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IBM, Semiconductor Manufacturing Facility


IBM Essex Junction, Vermont is a semiconductor facility located near Burlington, Vermont. The facility manufactures and tests semiconductor memory and logic devices through a complex, multi-step manufacturing process.

IBM Burlington (the Company) recently introduced a new, innovative copper metallization step into the semiconductor chip manufacturing process to provide interconnection of the device circuits. The manufacturing process involves the use of a copper plating process to deposit a layer of metal on the wafer. Prior to April of 1998, the copper plating rinsewaters were collected and drummed. Beginning in April, the volume of rinsewater generated from the process (approximately 250 gallons per day) made it an operational necessity to mix the copper plating process rinsewaters with the general wastestream and classify all the wastewater treatment sludge (3 tons per day) as a F006 hazardous waste even though there is a negligible change in any pollutant concentrations in the sludge.

Classification of the sludge as a RCRA hazardous waste requires IBM to:
_ prepare and track US hazardous waste manifests for all sludge shipments,
_ secure permission from the UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, the Canadian and Quebec Environmental Ministries for international shipment of the hazardous sludge for disposal in Canada,
_ transport sludge as hazardous waste, and
_ increases the annual quantity of hazardous waste generated by the IBM Burlington facility from 2.25 M pounds per year (1997 actuals) to 5.99 M pounds per year (1999 projected).

This project seeks a specific process delisting from the F006 listing for the copper plating process rinsewater. While EPA has an established process for sludge delisting, the Company has requested a different approach, a process delisting, which looks to Project XL for implementation. IBM feels that since the process is the innovative step, the focus of the regulatory change should be on the innovation and its impacts rather than simply on the sludge.

In order to achieve a significant environmental benefit on this project, IBM is asking that its voluntary effort to reduce global warming gas emissions through the introduction of an alternate process chemistry in the silicon dioxide chamber clean process be recognized as a significant environmental benefit. IBM is investing $2.0 M at its Burlington semiconductor manufacturing facility for the installation of process piping and gas cabinets to convert the chamber cleaning process from C2F6 to dilute Nitrogen Trifluoride, resulting in a projected 40-60% reduction in global warming gas emissions from the Burlington location, adjusted for production changes, against a 1995 baseline measurement. IBM is voluntarily taking this action well ahead of any regulatory requirements, the requirements of the Memorandum of Understanding negotiated between UNITED STATES ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY and the Semiconductor Industry Association, and actions taken by other semiconductor manufacturing companies.

IBM believes their Project XL proposal will also allow them to reduce their process energy consumption by 30-40% by converting to the copper plating process from their previous process, reduce the toxicity of the chemicals used in the manufacturing process, reduce administrative burden, reduce costs through pollution prevention, and reinvest those savings in environmental improvements.

Since the process uses and discharges less copper and generates less wastewater than traditional plating methods, this innovation may have significant benefits throughout the semiconductor and electroplating industry, as the process delisting would enable other facilities using the same or similar processes in the manner prescribed in the new rule to be eligible for delisting. This is in addition to the benefits which will ascribe to IBM_s Burlington facility as a result of this project, and the additional benefit to global warming efforts.

There are a number of chip manufacturing facilities in the US currently evaluating this process, and the implementation of this Project XL would create a strong incentive for other makers to follow suit by rewarding and recognizing cleaner manufacturing methods. If the process produces higher quality chips more cost effectively (as is anticipated), even offshore manufacturers could adopt the technique.

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