Protecting infrastructure and manufacturing assets in conditions ranging from offshore North Sea oilfields to a bridge in San Diego, industrial maintenance coatings perform varied functions around the world. Polymers from waterborne acrylic latexes to 2K epoxy primers with 2K urethane topcoats are utilized in these coating systems. Corrosion protection is the primary function of industrial maintenance coatings. This is a vital mission since it is estimated that corrosion costs the global economy 3.1 trillion (USD) annually. Corrosion conditions are outlined in ISO 12944, which lists standard conditions ranked by severity of corrosive environments. The ratings range from C1 (light corrosive and chemical exposure) to C4 (marine and onshore service). These guidelines help the formulator develop coatings systems which perform as expected.
A large variety of polymeric binder systems are utilized in IMC. These choices influence the cost/performance balance, ease of application, cure response and environmental impact of the coating. Often different binder technologies are used in combination to achieve the desired level of protection. A classic combination used in highly demanding conditions is an epoxy primer to provide corrosion resistance and substrate adhesion with a 2K polyurethane topcoat with excellent water and UV degradation resistance. Resin manufacturers are concentrating R&D efforts on higher performance waterborne coatings and sustainable polymers for IMC.
Current status of industrial maintenance coatings
The highest performing industrial maintenance coatings are 2K solvent-based systems with proven track records. Epoxy and urethane binders dominate this market segment and are most common in applications for C3 and C4 corrosion categories as defined by ISO 12944. A recent study found that 38% of the revenue from 2K protective coatings comes from epoxy resins. Specialized applications exposed to extreme temperatures or harsh weathering conditions might use silicone or fluoropolymers to achieve the required performance. Fire retardant coatings are another specialized application. They help minimize structural damage during a fire, enhancing occupant and responder safety during an evacuation.
For less demanding applications, waterborne coatings share the market with single component solvent-borne paints based on alkyd binders. Improvements in waterborne IM Coatings performance has reduced the market share of 1K solvent-borne paints since they offer environmental advantages. This is particularly true in North America and the EU with their stricter regulations. In these regions, about 10% of industrial maintenance coatings sold are waterborne. The global market share of waterborne IM coatings is sure to increase with improved performance and wider adoption of stringent environmental regulations. BASF currently markets several waterborne polymers capable of performing at C2 corrosive conditions as DTM systems and under C3 conditions as primers.
Market and regulatory drivers for Industrial maintenance coatings
Infrastructure initiatives are strong market drivers for industrial maintenance coatings sales. Protecting infrastructure is an important function for these products. Post-pandemic, many nations and regions are undertaking infrastructure improvements as a way of directly and indirectly driving economic growth. Transportation infrastructure is often the first thing that comes to mind. Properly constructed and maintained transportation systems are vitally important to a modern economy. Roads, bridges, rail lines and ports all depend on the protection afforded by industrial maintenance coatings to prevent damage inflicted by weather and wear.
Supplying clean, usable water for people, agriculture and industry is another important infrastructure function. Coatings for water and wastewater management need to protect the structures they are applied to from damage by corrosion or chemical exposure. These coatings also need to protect the liquid they transport from contamination, or in the case of wastewater, contaminating the outside environment. The need for clean water and effective sanitation will steadily grow with global population and improved standards of living.
Infrastructure combating global warming is a significant growth driver for IM coatings. According to an NPR story, wind energy capacity grew 90% in 2020 (1), despite the economic downturn associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest expansion of wind power is taking place in offshore locations under harsh conditions. High performance, corrosion-resistant industrial maintenance coatings are needed for the long-term protection of these installations. California’s San Gorgonio Pass has a variety of wind turbines, some almost 40 years old. Keeping these generating power through proper maintenance, and a fresh coat of paint, is more sustainable than replacing them with newer models.
Advances on the horizon
Industrial maintenance coatings are ripe for innovation. The large and growing market with diverse applications and a variety of performance requirements encourages investment in new raw materials and formulated products. Improving the performance of waterborne and Direct to Metal (DTM) coatings is a high priority for coatings formulators and material suppliers. A waterborne DTM coating that performs like a 2K solvent-based two-coat system is considered the ultimate achievement. While this is a lofty goal, attaining it would be a great leap forward for IM coatings in economics and sustainability. Currently, only about 4% of coatings in the higher performance market segment are waterborne. Pushing the performance of waterborne IM coatings is the path to increasing the waterborne share of this market.
Besides increasing the performance of waterborne systems, demands for sustainability gains also drive the market to innovate. Many factors contribute to sustainability, two of the most important that can be applied to industrial maintenance coatings are renewable/recycled raw materials and life cycle analysis. Renewable raw materials are generally thought of as being plant-based. There is some movement to using carbon black from recycled tires as a pigment in all types of coatings including IMC.
Life cycle analysis can determine the sustainability of a product throughout is existence, from how the raw materials are generated until the end of its service life and eventual disposal or recycling. Several factors contribute to the sustainability of IM coatings. Improved protective properties are sustainable due to longer service life. The better a coating protects the substrate, the longer the object lasts. Renewable raw materials prevent the use of fossil resources enabling a lower carbon footprint. Circularity, defined as the ability to reuse, repurpose or recycle an object, is the final stage of the life cycle. Formulating industrial maintenance coatings that facilitate circularity at the end of the service life, while a novel concept, will be an important future expectation.
1) “Renewable Energy Growth Rate Up 45% Worldwide In 2020; IEA Sees ‘New Normal’” May 11, 2021 https://www.npr.org/2021/05/11/995849954/renewable-energy-capacity-jumped-45-worldwide-in-2020-iea-sees-new-normal
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