WHO WE ARE, WHAT WE DO

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PEOPLE

The motivation to serve our customers begins with our employees. Dedicated, tireless, respectful, and responsive are not just idle words to describe the many attributes of a Carbide Industries employee. It's all about keeping customers happy and gaining the trust and loyalty that good service brings. Our staff knows and believes that we will be judged by what we do, not what we say. Let us show you how we became a leader in customer service.

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HISTORY

History of Calcium Carbide

Trivia question: what is the top of the Washington Monument made from? Hint: It's not gold; in fact, it's aluminum. In May 1892, J.T. Morehead, T.L. Willson, and J.C. King, working out of Morehead's cotton mill in Spray (now Eden), NC, were looking for a new way to refine aluminum; aluminum at the time being more expensive than gold. The process they tested consisted of subjecting ore, lime, and coke to the intense heat of the new electric arc furnace, Willson being one of the furnace developers and owning the patents for its use. They failed to produce aluminum - but an industry rose from their discarded chunk of material that miraculously caught fire in a nearby field. Calcium carbide became one of the most important chemicals of the 20th century.

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The history of calcium carbide is a fascinating tale of entreprenuership and technical savvy. After the stock market crash of 1893 nearly sunk the fledgling company, Willson and Morehead had to develop the markets for carbide themselves. Successful, Morehead returned to Spray to complete the manufacturing plant, going on to form the iconic Union Carbide Company, while Willson became involved in many carbide manufacturing concerns and applications. From one of Willson's industrial progeny sprung a calcium carbide manufacturing plant in Louisville, Kentucky. Read more about carbide history here.

Source: American Chemical Society National Historic Chemical Landmarks. Discovery of the Commercial Processes for Making Calcium Carbide and Acetylene. (accessed March 18, 2015).

History of Rubbertown

When the natural rubber supply from Southeast Asia was cut off at the beginning of World War II, a consortium of companies involved in rubber research and production united with the U.S. government in a unique spirit of technical cooperation to produce a general purpose synthetic rubber on a commercial scale. In multiple locations, these companies, in collaboration with a network of researchers in government, academia, and industrial laboratories, developed and manufactured in record time enough synthetic rubber to meet the needs of the U.S. and its allies during World War II.

The rubber they developed and manufactured was an optimized Buna-S rubber, based on a technology that originated in Germany. The "Bu" in Buna stands for butadiene, which was principally obtained from calcium carbide generated acetylene.

Easy access to roads, rail lines, the Ohio River and raw materials led the U.S. Office of War Production to select Louisville for several plants to produce the synthetic rubber. In 1941, the government contracted with National Carbide to construct a calcium carbide/acetylene gas plant. Several other companies, including B.F. Goodrich, located rubber faciliies there, and by 1945 a consortium of five tire companies known as National Synthetic Rubber had opened a plant to support the war effort. The industrial western end of Louisville on the Ohio River is still known as Rubbertown today.

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From a start of only 2,000 tons in 1942, by 1945 these companies were producing 920,000 tons annually of synthetic rubber nationwide. At the Rubbertown complex, by 1944, peak wartime production yielded 195,000 tons of synthetic rubber, employing more than 4,000 people.

The story of Rubbertown and its calcium carbide plant that was to become Carbide Industries LLC in the 21st century parallels the development of American economic might and the maturation of her basic industries. Read more about our history here and in the links below.

American Chemical Society National Historic Chemical Landmarks. U.S. Synthetic Rubber Program. (accessed March 23, 2015)

Traditional Syntheses of 1,3-Butadiene. (accessed Mar. 24, 2015)

Wikipedia: Rubbertown, Louisville (accessed Mar. 24, 2015).

Timeline: History of Rubbertown (2011, March 22) in Louisville Courier Journal Archive. (accessed March 23, 2015).

Carbide Manufacturing

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Submerged Arc Furnace

Using the same basic process figured out by Thomas Willson and company back in the 1880's, calcium carbide is produced by heating a mixture of coke and lime to a very high temperature using an electric arc furnace.

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Our calcium carbide submerged arc furnace (SAF) is pictured above, showing primarily the furnace cover. The furnace is called submerged because the coke and lime charge completely fills the furnace and the electrodes are buried in the charge. This makes the furnace very energy efficient.

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The tremendous electric power input to the SAF is delivered to the charge from electrodes that are over 5 feet in diameter. You can't buy electrodes that large - they are continuously cast in place in the building above the furnace and slowly fed into the furnace.

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The molten carbide is tapped from the furnace continuously, 24/7. At nearly 4,000 degrees F, the carbide is 1,000 degrees hotter than a steel furnace! Once tapped, it is cooled in special molds until it is ready to be crushed to the proper size.

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Sizing and Packing

Calcium carbide that is tapped from the submerged arc furnace is cooled only to a few hundred degrees so that atmospheric moisture does not reduce the purity of the carbide. Then it is fed into the crushing and conveying equipment.

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From the time the carbide is fed to the primary crusher until the shipping container is opened by the customer, the carbide is kept under an inert atmosphere of nitrogen. Every mill, screen, conveyor, silo, and container in our packing department is physically closed to the atmosphere and is maintained under a blanket of nitrogen.

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We produce a variety of size ranges from fine powder up to a 2 inch size of carbide in order to produce the desired reactivity for the customer's process. We therefore employ a computer-controlled system that gives us the flexibility to convey various sizes of carbide to and from a number of mills and screens depending on the production needs for that day. Safely moving calcium carbide in large quantities is what we do. From belts to screws to dense phase transport, we are the carbide experts.

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Quality Control

We maintain our own laboratory at Carbide Industries LLC in order to test for, among others, carbide purity, carbide sizing, calcium hydroxide slurry solids content, and slurry impurity levels. This information is used to control our process as well as to certify shipments.

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For example, the purity of the carbide as it is produced at the furnace is rigorously monitored and the information used by furnace personnel to determine how much coke and lime should be added. The purity of the carbide after the primary crushing operation is also a key parameter, as it is a more homogeneous sample and it gives an indication of carbide loss through the cooling process.

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We also maintain close relationships with outside testing firms that provide us with the capabilities for scanning electron microscopy, energy dispersive x-ray analysis, gas chromotography, and infrared spectroscopy for those times when a closer investigation is needed.

Finally, every reusable shipping container, from a 5,000 lb flo-bin to a 40,000 lb tanker or 180,000 lb railcar is inspected prior to being filled with calcium carbide. These containers have built-in safety features that need to work properly in order to safely shipped and handled. Any issues are repaired in our shop. A system is also in place whereby any customer-found problems with containers are also certified to be repaired.