Doctoral thesis, 2011
The overall aim of this thesis is to describe the history of the Swedish chlor-alkali industry. The chlor-alkali industry produces chlorine and alkali by electrolytic de-composition of ordinary salt solution (brine). This process generates chlorine and sodium hydroxide (caustic soda) in the fixed ratio 1 to 1.13. Therefore, the chlor-alkali industry needs to balance its production so that these substances will be sup-plied in fixed proportions. This problem of balance also complicates the formation of chlorine and alkali.
The Swedish chlor-alkali producers conducted collaboration in form of a mutual cartel between 1944 and 1993. One reason was to manage the problem of balance. Another was to regulate the sale and to form a larger market. Since it is difficult and dangerous to store and transport chlorine, there was also a desire to optimise the logistics. Mercury and asbestos have been widely used in the manufacture of chlorine. Chlorine has also been used to bleach pulp and to manufacture PVC. Hence, industrial production and use of chlorine is associated with multiple envi-ronmental problems.
This thesis has been structured around three issues: balance problem; economical problems and cartel activities; and environmental problems. The primary informa-tion covers acts from business archives, special periodicals and official documents.
Until the Second World War, Sweden had shortage of both chlorine and alkali. After the war there was relative good balance between production and consump-tion until the end of the 1950s, but from 1961, Sweden has had a great shortage of sodium hydroxide. In general, Sweden has also had a surplus of chlorine, therefore, large quantities of chlorine were exported to East Germany between 1958 and 1990. The Swedish pulp and paper industry stopped using chlorine for bleaching in the beginning of the 1990s, resulting in a sharp distortion of the chlor-alkali balance and closure of several Swedish chlor-alkali plants.
history of technology