RAYMOND — Specialty Tapes Manufacturing still burns off the volatile organic compounds given off by the solvents it uses. But now the company is paying a lot less to do it.

Specialty Tapes, an employer of about 30 people at 4221 Courtney Road, makes adhesive tapes for numerous markets.

The privately held company recently finished installing a more than $500,000 regenerative thermal oxidizer to destroy the VOCs generated in tape manufacturing. An oxidizer is a pollution-control unit for the abatement of industrial emissions including VOCs which are harmful to humans, animals and the environment.

The oxidizer is expected to save about $100,000 a year in natural gas usage, Specialty Tapes Operations Manager Frank van den Berge said.

The new oxidizer went fully into use in mid-March.

In return for its substantial investment in saving energy, Focus on Energy, Wisconsin utilities’ statewide energy efficiency and renewable resource program, has granted Specialty Tapes the maximum incentive for a single project: $200,000. The check is expected in mid-May.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, VOCs can have many harmful effects on health in humans and animals. They also contribute to the formation of harmful ground-level ozone and degradation of the protective ozone layer.

Specialty Tapes’ previous oxidizer was old and highly inefficient, van den Berge said. And it burned off the VOCs strictly with natural gas heat.

But the new oxidizer, made by Ship & Shore Environmental of Signal Hill, Calif., works differently, he explained. It uses natural gas to reach operating temperature of about 1,700 degrees.

At that temperature, the energy contained in the VOCs themselves becomes the fuel source, van den Berge continued. When it reaches operating temperature, the oxidizer automatically switches from burning natural gas to burning VOCs.

The unit, which is about three to four stories tall, does have to be kept on “idle” at about 1,000 degrees when not in use, van den Berge said. Otherwise it would take too long to reach full operating temperature on a Monday morning after the weekend.

Besides saving energy and money, van den Berge said the oxidizer will help with production: The old one had to be shut down every third Friday for cleaning and maintenance. The new unit should need maintenance only twice a year.

Specialty Tapes, which is based here, has six U.S. locations and four distribution points in Europe and China.

It makes 15 core product families of tapes and has another 300 different formulations in its repertoire, van den Berge said.

“Our main market is high-temperature masking, but we are also a big player in splicing tapes for web printing, automotive and other industrial applications,” he said. The company also sells tapes used for arts and crafts.

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Racines Finest Truth
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