Date of Award


Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Masters of Science (Research)


Cork Institute of Technology

First Advisor

Dr. Aisling Butler

Second Advisor

Mr. Noel Duffy


A survey was conducted of the pharmaceutical sector in Ireland to establish organic solvent usage, recovery and treatment practices. The eleven companies covered by the survey, which included several of the worlds largest multinational companies, consumed in the region of 122,000 tonnes of organic solvent in 2002. Approximately 53,000 tonnes was recovered on-site while 69,000 tonnes of virgin solvent was brought on-site to replace that which was lost through wastewater treatment, incineration, fugitive emissions and off-site treatment or reuse. The total quantity of virgin solvent consumed by the eleven companies accounted for 75.4 % of organic solvent imports to Ireland.

Forty-five organic solvents were identified during the survey, however the sector relies on a small number of these solvents to meet its process requirements, with only ten making up roughly 93 % of total solvent consumption over six companies. The recovery of individual solvents was found to be largely determined by their toxicity while other factors such as solvent unit price, calorific content and partition coefficient showed a very weak correlation. The survey also aimed to identify the recovery technologies and techniques used by the pharmaceutical sector to recover their solvent wastes. Forty-six technologies under six main technology types were recorded as being used. Batch and continuous fi’actionation technologies were the most prevalent technologies, being recorded thirty-seven times. Steam distillation, liquid-liquid extraction, pervaporation and reverse osmosis were the other twelve technologies used.

The Environmental Management Accounting (EMA) methodology was applied to an existing solvent recovery system located at one of the companies surveyed. This was carried out to determine whether recovery was a better waste management alternative to incineration and to identify sources of efficiency. Solvent recovery was found to be €1,200,000 per annum cheaper than incineration, mainly through process material savings. An alternative solvent recovery system to the existing one was identified and optimised and found to be 48% cheaper.

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