WEEKEND REWIND: Carbon fiber recycling agreement historic, say signers

 new partnership in carbon fiber recycling among the Composite Recycling Technology Center, Peninsula College and Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation is expected to be an economic boon to Clallam County, said U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell.

The facility, referred to as the CRTC, is located at 2220 W. 18th St.

In July 2015, the Port of Port Angeles was awarded a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to retrofit a facility to house the CRTC.

Construction on the new facility began in September. The final touches are being made and a ribbon-cutting celebration planned for late summer.

Supporters say the facility will bring 200 new jobs to Port Angeles over the next six years.

More than that, the facility may attract new businesses to the area who are drawn by the wealth of knowledge available at the center, they say.

Job growth

“I think the larger issue is that we've seen — in the Pacific Northwest in general — huge job growth in composite materials,” Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, said Friday morning during a tour of the facility after the agreement was signed.

“It is going to [provide] additional expertise for recycling of composite materials, so we think it is going to be a good skill and retractor to economic growth,” she said.

“A few years ago, there was a consortium of companies in composite materials, which kind of led to the impetus of this,” she continued.

“You might get more of those companies who would then be interested in being in Clallam County because this institution exists, and the reason is because then they could bring their problems to them.”

It is hoped the facility will “become a hub of expertise that could also attract jobs from outside, and that is a plus,” Cantwell added.

Historic agreement

The agreement creating the partnership among CRTC, Peninsula College and the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) — was signed during a Friday ceremony attended by local, state and federal officials in a meeting room at the new facility.

Officials representing the three organizations signed memorandums of understanding following remarks by Cantwell; Mark Johnson, director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Manufacturing Office; Brian Bonlender, director of the state Department of Commerce; and Luke Robins, president of Peninsula College.

The agreements establish CRTC as a strategic partner and as a West Coast satellite location for IACMI, which is based at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.

The signed memorandum of understanding will foster a partnership between CRTC and IACMI, allowing them to share research and development facilities, as well as opportunities for funding and workforce training in the field of carbon fiber recycling.

The agreement also allows Peninsula College to expand its capacity to train people for composites manufacturing.

“Port of Port Angeles is taking the lead for the nation in solving carbon fiber recycling for manufacturing,” Cantwell said.

World's first facility

The CRTC is the world's first facility to develop carbon fiber composite scrap materials into products that can be used in the automotive, energy and recreational industries, Cantwell said.

Recycling carbon fiber composites save scrap materials destined for landfills, which can reduce waste and provide significant energy savings during the manufacturing process.

The state of Washington has 96 composite manufacturers, according to Cantwell's office.

It is estimated that 2 million pounds of carbon fiber scrap waste are sent to Washington's landfills each year. The potential market value of recycled carbon fiber scrap waste is $50 million, supporters say.

Recycled carbon fiber composites use only one-tenth of the energy compared to manufacturing new carbon fiber composites, according to Cantwell's office.

Innovations

From aerospace to automotive, the state's industry and research community is leading the way in composite manufacturing innovation, supporters say.

“Innovative products made from recycled carbon fiber provide this region with opportunities for transforming our economy, attracting and training the best and brightest, and leading the nation in sustainable composites manufacturing,” said Robert Larsen, CRTC CEO.

“We are pleased to partner with the composites institute, a like-minded organization committed to innovation and a green industry future.”

And “our collaboration with Peninsula College will provide the critical workforce needed for success,” Larsen said.

This new partnership “will help drive advancements across the board in clean energy innovations,” Johnson said.

“It represents tremendous potential to innovate in the U.S. and coordinate with groups across the nation to unlock this potential for a cleaner, safer and economically secure future.”

Peninsula College will support the partnership through its Advanced Manufacturing Composite Technology program, including the first-of-its-kind Composite Recycling Certification, and hands-on Composites Manufacturing Lab, to be located in the CRTC facility.

Hands-on training

The program will give students hands-on training in advanced materials recycling and remanufacturing techniques.

“We're excited to be participating in the development of the CRTC as a key educational partner,” Robins said.

“Partnerships such as the CRTC create great synergy between public and private entities, provide outstanding learning opportunities for our students and can be dynamic catalysts for economic development for our region.

“We look forward with great anticipation as the CRTC develops and matures.”