This guide summarizes essential health, safety, and environmental information for operational design, maintenance, training, emergency response and handling practices that may be associated with the use of carbon black. The
information contained herein is provided to supplement the knowledge of trained and  qualified users of carbon black.

This publication represents the current  knowledge of the International Carbon Black Association (ICBA) members as of the date of publication. Users should remain informed on new developments and information about
carbon black properties, handling technology and regulatory requirements that occur following the publication date. Any questions should be addressed to your carbon black supplier.

What is Carbon Black?

Carbon black [C.A.S. NO. 1333-86-4] is virtually pure elemental carbon in the form of colloidal  particles that are produced by incomplete combustion or thermal decomposition of gaseous or liquid hydrocarbons under controlled conditions. Its physical appearance is that of a black, finely dividedpellet or powder. Its use in tires, rubber and plastic products, printing inks and coatings is related to properties of specific surface area, particle size and structure, conductivity and color. Carbon black is also in the top 50 industrial chemicals manufactured worldwide, based on annual tonnage. Current worldwide production is about 18 billion pounds per year [8.1 million metric tons]. Approximately 90% of carbon black is used in rubber applications, 9% as a pigment, and the remaining 1% as an essential ingredient in hundreds of diverse applications.

Modern carbon black products are direct descendants of early “lamp blacks” first produced by the Chinese over 3,500 years ago. These early lamp blacks were not very pure and differed greatly in their chemical composition from current carbon blacks. Since the mid-1970s, most carbon black has been produced by the oil furnace process, which is most often referred to as furnace black.

How is it produced? 

Two carbon black manufacturing processes (furnace black and thermal black) produce nearly all of the world’s carbon blacks, with the furnace black process being the most common. The furnace black process uses heavy aromatic oils as feedstock. The production furnace uses a closed reactor to atomize the feedstock oil under carefully controlled conditions (primarily temperature and pressure). The primary feedstock is introduced into a hot gas stream (achieved by burning a secondary feedstock, e.g., natural gas or oil) where it vaporizes and then pyrolyzes in the vapor phase to form microscopic carbon particles. In most furnace reactors, the reaction rate is  controlled by steam or water sprays. The carbon black produced is conveyed through the reactor, cooled, and collected in bag filters in a continuous process. Residual gas, or tail gas, from a furnace reactor includes a variety of gases such as carbon monoxide and hydrogen. Most  furnace black plants use a portion of this residual gas to produce heat, steam, or electric power. (See Figure 1. Typical Furnace Black Process Diagram.)

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