Feature: Sustainability and future developments

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Since 1952, Belzona has been one of the leading companies within the protective coatings sector and has witnessed first-hand technology’s influence on coating developments. We spoke with Belzona R&D Manager, Jason Horn, who provided his thoughts on the future of the industry.
Q. What is Belzona’s approach to sustainability?
A: Belzona’s philosophy has always focused on sustainability. In fact, the company’s founder, Jorgen Svendsen, made a point of emphasising the original tagline “Conservation of Man-Made Resources”. So, from that perspective, we focus on longer lasting products which extend the life of assets and equipment.
From a chemistry viewpoint, there are several examples where we use raw materials that are ‘greener’ and derive from renewable feedstocks; however, this hasn’t been the driving force behind their inclusion. We use them because of their performance or safety attributes which are the key influencers for any Belzona coating. We are well-known for our solvent-free epoxy coatings, as well as very low VOC content. This allows us to have high performance but also the cold-curing aspect to our solutions, which is good for in-situ application. So, as a business, we are continuing that sustainable focus by creating non-harmful and safe-to-use systems.

Q. Do you see pressure for a renewable push?
A: Certainly, there is a greater emphasis on heavy industries wanting to be seen as sensitive to environmental issues, as well as more energy efficient. So, the crucial turning point will be when these industries start demanding renewably sourced coatings. This will be where the significant pressure comes from, requiring coatings companies to incorporate a higher percentage of renewable feedstocks into their formulations.
The industry is going to go that way, but currently there are limitations – certainly for high performance coatings. Commodity products, which don’t meet the same performance levels i.e. heat resistance, might be able to incorporate a higher proportion of renewable feedstocks. However, once you’re getting into the top-end products you really are looking for the best materials to achieve the greatest performance. So, I think that the cost implications and current feedstock availability mean the industry just isn’t ready yet.
Otherwise, there is the government legislation push, focused on improving coating safety by reducing VOCs and solvents. This is something we have already achieved with our solvent-free range and the main reason why water-based systems don’t interest us as much. Because water is a substitute for solvents, it isn’t a technology which will help to enhance our existing solutions. Reclassification of raw materials to make coatings safer is another positive, yet significant pressure. This includes re-evaluating the hazard rating of epoxy resins and amine curatives.

Q: What is Belzona’s approach to making a ‘greener’ and safer coatings sector?
A: We have always tried to stay ahead of the game when it comes to legislation, and typically removed materials that are CMRs or extremely damaging to the environment. If you look through our product catalogue, we have created new formulations to remove hazardous substances – Bisphenol A, phenol, alkyl phenols and Mercury based catalysts – and we will continue to review our range when necessary.
In terms of exploring future opportunities, we are always interested in new raw materials and the properties and qualities these can add to our products. One aspect that has great potential for further exploration is the increased use of hybrid technologies to impart additional features. Synergy is really important in terms of getting maximum performance and benefit; the use of multiple technologies to achieve enhancements which might not be possible from a single material type.
Lastly, the coatings sector will take an even greater involvement with extending the lifespan of renewable assets. If we take leading edge protection of wind turbine blades as an example, this is a significant area where protective coatings can have a ‘greener’ impact.

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