kickboxing.
  • Eastman’s headquarters is just outside the fence line. The company also runs a 1,700-seat auditorium next door, which holds local Kingsport cultural events and first run movies. Now playing: The Spy Next Door.
The only other chemical industry company town that I have seen that compares with Kingsport, is Midland, Michigan, where Dow is headquartered. Without Eastman, I’m not sure that Kingsport would have a nice hotel and regional airport. In fact, there probably wouldn’t be much of an economy there at all.

Author: Alex Tullo

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