RSI Silicon: Solar Grade Silicon Reprise

Production is supposed to commence a quarter later in Q3 2008 (about now) as the company remains stealthy.

There has been a dearth of news regarding RSI Silicon Products, LLC since RSI Silicon: Solar Grade Silicon from Pennsylvania (then Alabama) explained the RSI Silicon process. In fact, I missed an earlier article by Solarbuzz titled “RSI Silicon Products Nears Completion of Solar Grade Silicon Manufacturing Plant” from January 18, 2008, that has now been removed from their website. Google’s cache snapshot is here for as long as it lasts. Towards the end of the article, Solarbuzz said:

The major equipment items have been delivered to the 178,000 square foot Easton facility, and it is anticipated that production will ramp up during the second quarter of 2008 for full production in the third quarter.

In parallel, RSI Silicon Products has underway the development of a 17,500 ton per year plant in Childersburg, Alabama.

A member of RSI Silicon’s team, Ed Boardwine, will be CEO of the Alabama subsidiary. He is the former President & CEO and part owner of SIMCALA, a large silicon manufacturer in Alabama which was sold to Dow Corning in 2003. Mr. Boardwine is currently helping to manage the startup of the Easton, PA plant.

Per RSI’s Current Status:

Dr. Steve Amendola, along with his experienced team, has commenced building the first plant. It is envisaged that production at the 1,000 metric tonne per annum plant based in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, will commence Q3 2008.

RSI anticipates completing a new plant in 2009 that will have a production capacity of 30,000 metric tonnes per annum, consisting of 6 new 5,000 tonne furnaces.

As I captured back in January 2008, RSI claimed:

Dr. Steve Amendola, along with his experienced team, has commenced building the first plant. It is envisaged that production at the 1,000 metric tonne (bold added) per annum plant based in Northampton County, Pennsylvania, will commence Q2 2008.

RSI anticipates completing a new plant in Alabama in 2009 that will have a production capacity of 24,000 metric tonnes per annum, adding a new 5,000 tonne furnace in 2010 and 2011.

Comparing the stories, the production start has been delayed one quarter, the production capacity for 2009 has been increased by 6000 MT (metric tons), six (6) new submerged arc furnaces are being added, and Alabama is no longer specified as the location of the new plant.

Does this mean C. Edward Boardwine, the former Simcala CEO, is no longer part of the RSI Silicon Team or has the location of the new plant been changed? Simcala, Inc. was acquired by Dow Corning in 2003.

According to The Pennsylvania Bulletin public disclosure dated March 22, 2008:

48-307-062: RSI Silicon Products, LLC (3700 Glover Road, Easton, PA 18040) for installation of two electric arc furnaces and associated air cleaning devices (fabric collectors) at their facility in Forks Township, Northampton County. The facility is a non-Title V facility. The total PM emissions from the fabric collectors will be 2.0 tpy and shall not exceed 0.003 grain/dscf. The plan approval will include emission restrictions, monitoring, reporting and work practice requirements designed to keep the sources operating within all applicable air quality requirements.

RSI is installing two electric arc furnaces of unknown size at the Easton facility capped at 2 tons per year (tpy) of Particulate Matter emissions. The arc furnaces are used in the final step of RSI Silicon’s production process using Carbothermic Reduction to yield Solar Grade Silicon from the pure silica along with Carbon monoxide (CO) as a byproduct. Perhaps RSI’s website claims about Waste and Emissions:

RSI’s unique processing methods produce no harmful gases or polluting emissions.

are not quite accurate?

One metallurgical expert who read my last RSI Silicon process post and observed the final Solar Grade Silicon was tapped direct from the arc furnace said:

That would constitute the cleanest silicon arc furnace in history.

When I saw the news, Dow Acquires Rohm and Haas, Creating World’s Leading Specialty Chemicals and Advanced Materials Company, I wondered if RSI Silicon had long term contracts in place with Rohm and Haas Company or alternate sources for the chelating agent AMBERLITE IRA734 that is critical to removing Boron from their Sodium silicate solution? After all, The Dow Chemical Company is a majority owner of polysilicon oligarch Hemlock Semiconductor Corporation via the Dow Corning Corporation joint venture.

Although RSI Silicon acknowledged my requests for an interview this time, they chose to decline.

3 comments

  1. ngogerty says:

    great post with very useful information. thank you.

  2. pobrien says:

    Thanks for the article. I’ve been wondering what’s up with RSI Silicon. I was very excited to learn about them last summer and have been hoping to hear more good news of their progress. As with virtually all start-ups, there’s some distance between the entrepreneur’s exciting vision and promise and reality. Still, a very exciting company worth keeping an eye on. There’s no doubt that if they can lower costs and improve efficiencies of production by even half of what they say they can that it will be a benefit for the environment and the solar industry (and let’s not forget their investors).

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