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Safe sulfur solutions


PVS Chemicals Belgium is a member of PVS Chemicals, Inc., headquartered in Detroit, Michigan, USA. PVS Chemicals is a global manufacturer, distributor and marketer of chemicals and transportation services. Its core businesses include sulfur products, hydrochloric acid, water treatment chemicals, full-line chemical distribution and minibulk distribution.

The company’s solutions are used by a wide variety of industrial sectors, ranging from electronics, manufacturing, steel and agriculture to pharmaceuticals, metal finishing, water treatment and food processing. PVS Chemicals was founded by Floyd A. Nicholson in 1945 under the name Pressure Vessel Service (PVS).

The company founder established a set of guiding principles which are known as the Nicholson Nine and which are as valid today as they were more than six decades ago. The first and most important of the Nicholson Nine is ‘Safety is #1.’

“We perform all activities in a manner that protects and promotes the health, safety, security and welfare of fellow workers, the community and the environment,” explains Jim Lawson, general manager of PVS Chemicals Belgium. “We take personal responsibility for our goal: no accidents, injuries or environmental incidents.”

In addition, the efforts of PVS Chemicals are guided by a commitment to Responsible Care®. Responsible Care® offers an integrated, structured approach to driving results in six key areas: community awareness and emergency response, distribution, employee health and safety, pollution prevention, process safety, and product stewardship.

“Over the past several years, Responsible Care® has contributed significantly to improving our environmental, health, safety and security performance,” says Mr. Lawson.

When the company was founded 69 years ago, the initial focus of PVS Chemicals was on cleaning boilers and pressure vessels. In the 1950s, the company entered the chemical industry and started expanding its product base. In 1975, PVS Chemicals opened its first subsidiary abroad in Canada. Europe followed 22 years later.

“In 1997, PVS acquired a sulfuric acid manufacturing plant in Ghent, Belgium,” states Mr. Lawson. In 2001, the group expanded to Asia and acquired a chloralkali manufacturing plant in Thailand. Located in metropolitan Bangkok, the plant serves Southeast Asia with chlorine, sodium hydroxide, hydrochloric acid, sodium hypochlorite and other related products.

Today, with international operations in Belgium, Canada and Thailand, PVS Chemicals has annual sales of over 600 million USD. Located in the harbour of Ghent, PVS Chemicals Belgium is specialized in sulfur-based chemistry. The company’s main products are ultra-pure sulfuric acid, chlorosulfonic acid, sodium bisulfate, sodium bisulfite, ammonium bisulfite, oleum and all grades of sulfuric acid.

“We are a sulfur-burning facility that produces higher-value sulfur derivatives such as sulfuric acid,” explains Mr. Lawson. “Sulfuric acid is the most widely used chemical commodity behind water. But we focus on high added-value solutions. Our strength is in managing and manufacturing products in the mature end of the life cycle, such as for applications in the electronics and semiconductor industries or in food processing, water treatment and industrial manufacturing. In these industries, our sulfur solutions are used for higher-quality materials to minimize freight costs or allow a higher return on investment, for instance.”

PVS ChemicalsBelgium has customers all over Europe. One product is sold all over the world, however: sodium bisulfate, which is used for swimming pool applications. With 40 employees and annual sales of 20 to 25 million EUR, PVS Chemicals Belgium is a rather small player in the European sulfuric acid market. Focused on profitable product niches, it is a very successful one, though.

“In some sulfur derivatives, we are one of only two suppliers in Europe,” says Mr. Lawson. Its small size and nimbleness make PVS Chemicals Belgium highly adaptable to individual customer demands. “We can transform sulfur into anything special required by the customer,” states Mr. Lawson.

PVS Chemicals Belgium also distinguishes itself by its capability of supplying ultra-high purity products with impurities of just a few parts per trillion. The company is also the only European supplier whose products are approved by KIWA, an international certification organization.

“KIWA approval means that our products have been tested, evaluated and found to comply with drinking water regulations,” explains Mr. Lawson. In the coming years, PVS Chemicals Belgium will continue developing customer-specific sulfur-based solutions. At the same time, the company will focus on improving the manufacturing plant’s reliability and efficiency to further enhance customer satisfaction.

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