Port of Port Angeles Commissioner Names Sources, Customers for Composite Recycling Center in Testimony

By:  The Peninsula Daily News – James Casey
Source: The Peninsula Daily News

A Composite Recycling Technology Center could supply Westport Shipyard with carbon-fiber material at a fraction of the current cost, a Port of Port Angeles commissioner testified in Congress.

Colleen McAleer told the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday that Westport could use recycled composites for components like hatch covers for the 50-meter yachts and 43-meter Global Response Cutters it builds on the Port Angeles harborfront.

“Westport can adjust some of their current manufacturing processes to use the very high-grade, eco-friendly recycled fiber to manufacture these components without the use of [energy-intensive] autoclaves,” she said.

The material consists of carbon fibers pre-impregnated with uncured resins and is known as prepreg. It hardens into a strong, lightweight, rigid substance when heated.

Some of that material could come from as close as Carlsborg, where Mervin Manufacturing builds surfboards, snowboards and skis, McAleer said.

The firm would recycle its scrap trimmings at the port’s center — known by the acronym of CRTC — and make new items from waste that otherwise would go to landfills.

“They will develop new manufacturing methods and products . . . including snowboard bindings, surfboard fins and accessories, skateboards and other action-sports accessories,” McAleer testified.

And Batson Enterprises, like Westport, in turn could use recycled composites for the fishing rod blanks it makes in Sequim. Today, Batson buys some of its composite parts overseas to keep costs competitive, according to McAleer.

“By partnering with the CRTC . . . Batson Enterprises will be able to purchase locally produced . . . aerospace-quality materials that were formerly cost-prohibitive,” she told the committee.

Other, bigger Northwest companies she called “major aerospace partners” will be involved, she said.

“Large manufacturers and suppliers have agreed to donate their scrap carbon fiber prepreg material to the CRTC,” McAleer testified, although port officials have declined to identify the firms due to nondisclosure agreements.

Industry partners, small businesses, universities and community colleges have committed more than $30 million over many years of in-kind support, McAleer said.

The center would convert waste — estimated at 2 million pounds in Washington state, 29 million pounds in the U.S. — into revenue, she said, at an attractive price of $10 per pound versus the $60 per pound it costs in virgin form.

The center would occupy a present 25,000-square-foot shell building at 2220 W. 18th St. at William R. Fairchild International Airport on Port Angeles’ west side.

Construction could start as early as next month and operations — including composite-materials classes taught by Peninsula College –—as soon as January.

Build-out cost of the center is estimated at $4.3 million. The port has allocated $190,000 for its interior redesign.

McAleer testified at the invitation of Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, who has introduced a bill that would funnel up to $10 million in federal funds to a carbon-fiber recycling study and a demonstration plant that could become the port’s project.

A Senate committee staff member told the Peninsula Daily News prior to McAleer’s testimony that Senate Bill 1432, the Carbon Fiber Recycling Act of 2015, could make the center a demonstration site “based on the work they are doing with carbon-fiber composites.”

Another Cantwell bill would support with 65 percent federal funding clean-energy job-training programs like Peninsula College’s Advanced Manufacturing-Composites Technology program.

The port paid the cost of McAleer’s trip, estimated at less than $1,000, although the commissioner said she would have accepted Cantwell’s invitation at her own expense.

She will report to her fellow port commissioners in a meeting at 11 a.m. Monday in port headquarters, 338 W. First St., Port Angeles.

Meanwhile, the port is awaiting word on $1.4 million in additional state financing for the center.

It already has secured preliminary approval of $712,000 in state funds, a $2 million federal grant and $1 million from the Clallam County Opportunity Fund.

The port’s economic prospectus for the center, prepared by Olympus Consulting in Port Angeles, says it would employ six people at start-up and pay an average salary of nearly $94,000.

Employment would reach 111 people after five years with annual incomes averaging about $50,000 to $80,000, the prospectus says.

Cantwell, ranking member of the committee, thanked 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.”

Jennifer States, the port director of business development who leads the project, said, “It’s excellent that we were asked to share the project on the national stage.”