Can polymeric technology help to “accelerate decarbonisation” across multiple industries?
Although real progress was made at the COP26 Summit, the main conclusion drawn by the Glasgow Climate Pact was that further emissions cuts are required and need to be provided by the end of 2022. This is to ensure that countries are on track to meet the UN Paris Agreement’s target of net-zero by 2050.
To achieve these carbon reductions, the 2021 State of Climate Action Report, authored by the climate analysis coalition, Climate Action Tracker (CAT) explains how: “In some industries, the technologies, practices, and approaches needed to accelerate decarbonisation are well understood but have not yet seen the levels of investment and political support needed to rapidly scale up mitigation action.”
As polymeric repair composites and protective coatings fall into the bracket of “technologies” that can actively “accelerate decarbonisation”, it could be argued that further investment into these systems could help many industries to ratchet up their carbon intensity reduction plans in line with the net-zero target.
As part of the ever-growing arsenal of carbon mitigation technologies and initiatives, industrial coatings and repair composites can help industries to achieve these reductions.
With a comprehensive range of polymeric systems including epoxy repair composites, high-temperature coatings, liquid waterproof membranes, elastomeric roof coatings and pipe wraps, amongst others, these systems have been proven to not only repair and protect damaged assets across many different industries, but to also intrinsically improve them for the long term as well.
The environmental implications of this are astronomical. By bypassing the need to replace damaged assets and instead actively improving them, industries can make great strides in minimising their carbon footprints.
Repair And Protection Technology
For decades, companies such as Belzona have been developing polymeric materials to improve the “energy and process efficiency” of buildings, structures, machinery and equipment found across multiple different industries.
Examples of polymeric systems include products such as high-performance coating, Belzona 1341 (Supermetalglide), which can intrinsically improve pump efficiency by using hydrophobic technology to repel process fluids and reduce turbulent flow. This can create efficiency increases of up to 7% on new equipment and up to 20% on refurbished equipment.
Other solutions include the liquid waterproof membrane, Belzona 3111 (Flexible Membrane), which has been certified by Energy Star and ETA-Danmark (European Technical Assessment) and has proven to provide excellent protection of roofs for in excess of 25 years.
Mitigate The Carbon Intensity Of Steel
Another way to illustrate the carbon mitigation potential of polymeric materials is by considering the carbon footprint of steel. According to an article by Carbon Clean in 2021, for every ton of steel that is produced, nearly double the amount, 1.85 tons of CO2 is released back into the atmosphere. To put this into perspective, this means that if steel was a nation, it would be the fifth largest producer of carbon emissions in the world.
By investing in repair and protection systems that are specially developed for application onto metal substrates, such as the teo-part epoxy repair paste, Belzona 1111 (Super Metal), asset-owners can extend the lifespan of their steel assets.
In doing so, this greatly decreases the amount of steel that needs to be purchased. Not only will this help to mitigate the carbon intensity of steel, but it also enables asset-owners to make considerable financial savings too, as demonstrated in the following case study.
Steel Fabricator Saves Millions
These types of carbon and financial savings were made by a Steel Fabricator in Scunthorpe, UK. Over the course of several years, the asset owner has saved millions of pounds by deploying a series of polymeric repair and protection systems, including epoxy repair composites and stainless-steel protective coatings, on their gas pipeline.
Previously, the client had opted to replace the steel pipes that were severely damaged by corrosion. However, as each metre of pipeline costs £8,000, this meant that to replace a 90m section, a total expenditure of £720,000 was incurred.
To bypass these expensive replacement fees in the future, as well as mitigate the carbon intensity of replacing the damaged steel in this way, the client was looking for an alternative solution.
Following a Belzona inspection and then approval from the client, the following polymeric systems were used to repair and protect the corroded pipeline: Belzona 1151 (Smoothing Metal), Belzona 4151 (Magma-Quartz Resin), Belzona 4154 (Bulkfill Resin) and Belzona 5811 (Immersion Grade).
Starting in 2016 and continuing through into 2022, the Belzona systems were and continue to be deployed across the pipeline to combat the widespread corrosion - totalling a distance of 2,030m. This will help the fabricator to not only minimise its carbon footprint, but also to make approximately £16m in financial savings as well.
Safeguard Renewable Energy Assets
Although the CAT Report identified many areas that need urgent improvement, it also identified some positive areas of progress. It said: “In 2020, renewables reached a new all-time record, generating 29% of the world’s electricity (IEA 2021).”
Considering the ongoing success and necessary future growth of these types of renewable energy technologies, it is important that investments are made into protecting vital assets. This can be achieved through the investment of polymeric repair materials and industrial coatings.
Examples of polymeric systems include the reconstructive composite material, Belzona 5721, which been specially developed to repair leading edge damage on wind turbines. Thanks to the system’s low-temperature cure, as low as 5°C, this ensures the turbines have a fast return to service.
To repair damaged wind turbine shafts, the ceramic epoxy coating, Belzona 1321 (Ceramic S-Metal) can be deployed. This solvent-free coating provides excellent erosion and corrosion resistance to metal surfaces.
In hydropower applications, for areas that are particularly subjected to high levels of cavitation such as Kaplan turbine blades, Belzona 2141 (ACR-Fluid Elastomer) can be deployed. This two-part polyurethane resin offers an outstanding level of protection against cavitation at ultra-high velocities (up to 115 knots with no damage).
Polymeric Products Based On Sustainable Raw Materials
Another way in which polymeric technology can help industries to achieve better carbon intensity reductions is through the composition of the products themselves.
The Belzona R&D team is currently in the process of formulating products made from bio-based materials that are produced from sustainable plant-based feedstocks, rather than the traditional fossil-fuel based ingredients.
With the high levels of renewable carbon content, this new line of greener, more environmentally friendly products gives asset-owners a further opportunity to offset the environmental impact of their operations.
For these reasons, an increase in investment into industrial coatings and repair composites would help countries in the process of ratchetting up their 2030 emissions reduction plans, to achieve the net-zero emissions by 2050 target. Not only this, as discussed, these technologies are also instrumental in helping asset-owners across many different industries to make significant financial savings as well.