The shares of Ethyl Corp., the Richmond-based chemical company, climbed to near-record heights last week as investors were betting that a new Ethyl product called HiTec 3000 could turn a $30 stock into a $60 stock in five years.

HiTec 3000 is the name that Ethyl has given to a gasoline additive that it wants to sell for use in unleaded gas. Before it can do so, Ethyl must get the approval of the Environmental Protection Agency. An EPA hearing on Ethyl's proposal, held Friday, demonstrated that the debate over the additive is likely to be quite stormy. The EPA has until Nov. 5 to rule.

Ethyl has asked the EPA to let refiners put a half-teaspoon of HiTec 3000 in every 20 gallons of gasoline. The benefit of the additive, Ethyl claims, will be a boost in octane and a reduction in harmful tailpipe emissions, including nitrogen oxide, a major component of urban smog. Ethyl says the additive will not harm automobile catalytic converters.

The catch in all of this is that HiTec 3000 contains manganese, an ore-like chemical element.

Ethyl says the emissions of manganese from cars would be "infinitesimal" and "of no concern from a public health or environmental perspective."

But Ellen Silbergeld, a toxicologist, representing the Environmental Defense Fund, told EPA officials it was their duty to reject the Ethyl additive because the manganese would be toxic to humans and would contaminate the environment. Silbergeld said that Ethyl's arguments in favor of HiTec 3000 were similar to the ones Ethyl made in 1925, when it won approval for the use of a leaded antiknock additive in gasoline. Lead later proved injurious to humans and is being phased out by government decree.

The story of lead is the story of Ethyl. Lead once was its main product. But once lead was banned, Ethyl began to diversify into the production of other chemicals. It also has found its way into pharmaceuticals and life insurance.

Ethyl, a Fortune 500 company, had net sales and insurance revenues of $2.4 billion and a net profit of $231 million in 1989. The company employs 5,500 people at 20 manufacturing plants and laboratories in the United States, Canada and overseas.

Analyst Leonard Bogner at Prudential-Bache Securities in New York recently examined the prospects for Ethyl stock from two angles -- if Ethyl gets approval for HiTec 3000 and if Ethyl fails to get approval.

Bogner concluded that Ethyl shares are likely to outperform the market with or without HiTec 3000. Without the additive, he said, the company could generate earnings growth of 12 percent a year. With approval of HiTec 3000, he said, Ethyl's growth would rise to 18 to 19 percent.

If HiTec 3000 is approved, Bogner expects two things to happen: First, other firms will begin to compete with Ethyl to manufacture a similar product, and a worldwide market will develop for the additive.

"Our best guess," wrote Bogner, "is that Ethyl ultimately could achieve at least a 50 percent share of the U.S. market ... and a 25 {percent} to 50 percent slice of the rest of the world. This would translate into HiTec 3000-based sales of at least $250 million and an aftertax net of $125 million, equal to more than $1 a share."

Analyst Louis E. Hannen of Wheat, First Securities in Richmond, said he believes the company "is doing all the right things" as it continues its transition from a lead additive producer to a diversified, multi-line chemical company. However, he said that while he holds a favorable view of the company, he thinks the stock is fully priced at its current level, at least for a short-term investor.

But, for an investor with a longer time horizon, Hannen said, Ethyl stock offers an interesting buying opportunity. Ethyl shares closed Friday at $29, down $1.125, a drop that no doubt reflected the opposition voiced at the EPA to Ethyl's HiTec 3000 proposal.

one of the worst climates for bank stocks in many years, community banks continue to pop up in the Washington area. The latest entry is Tysons National Bank, which will make its home at 1921 Gallows Rd., Vienna. Tysons Financial Corp., the holding company for the bank, is selling between 620,000 and 750,000 shares at $10 a share to raise between $6.2 million and $7.5 million, before expenses. The bank's 14 organizers have agreed to invest $2 million.

The president of the bank is Terrie G. Spiro, who was head of Sports 2000, an Alexandria marketing firm. Before that, she worked for Century National Bank, Riggs National Bank and First American Bank.

Spiro said that, despite the gloomy atmosphere for banking, "We think this is a time of opportunity" to lend to customers who may find themselves turned away by the bigger banks caught in the credit crunch.

Like many community banks, Tysons National expects to put the emphasis on personal service. But things may be getting a little crowded in the Tysons area. Community bank competitors will include The Business Bank, Bank 2000 and Bank First. Bank 2000 recently merged with Jefferson Bank and Trust Co. of Maryland. Bank First will be acquired by United Bankshares Inc. of Charleston, W. Va.

One community bank that didn't make it to the ribbon-cutting ceremony is Horizon Bancorp Inc., a proposed bank holding company for GOLDCrest Bank of Bethesda. When the offering began a year ago, the sponsors wanted to raise between $6 million and $8 million by selling stock at $10 a share.

That target was later reduced and the sponsors tried to raise $5.5 million so they could get started. But the most they could raise was $3.8 million, said Michael J. Sullivan, a managing partner in Sullivan & Kreitzman, an accounting firm. So the offering was discontinued.

"Everything was right but the timing," Sullivan said, blaming the general banking climate for the disappointment. He also noted that Johnston, Lemon & Co., of Washington, whose name was on the prospectus "was not successful" in selling much stock.

Richard Waid, who runs J&L's corporate finance department, said that his firm tried hard to sell the stock but it was difficult to get investors interested at a time when they could buy shares of major banks at very low prices. It was difficult, too, Waid said, to get investors to tie up large amounts of money in a stock that might not move much for four or five years.

J&L was not an underwriter of the Horizon offering, meaning it did not have a firm commitment to buy the shares and resell them. J&L, instead, was acting as an agent on a "best efforts" basis, meaning J&L agreed to sell as many shares as it could.

Alpha 1 Biomedicals Inc. of Washington, has sold 1 million units at $4.25 a unit to raise $4.25 million before expenses. A unit consists of one share of common stock and one warrant to buy another share at $6.

Alpha 1 Biomedicals develops pharmaceutical products for the treatment of human immune deficiencies and resulting diseases. The company's stock got a big boost recently when Alpha 1 and a partner, Cel-Sci Corp. of Alexandria, announced that they would begin human testing of a potential AIDS vaccine.

John E. Montgomery, who has been the chief investment officer at Foxhall Investment Management in Washington, has been named president. Foxhall manages $360 million, of which $50 million is in a municipal bond fund.

Foxhall is a division of Thomson, McKinnon Asset Management L.P. In the breakup of Thomson, McKinnon brokerage firm, the money management officers bought out their part of the business with help of Greylock Investments and TA Associates, both of Boston.

Which Washington area companies have the strongest profit growth? The Standard & Poor's June stock summary lists the following area companies and their five-year annual growth rates: Circuit City Stores, the electronics retailer, 33 percent; Legent Corp., the computer company, 46 percent; Student Loan Marketing Association (Sallie Mae), 28 percent; and T. Rowe Price Associates, the Baltimore mutual fund company, 37 percent.