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Industrial fire protection starts with a protective coating

Industrial fire protection starts with a protective coating

For some industrial facilities, fireproofing is a prerequisite for holding on to the facility’s insurance, at least at rates resembling anything close to affordable. Many owners of refineries, petrochemical and oil and gas facilities that contact us have just received a call from their insurance companies. They’ve been told that in order to keep their current plan, measures would need to be taken to ensure the facility has adequate industrial fire protection.

Throughout the refinement process, regardless of the desired final product, various flammable liquids and byproducts move along a network of pipes supported by structural steel. Pipe racks, refinement vessels, steel supporting structures, any construction which could potentially be exposed to a fire, and which could collapse before the fire is brought under control, will likely be designated for fireproofing. In the event of a fire, the flammable liquids at the heart of a business can quickly become the fuel helping to burn it down. Active industrial fire protection like foaming and sprinkler systems should kick in to battle the fire, but these measure are often meant only to slow a serious blaze.

While industrial fire protection via fireproofing is certainly a good idea—it can be the difference between a damaged facility and one that has suffered a total collapse—fireproofing steel mandates are usually followed up by very little in the way of specific direction.

If the insurance company is pushing for a plan to be in place immediately, fireproofing can be a stressful experience. Some areas that now need to be fireproofed may never have been fireproofed before. For other areas, it may have been years since fireproofing was last performed. Perhaps the facility has changed ownership by then, or the previous facility manager has moved on, leaving no personnel with fireproofing experience. Even auditors touring your facility, though they may have strong opinions on what sort of fireproofing work needs to be performed, will offer no clues as to how the work should be performed.

Industrial fire protection for refineries

Passive fire protection for your facility

As firefighters and active industrial fire protection systems battle the blaze, passive fire protection can buy valuable time for structural steel that would otherwise become distorted under such extreme heat. The purpose of passive fire protection is to protect this structural steel only for a given amount of time, until the fire can be extinguished. Refinery fires sometimes reach temperatures upwards of 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit; hot enough to melt most structural steel alloys.

Passive fire protection methods such as intumescent coatings are measured according to the time they have been proven to withstand these heats with the laboratory. Independent safety science companies, such as the Underwriters Laboratories (UL), provide third party testing of fireproofing coatings and then rate the products according to how long they are able to withstand the heat of the flames.

Insurance auditors will specify a necessary minimum time rating for an asset based on its use, susceptibility to fire and the anticipated difficulty of extinguishing an outbreak. The most common rating is 1.5 hours. Higher ratings can be achieved by adding mil thickness during application of the coating. UL 1709 is the standard most commonly applied to heavy industrial fireproofing products.

Still have questions about industrial fire protection? Download our guide to industrial fireproofing below or click here to speak to a NACE-certified professional today.

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Industrial fire protection starts with a protective coating

An Open Letter From Mike Reed to Independent Sales Reps

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Independent coatings sales reps are becoming something of a dying breed in industrial coatings these days. As a few companies rise to global standing, they are becoming increasingly obsessed with preserving margins on the sales side in order to compensate for the astronomical overheads required to maintain a shiny, global brand. Meanwhile, talented independent salespeople– each with their own stuffed Rolodexes (or a modern equivalent), industry expertise and entrepreneurial spirit– are being pushed to the side or absorbed into low-paying positions with almost non-existent sales incentives.

The Current Model

In place of the independent sales model, a few different strategies are emerging. National and international coatings giants are making efforts to formally bring independent salespeople into their employ, choosing to not provide commissions that make a salesperson a living commensurate with their talents.

Still other coatings manufacturers are, and have been for some time, erecting brick and mortar locations in their operational areas and having dealers work from these shops alongside the armies of employees that man the shops. It has the same effect of reducing or eliminating commissions for sales and, I suspect, removing any incentive for above-and-beyond salesmanship.

This distribution model is still practiced on a much smaller scale by independent sales reps, but more and more large manufacturers are pulling their products from these reps to keep from having to divvy up margins. The products still being sold by independent reps now tend to come more from niche manufacturers.

Perhaps this is part of a larger movement in the United States and elsewhere, where all possible efforts are made to concentrate profits at the summit of the organizational pyramid. Major industrial coatings brands are now confident enough in the esteem of their global brand that they no longer invest much on the sales side. They let their product’s labels do their selling for them.

