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The Shell Center for Sustainability's mission is to foster an interdisciplinary program of research, outreach, and education to address actions that can be taken to ensure the sustainable development of communities' living standards, interpreted broadly, to encompass all factors affecting the overall quality of life.



The Spirit of Innovation that Serves to Reduce Negative Environmental Impact is also the Quality that Drives Economic Advantage and Social Responsibility


Matt Hotze, Graduate Student, Professional Master's Environmental Analysis and Decision-Making Program, Rice University
Christine Robichaud, Graduate Student, Professional Master's Environmental Analysis and Decision-Making Program, Rice University

 Rice Campus 
Rice University Campus 

Project Background 

Since the late 1970’s, this North Brazoria Co. area business, owned and operated by Rice alumni Dr. Andrew and wife Sue Schwartz, has focused on taking co-product streams from other chemical processors and converting them from what would have been wastes into marketable materials

The case study explored the history, philosophy and technologies behind this company’s innovations in sustainability.  Specifically, three innovations implemented at the Keeshan and Bost Chemical Company plant are the focus of the study:

1. Design and use of stationary elevated pipes attached to distillation towers in the manner of a ship’s sail for cooling product with natural gulf winds rather than water.

2. Use of compressors and engines that capture byproduct off-gases, both minimizing waste gas release and generating electricity (30% of that used by the facility).

3. Design and use of unique water treatment system with completely closed waste-water treatment tanks and non-waste-generating on-site sludge system.

Project Update 

The facility has grown to three times its size since 1982, and increased its production tenfold.  Clearly, the efficiency improvements and commitment to sustainable practices have not only helped their neighborly reputation, but have added to the profitability and bolstered the robustness of the manufacturing process. 

Small businesses are always under tremendous pressure to operate cost effectively, and the Schwartz’s have responded to this need with innovations drawn from personal experimentation, from industry best practice, and at times from academic research.  Their creativity allows them to capture every kilowatt of energy out of their process, reusing their gases and leveraging their assets such as the boilers and cogeneration fans.   Their recognition of the need to mitigate their risks, such as the bacterial infection of wastewaters, has inspired the design of systems that keep their neighbors safe from odors and helps allow the no-sludge-removal policy that adds to their brand of sustainability.

The principle lesson learned in this case study is that the tenets of sustainability are truly carried out in the guts of the operations process.   Of course, a commitment to the philosophy of the triple bottom line, always working toward economic, environmental, and social success, is key.  However, it is the Schwartz’s intimate knowledge of and responsibility for all aspects of their chemical process that allows them to make constant improvements to the sustainability of their core business.  Their attention to human capital allows them to maximize the use of their assets, their stakeholder relationships, and their profits.

For more information, visit: 

Keeshan and Bost Chemical Company Plant Case Study 

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