The Electochemical Industry in Niagara Falls


Nowhere in the world was there such an  extensive congregation of varied electrochemical industries as found in the Niagara Falls area , all based on four basic concepts:

1)  lowest cost and unlimited  hydroelectricity

 2) ample cold water

 3) salt from nearby mines

 4) low cost and readily available railroad transportation.


 These basic factors were then amplified and derivatized into a billion dollar industrial colossus which  dominated the American Industrial scene for more than 60 years.


 The vast nature of this industrial development had many controversial features which at that time  1930’s thru 1960’s which  were largely ignored and are beyond the scope of this treatise.



Basic Processes

Six plants in this area depend on the decomposition of salt + water + electricity,  into sodium hydroxide(caustic soda) + chlorine, +  hydrogen. 


Utilizing the following balanced equation:

2 NaCl + 2H20    2 NaOH + H2+ Cl2

electrochemical consumption is 3300  kilowatt hours per ton of chlorine




The development of this basic concept into a multimillion pound industry using electrochemical cells was started by  the team of Sperry and Townsend as far back as 1904.


The simplistic reaction mechanism involves the  electrolysis of brine (sodium chloride).


The electric current liberates free chlorine at the carbon (graphite) anode (negative pole) and at the cathode (positive pole) the sodium liberated instantly reacts with  water liberating sodium hydroxide and hydrogen. 


The equipment used in the industrial preparation of chlorine  + caustic and by-product hydrogen utilizing an electrolytic process was the Hooker cell.


Simplified diagram of Hooker type S Cell


The graphite anodes are covered by a sodium chloride solution and are separated from the cathode by an asbestos(during that period) diaphragm which prevents the sodium hydroxide from mixing with chlorine.

Chlorine exits from a dome in the top of the cell and hydrogen leaves through an outlet on the screen cathode on the side of the cell. Because the sodium hydroxide is heavier than  sodium chloride it concentrates at the bottom of the cell . It is drawn off and evaporated to low volume whereby most of the salt crystallizes out. This process is continuous  more brine was added as the strength of the sodium chloride diminishes.


Several of the plants use used a different process called “ Mercury Cell Process”






Picture p101


Products chlorinated paraffin lubricant additive

Lindane an insecticide

2,4,5-trichlorophenol for hexachlorophene

Organic sulfides for extreme pressure lubricants and synthetic rubber

Hetron a line of fire resistant plastics

Sodium sulfide leather tanning

Sodium tetrasulfide

Sodium sulfhydrate

Anhydrous aluminum chloride-  as a catalyst

Dodecyl mercaptan –cghain stopper for synthetic rubber

Arsenic Trichloride- poison gasesduring WWI

Hexachlrorbenzene for landing flares

Trichloroethylene –dry cleaning solvent

Thionyl chloride-pharma, dyestuffs, and agric.
Sulfuryl chloride

Sulfur Monochloride

Sulfur Dichloride


Benzyl chloride

Benzoyl chloride



meta and para-nitrobenzoyl chloride


methyl benzoate

ammonium benzoate

methyl dichlorosterate

iusopropyl chloride

dichlrostearic acid


N-methylpyrrole-stabilizer for trichloroethylene


laurel pyridinium chloride

acetyl chloride








(hydrogenated chemicals)










Operation of Atomic Energy Commission Plant at Model City

And operating know-how for three plants extensive research program  the building and operation of a large plant at Niagrara