Since the 1880s, we have explored new manufacturing techniques and adapted methodologies of others for our own plants. Dr. Twitchell’s study of emulsions resulted in the first successful rewetting agent for Sanfordized fabrics and other oils suited for lubrication of natural and synthetic fibres – becoming the early forerunners of today’s broad line of surfactants. The revolutionary EMERSOL® Solvent Separation process, patented in 1938 and still used today, is a core process that enables the production of higher purity derivatives in the commercial production of stearic, oleic and special fatty acids. The Emery business continued its research efforts in renewable-based sources, focusing on vegetable and tallow-based oils.
At the same time, Henkel was also increasing its chemical production using naturally sourced feedstocks (codfish oil, tallow, vegetable). In 1910, pure glycerol production had begun with the company generating 328 tons of glycerine in the first year alone. By the 1930s, quality improvements in fatty acids production became the backbone of Henkel’s detergent business.
Emery carved itself a prominent position in ester synthetic basestocks when its dimer acid plant came on stream in 1951. Innovations in this space resulted in fully compounded lubricants and greases for aviation, military, automotive and industrial uses. 1953 was a milestone year for the company when the Colgate-Emery Pressure Splitter replaced the Twitchell Process for splitting fat, and the proprietary ozone technology created products used in water treatment, aquaculture and odour control. In 1981, Emery began commercializing ethylene brassylate and Rose Ether® for insect repellent, dyes, inks, preservatives and pharmaceuticals.
The undercurrents of environmental issues were already escalating prior to the 1980s. Industry and government leaders had begun international dialogues to look for preventative solutions. Meanwhile, Henkel was already producing environmentally compatible products and, in 1987, incorporated environmental protection into its corporate guidelines, giving it the same priority as profits.
The company has since remained steadfast in improving its health, safety and environmental agenda. When Emery Oleochemicals was formed, we inherited established stewardship in various aspects of natural-based chemical production. Hence, our feedstock today comprises of mainly renewable sources. Having grown our production technology and technical capabilities to handle a wider range of renewable sources, we look forward to business growth in the sustainable chemicals space.