An Alternative Model

It is possible, even still, to find another mode of operation (and full disclosure, this is the one that I have always envisioned for my own business). This model is based on nimble, responsive salesmanship. It is a global network, without the overseas offices. It is a web of talented, independent salespeople with their own contacts, experience and incentive to sell.

The independent sales model keeps all of the manufacturing capabilities without the overhead that comes with putting the brand name above everything else. And lower operating costs free up space for higher commissions. Higher commissions in turn attract a more driven, talented sales force.

There may be fewer and fewer players in industrial coatings who operate by this model, but that just means a deeper talent pool. For these companies, locating seasoned independent salespeople represents the biggest challenge and the biggest opportunity to challenge established industry megabrands.

The independent salesperson may be an endangered species, but for emerging coatings companies, they represent a mutually beneficial opportunity to seriously grow sales volume.

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Industrial fire protection starts with a protective coating

Talking to a Paint Specs Professional

Finding out who to talk to about paint specifications is often one of the biggest hurdles for facility owners and managers. They simply don’t know where to start. They usually rely on one of three options. They either reach out directly to a contractor, to an engineering firm or to the manufacturers themselves.

The Contractor

There are obvious issues with expecting a contractor to write paint specifications for a project, especially if they plan on being involved in the bidding process. The potential for conflict of interest between the contractor and owner is simply too high. That said, a trusted contractor is often able to point an owner in the direction of an engineering firm or manufacturer with whom they’ve worked in the past and whose specifications they have been satisfied with.

Engineering Firms

Engineering firms tend to write thorough, detailed project specification sheets, though typically at a cost. When it comes to the paint portion of the specification, some larger engineering firms will have a coatings specialist on staff. Others will, like contractors, fall back on trusted connections they’ve worked with in the past. This may mean going directly to the manufacturer to consult product data sheets or for an opinion on products. Say, for instance, which coating would be capable of standing up to a specific chemical concoction housed in a large storage tank.

Coatings Manufacturers

Coatings manufacturers specialize in the sort of details hashed out in a paint specification sheet. They are familiar with the strengths and drawbacks of their products, ideal application conditions and the best methods for applying them. Coatings sales representatives need to make sure their products work properly. They have a vested interest in writing specifications in such a way that their products live out their service lives and successfully guard against corrosion. Otherwise, repeat business is a pipe dream.

That said, owners should not assume that all manufacturer-generated spec sheets are created equal. Some will call it a done deal once they’ve talked to you on the phone, heard you describe the conditions in your facility, and then written you a recommendation for a product that will probably get the job done. In general, if a manufacturer makes a recommendation after only one phone call, it’s time to cue the alarm bells.

A more detailed approach to a paint specification sheet is likely needed for a successful project. The writer should have a feel for the ambient conditions surrounding the asset in question. Personally inspecting current levels of corrosion, atmospheric conditions, frequency of wetting, operating temperature fluctuations and other site-specific concerns will lead to a better understanding of the stresses the coatings will be exposed to, and the level of protection needed to preserve the asset.

If an owner should decide to go to a coatings manufacturer for writing paint specifications, he or she should demand at least that level of detail. If the manufacturer is unable or unwilling to accommodate those standards, it would perhaps be wise to explore other options. Remember, the specification sheet will determine the entire scope and direction of your project. It’s not a place to cut corners.

US Coatings

If you would like to discuss writing paint specifications further – the writing process, what you should expect from a completed document, or ask any question you may have – please contact one of our NACE-certified professionals at US Coatings.

Alternatively, if you want to know more about paint specifications, download our comprehensive guide to writing paint specifications below.

 

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Industrial fire protection starts with a protective coating

Breaking Down Paint Specifications

The paint specifications sheet will determine the entire scope of any coating project. Specifically, for a painting project, this is broken down into three broad categories; the product to be used, the surface preparation required and how the product should be applied.

As mentioned in our previous post on how to write paint specifications, a specification’s worth is largely a matter of detail. Instructions must be detailed enough to avoid misunderstandings between the contractor and the owner, while not being unnecessarily restrictive. The following are details that may be included for each category of the specification.

The Product

“Sole spec” sheets are written specifically for a certain product. This is a situation where “shall” or an equally stern term will be used to refer to the product to be used. In some instances, such as federally funded projects, sole spec sheets are not permitted. In these instances, a few options may be provided, or “may” will be used to indicate a tolerable substitute. Here a product may be referred to as “trade name or equal”. This section will also likely specify any unique product formulations the project requires. For instance, if strict VOC regulations are a concern, this section could stipulate a high solids or even 100% solids formulation.

