Will alloy-inducing anti-corrosion agents make metal blasting a thing of the past? By Merrick Alpert
Metal blasting (or sandblasting) has long been a go-to process to treat metal before the application of a surface material, such as an anti-corrosive agent. But as alloy-inducing anti-corrosion agents take the stage to compete with traditional barrier coatings, surface preparation will change. To understand why, we first ask: how are alloy-inducing anti-corrosion agents different from traditional agents, and how can these new players help save big on costs and equipment longevity. Let’s take a look.
How are alloy-inducing anti-corrosion agents different?
Using an alloy to prevent corrosion is markedly different than using a traditional coating. Traditional barrier coatings simply cover the surface of the material, leaving a space between the coating and the metal that can – and, over time, will – be permeated and compromised.
Alloy-inducing anti-corrosion agents, on the other hand, take this protection a step further. Instead of simply applying a protective coating to the material, alloy-inducing agents chemically bond with the top layer of the steel, forming an alloy. For this reason, unlike other anti-corrosion products, alloy-inducing anti-corrosion agents actually perform better when applied directly on flash rust.
That means significant savings for the asset owner in terms of surface preparation. Specifically, surface preparation should not be a near-white blast - only a standard commercial blast that removes old paint and contaminants such as mill scale, dirt and grease. And because there is no reason to fear flash rust, the entire surface area can be blasted and then hours, days, or weeks later, the alloy-inducing anti-corrosive agent can be applied. The inefficiency of today’s start-and-stop blasting method - done solely for the purpose of avoiding flash rust by getting paint on steel as soon as it is blasted - is eliminated.
Pros and cons of alloy-inducing and traditional anti-corrosion agents
Traditional barrier coatings often come in the form of a layer of protective paint. Once the sole option for businesses, this manner of steel protection has long been the industry standard. But alloy-inducing protection can offer stronger, longer-lasting protection than this traditional method. By chemically bonding to steel surfaces, these alloy-inducing coatings eliminate many of the downsides of barrier coatings for businesses.
Barrier coatings have their appeal. The process of metal blasting and applying a coating is often so ingrained in business processes that it has become second nature, and its outcome is reliable and predictable, regardless of drawbacks. But chipping and scratching of these protective barriers immediately exposes the steel to the elements. This leads to corrosion, with the coating helping to trap in moisture and further exacerbate the corrosion process rather than impede it. The nature of the process necessitates repeated application of barrier coatings to ensure continued protection of the steel.
Alloys, on the other hand, with their chemical bond, completely eliminate the opportunity for the protective layer to turn into an aggravating influence on the steel it was meant to protect. Alloy protection chemically bonds to the steel, ensuring the entire surface of the steel is fully protected. So, what are the drawbacks? Alloy-based protection has historically been a great deal pricier, edging businesses away from its alluring long-term value. Fortunately, solutions on the modern market are competitive with the cost of traditional barrier solutions in the short term, and significantly less costly in the long term.
Additionally, painted barrier coatings can often contain hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) or harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs), both of which many industries are working hard to eliminate from their processes as they embrace greener solutions.
Alloy-based protection is also covered by a ceramic layer that is resistant to elements such as fire, abrasion, impact, and common external influences, such as marine environments or temperatures as high as 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
And then there’s the issue of downtime. The time that it takes to metal blast equipment to prepare for coatings, as well as the time to dry, cure, apply, and reapply such coatings, is all time that the piece of equipment is out of commission. Because alloy-inducing agents actually thrive on a slightly oxidized surface, the need for extensive metal blasting is eliminated. The ceramic coating of an alloy-inducing protective layer requires a single application with little cure time. This means machinery is back up and running much quicker than with traditional coatings.
How is switching to alloy-inducing agents financially beneficial?
Eliminating redundant, time-consuming, or outdated steps can often lead to big savings of time and money. Oil, gas and other industries rely on every minute of equipment uptime to keep their businesses profitable. Metal blasting puts equipment out of commission, and in doing so, wastes precious time and money. Alloy-inducing coatings help curb this issue by minimizing downtime and allowing protective coatings to be applied at a wider range of temperatures. In addition, these coatings are often applied on site, making the process quick, effective, and safe. Furthermore, alloy-inducing agents go a long way towards extending the life of equipment and reducing replacement and repair costs that can quickly add up.
Instead of having to conduct an extensive metal blast and re-apply a barrier coating every three to seven years, or when scratches and nicks expose equipment to an exacerbating “greenhouse effect” that traps moisture between the breached barrier and the vulnerable steel, an alloy-inducing agent is good for the full lifetime of the equipment or the structure it bonds with. Unlike barrier coatings, when an alloy-inducing agent is scratched or otherwise breached, the ceramic coating (shell) acts as a pool of available phosphate that replenishes the steel’s alloy bond for a lifetime of anti-corrosive service without the need for further metal blasting.
For business owners and operation managers, alloy-inducing agents may be the key to extending the life of equipment, cutting costs, and maintaining reliable profits while eradicating the need for extensive metal-blasting. In addition, removing the necessity of flammable chemicals that emit harmful HAPs and VOCs can preserve the health of both the business and its valuable workforce. These agents can also help business owners preserve the use of carbon steel instead of paying for expensive stainless steel alternatives.
By doing away with the ongoing costs and downtime associated with traditional barrier coatings and rendering extensive metal blasting a process of the past, the operational and financial health of a business can improve.
Merrick Alpert, is President and a Member of the Board of Directors of EonCoat