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Chemical Manufacturing

Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

Chemical Manufacturing map

Map showing location of U.S. facilities in this sector; please click on the map to see a larger version.

Sector Profile

Chemical manufacturing creates products by transforming organic and inorganic raw materials with chemical processes. Chemicals generally are classified into two groups: commodity chemicals and specialty chemicals. Commodity chemical manufacturers produce large quantities of basic and relatively inexpensive compounds in large plants, often built specifically to make one chemical. Commodity plants often run continuously, typically shutting down only a few weeks a year for maintenance.

Specialty-batch or performance chemical manufacturers produce smaller quantities of more expensive chemicals on an "as needed" basis that are used less frequently. Often there is only one or a limited number of suppliers producing a given product. In contrast to the production of commodity chemicals, batch manufacturing requires that the raw materials, processes, operating conditions, and equipment change on a regular basis to respond to the needs of customers.


There are approximately 13,500 chemical manufacturing facilities in the United States owned by more than 9,000 companies. Facilities are located all over the country, with many companies in Texas, Ohio, New Jersey, Illinois, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and the Carolinas. The specialty-batch chemical sector is composed primarily of small companies, with more than 89 percent employing 500 or fewer employees. The chemical industry is an essential contributor to the U.S. economy, with shipments valued at about $555 billion per year.

Environmental Impact

The Chemical sector produces a multitude of environmental impacts. It is one of the largest users of natural gas, which is required for energy and as a feedstock. The sector emitted more than 1.5 million tons of criteria air pollutants, of which more than 80 percent were carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen oxides (NOx) (NEI, 2002). Nearly half of these emissions are energy related. The Chemical sector also manages a huge amount of chemicals that are reported to EPA's Toxic Release Inventory. About 5 percent of the more than 10 billion pounds of chemicals managed are disposed of or otherwise released to air and water, while the rest goes to treatment, energy recovery, and recycling.

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Performance Data and Trends for this Sector

You can find recent data and trends for this sector in the Chemical Manufacturing chapter of the 2008 Performance Report (PDF) (10 pp, 1MB, About PDF).

The performance trends for the specialty-batch chemical sector are highlighted in the most recent Sector Performance Report.

The Chemical Manufacturing chapter in the report, Energy Trends in Selected Manufacturing Sectors: Opportunities and Challenges for Environmentally Preferable Energy Outcomes (PDF) (12 pp, 316K, About PDF), outlines the trends and opportunities in energy use for this sector.

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