Surface Preparation

The most commonly accepted industry standards pertaining to surface preparation were devised by the Society for Protective Coatings (SSPC) and the National Association of Corrosion Engineers International (NACE). These are the gold standard for measuring the readiness of a surface to receive a coat of paint. These surface preparation standards range from SP1 to SP14, though a higher number does not necessarily indicate a higher level of surface cleanliness. Each standard indicates the method of cleaning as well as criteria for evaluating the outcome. For instance, an SP5/NACE 1 level of surface preparation is a white metal blast cleaning “that should leave the surface free of visible oil, grease, dust, dirt, mill scale, rust, coating, oxides, corrosion products and other foreign matter.”

Because surface preparation is such a tremendously important step in the process (improperly preparing a surface is a surefire way to shorten the coating’s service life) spec sheets must either stipulate the required level of surface preparation or direct the contractor to a product data sheet that does so.

Application

This is another section of the spec sheet that should heavily reference specific product data sheets. The ambient conditions, number of coats and mil thickness required for a successful application should be spelled out in that document.

The specification sheet should also specify the method to be used during application. If a specific formulation, such as a 100% solids formulation is called for, then this section should also include any notes on required application equipment such as plural component pumps. The contractor should also be made aware of any other challenges that may arise during the application process in this section of the specification sheet.

Your paint specification sheet will specify what products are needed and how they need to be applied, as well as the surface preparation required for the job. These are the core elements of a paint specification, but to learn everything there is to know about paint specifications you can download our comprehensive guide below.

 

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Industrial fire protection starts with a protective coating

What are Paint Specifications?

Implementing corrosion protection for your facility all starts with one important document: your paint specifications sheet. Your paint specifications sheet will outline the entire course of your project. This document must clearly and concisely lay out the conditions and processes that will prevent corrosion and other harmful damages to your facility.

It is not a statement of how the project should look once completed, but rather a detailed explanation of the conditions necessary to achieve maximum service life and corrosion protection. Paint specifications are the project template, and if something is wrong with the template, the finished product simply won’t perform properly.

In the unfortunate event of a dispute between a contractor and a project owner, the project specifications will also likely be used to determine whether each party lived up to its responsibilities. This is just another reason to make sure your paint specifications are thorough and clear before a project gets off the ground.

How to Write Paint Specifications

Well-written paint specifications contain exactly as much detail as they need to make expectations clear and no more. Industrial coatings are more complex than they used to be, and paint specifications need to reflect that complexity.

At the same time, these specifications need to be unambiguous in order to avoid confusion about an owner’s expectations. It should be clear to a contractor that the owner expects all aspects of the document to be lived up to, or else any recommended changes should be clearly mentioned during the bidding process.

Clarity of the paint specifications will reduce the likelihood that a contractor’s work does not conform to expectations. A clear understanding between both parties will also reduce the probability that expensive change orders will need to be filed during the course of the work.

As mentioned before, specifications can act as legal documents in the case of a dispute, and any confusion resulting from unclear specifications may increase the risk of a breach of contract or a legal dispute.

But what are the actual elements of a specification document?

What exactly is being specified?

For answers to these questions and more info on who to talk to about paint specifications, download our whitepaper below.

 

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Industrial fire protection starts with a protective coating

The cost effectiveness of flow efficiency coatings

Note: This is the fourth of a series of posts covering the definition, development and properties of flow efficiency coatings. Click the button at the bottom of this post to download the full PDF.

internal pipe coatings

Our series on flow coatings has hopefully been building the case that, when the advantages of flow efficiency coatings are combined with the corrosion-resistant properties of 100 solids coatings, they more than justify the expenditure.

Flow coatings have been shown to reduce both capital and operating expenditures over the long term. A 2000 study demonstrated that flow coatings were capable of cutting friction coefficients by 50 percent in carbon steel pipes.

Another study by Rafael Zamorano shows that a 1,200 km pipeline owned by GasAtacama returned substantial savings by using internal flow coatings. The company reported saving $2.4 million in fuel for compressor stations alone. When this figure was added to reductions in capital and operating costs, savings exceeded $20 million.

Shell Global Solutions was recently able to demonstrate cost savings of 5% on a 250 km stretch of pipeline because flow efficiency coatings allowed them to move to a smaller diameter pipe. France’s Institut Francais du Petrole realized cost savings of 7-14% in lightly corroded pipe and 15-25% in the case of highly corroded pipe.

