Cantwell Calls on Department of Energy to Collaborate with Port Angeles

In New Bill, Cantwell Proposes Study and Demonstration Project on Carbon Fiber Recycling

U. S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, asked the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to collaborate with the Pacific Northwest’s composites industry so as to better leverage federal investment and prevent duplicative spending.

Dr. Lynn Orr, undersecretary for science and energy at DOE, noted that “carbon fiber materials are a very important component to our Vehicle Technologies office. One of the principal ways you can increase the efficiency of vehicle transport is to provide the same strength, but with lighter-weight materials. We have an active program in that area and are very interested in pursuing that going forward.”

Carbon fiber composites are transforming the aerospace, automotive and energy sectors, and are projected to have a worldwide market of $27 billion next year. Given this significant economic opportunity, Sen. Cantwell commended Port Commissioner Colleen McAleer for her leadership and vision in converting a displaced workforce and unused facilities into an innovative market that is creating local jobs, reducing landfill waste and saving energy by recycling scrap fibers instead of having to manufacture new ones through the Composite Recycling Technology Center.

“We have three large mills that have closed their doors in just the last year. This workforce is ideally suited for the carbon fiber industry. Both sectors are automated, high volume industries that require precise processes and quality control. A strong composites manufacturing capability holds the promise of becoming a sorely needed economic driver,” McAleer said. “Since 2012, the Port of Port Angeles has spearheaded the idea of an advanced composites manufacturing, where industry and researchers share workspace and workforce. It would leverage our existing technologies and assets.”  

Large manufacturers and suppliers have agreed to donate their scrap carbon fiber to the Center to be reprocessed into recycled carbon fiber composites. Currently, only nine sites worldwide are in the carbon fiber recycling industry.

“We are ushering in a new era in carbon fiber. … But we also need to usher in this new era of recycling research because we know it’s going to be a highly used material,” Sen. Cantwell said.

Recognizing the  growth  in composite research and manufacturing at the Port of Port Angeles and looking to build on that success on a national level, Sen. Cantwell introduced S. 1432, the Carbon Fiber Recycling Act of 2015. The bill requests a study of the technology and energy savings of recycled carbon fiber and directs DOE to collaborate with the automotive and aviation industry to develop a recycled carbon fiber demonstration project.