The sticker shock that accompanies these 100 percent solids has discouraged owners from investing in them, despite the returns on investment they have been found to deliver. On average, 100 percent solids run around twice the cost of the same amount of 50 percent solids.

Fortunately, these higher solid coatings end up covering about twice the surface area of the lower solid option. This turns the price difference into a relative wash. Once the added benefits of a 100 percent solid are factored in—zero VOCs, no loss factors since the components aren’t mixed until the time of the application and added corrosion protection—then 100 percent solids bring far more to the table than their apparently lower-priced counterparts.

The debate over the cost-effectiveness of flow efficiency coatings has raged for some time. But developments in 100 percent solids coatings lead to added benefits as internal pipe coatings that tip the balance in favor of these coatings. Unlike their forerunners, these coatings allow for added mil thickness when corrosion protection is a concern. In addition to increasing hydraulic efficiency and preventing buildup, internal pipeline coatings are now able to provide effective corrosion protection. And given the rise of new forms of oil and gas extraction, corrosive materials will soon be flowing through a lot more pipeline.

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Industrial fire protection starts with a protective coating

Note: This is the third of a series of posts covering the definition, development and properties of flow efficiency coatings. Click the button at the bottom of this post to download the full PDF.

Flow efficiency plus internal pipeline corrosion control

For years, regulatory agencies have focused on the issue of external pipeline corrosion, sometimes neglecting or leaving aside the question of internal corrosion. Not surprisingly given the harsh environments many oil and gas pipelines operate in, most of the energy has been allocated to preventing corrosion occurring on the outside of pipelines.

Only recently have pipeline owners begun to focus serious attention on problems (and missed opportunities) stemming from internal buildup and corrosion. As documented cases of internal corrosion pile up, the argument for flow efficiency coatings being a sound investment is strengthened. The proliferation of hydraulic fracturing and similar methods of oil and gas extraction only furthers this conclusion. For an explanation of why these methods introduce more corrosive elements than traditional extraction methods, see this post on tank linings in the age of hydraulic fracturing.

Traditionally, internal pipeline coatings have been divided into two groups: those aimed at improving hydraulic efficiency and those aimed at controlling corrosion. Flow coatings, typically applied at a thickness of around 2 mils, were not sufficiently thick to be considered corrosion resistant linings, which are typically around 5 mils thick.

But 100 percent solids can help to close this gap between traditional flow coatings and corrosion resistant ones. Unlike with water or solvent-based coatings, 100 percent solids allow for the addition of mil thickness until the desired level is reached. There is no danger of water or solvents becoming trapped within the film build because there is no water or solvent.

This feature allows 100 percent solids to provide added value as internal pipeline coatings, since they serve both to increase hydraulic efficiency and to fight the sort of corrosion that can lead to disastrous financial and environmental setbacks.

Internal pipeline corrosion control

As mentioned in an earlier post, increased attention is being paid to flow rate and instances of internal corrosion. According to a study conducted by the API, corrosion was still the leading cause of leaks by 2012. There were 204 total incidents of internal corrosion between 1999 and 2012. Of these incidents, 31 occurred in portions of pipeline that had intermittent flow and seven in portions that had no flow. In these instances of low to no flow, water is more likely to collect against the side of the pipe, creating the conditions necessary for corrosion to occur.

The report concludes that, while instances of external corrosion continue to be the leading cause of incidents along pipelines, much more has been done to address these external issues. As a result, their rate of occurrence is dropping far faster than instances of internal corrosion.

When the stakes include the costs of a damaged asset, time lost with the asset out of service, leaked material and environmental liabilities, then it stands to reason that internal anti-corrosion coatings justify the initial cost output. If they also combine flow-efficiency properties, their value is all the more certain.

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Industrial fire protection starts with a protective coating

Note: This is the second of a series of posts covering the definition, development and properties of flow efficiency coatings. Click the button at the bottom of this post to download the full PDF. 

Flow efficiency coatings: A history

For years, the most common formulations of flow coatings were based on low solids epoxies. But recent regulations governing VOCs emissions at the regional, national and international levels have made these formulations difficult or impossible to use. In response, some companies have begun to experiment with new formulas for internal pipe coatings.

Flow efficiency coatings: A history

Water-based epoxies emerged early as a potential solution, but problems have surfaced. Water has proven difficult to remove once the coatings have been applied. This makes climate a major factor in the application process. In predominantly humid environments, water-based coatings have a tendency not to dry at all.

Plural-component, 100 percent solids coatings have superseded water-based epoxies as a solution to the problem of flow efficiency coatings and emissions regulations. These have been shown to have quick cure times, regardless of weather conditions. Even in rain, 100 percent solids tend to dry. And of course, because they contain no solvents, they comply with even the strictest regulations.

It is true that some investments must be made in order for an operation to make use of plural component coatings. Pumps and other application equipment are on consideration. The products themselves are generally about twice as expensive, as well. This turns into a relative wash, though, because they also tend to cover twice the surface area of lower solids coatings, so about half as much product is required. Waste is also a non-issue, since plural component coatings are not mixed until the moment before they are applied.

These benefits make 100 percent solids a viable option for use as flow efficiency coatings. But there is another benefit high solids coatings can bring to flow efficiency that may ultimately tip the balance in favor of the cost-effectiveness of these types of coatings. In our next post, we’ll be discussing how, and why, corrosion-resistant properties can be combined for ultimate utility.

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How internal pipe coatings affect pipeline-pumping efficiency

internal pipe coatings

Note: This is the first in a series of posts covering the definition, development and properties of flow efficiency coatings. Click the button at the bottom of this post to download the full PDF.

Flow efficiency coatings are meant to reduce operational costs associated with pumping petroleum products through a pipeline by enhancing the smoothness of the pipe’s interiors.

These pipe linings improve hydraulic efficiency by smoothening the interior surface and preventing the buildup of corrosion and deposits. The elimination of even minor variations in surface height inside of a pipeline has been shown to drastically reduce the costs associated with pumping products through the line.

The American Petroleum Institute (API), one of the agencies which publishes standards for flow efficiency coatings, cites the following four benefits of flow efficiency coatings; improved flow characteristics, corrosion protection during the period preceding construction, enhancement of visual inspection of the internal pipe surface and the improvement of pigging efficiency.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has also issued guidelines for friction reduction coatings. In 2001, these standards began to account for some developments not accounted for in the standards issued by the API. But neither of these most common industry standards for flow efficiency coatings makes any provision for the presence of corrosive gasses. In fact, ISO 15741 explicitly states that the standards do not account for the presence of corrosive gasses.

As more and more oil is procured from water-intensive methods such as hydraulic fracturing, pipeline owners will have to account for the presence of corrosive materials. This trend will have to be reflected in domestic or international standards regarding the use of flow efficiency coatings, and has potential to shift the most desirable formulations for flow efficiency coatings.

In our next post on flow efficiency coatings, we’ll discuss some basic formulations, the reasons they haven’t been universally adopted and improvements on the horizon.

Flow efficiency coatings

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Industrial fire protection starts with a protective coating

Aboveground storage tank regulations changing in West Virginia

WV Aboveground Storage Tank Regulations Changing

A disastrous spill of chemicals into the Elk River near Charleston, West Virginia early this year left 300,000 people without clean drinking water and prompted legislation mandating tighter regulations for inspecting aboveground storage tanks.

The spill, which left area residents completely reliant on bottled water, understandably prompted fears that a similar incident could again occur in the future. Legislators responded with Senate Bill 373, which contained sections entitled Aboveground Storage Tank Act 22-30 and Public Water Supply Protection Act 22-31.

An Interpretive Rule was released to assist in understanding and complying with the inspection guidelines set out in West Virginia’s Aboveground Storage Tank Act. Broadly speaking, this new legislation requires aboveground storage tank (ASTs) owners to have their tanks inspected before the first of the year, and to address the issues described in the Interpretive Rule.

We can help

The Interpretive Rule was released solely for the purpose of helping AST owners understand the inspection demands in light of the quick action required. Imminent deadlines have made compliance a tricky issue for AST owners.

Here’s where we come in. US Coatings offers coating specification consulting at no cost to you. Meet with an experienced coatings representative to discuss some of the challenges your tank linings will face. We’ll select coatings based on the appropriate chemical resistances, discuss the application procedure and begin to draw up a maintenance procedure for moving forward.

Corrosion maintenance plans help to reduce instances of unforeseen expenditures on your AST in the future. When well designed, these coatings maintenance budget projections can spread costs out over time and help to avoid the sort of tank lining failures that could be catastrophic for the environment and area residents.

A highly unfortunate turn of events led to a change of regulations in the state of West Virginia. But the burden of that change shouldn’t be unbearable for the state’s AST owners. We think we can help make the transition a little easier.

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