Expert voice on protective coatings
Do you see possibilities to produce corrosion protection coatings more sustainably in the future?Henning Vogt: The concept of corrosion protection represents a strong sustainability argument in itself, prolonging the lifetime of assets and goods and thus reducing overall energy and material demand. Nonetheless, the industry can and will have to do more to further improve the sustainability footprint along the value chain, and there is a multitude of pathways leading towards this aim.
Westlake Epoxy, as a major supplier of raw materials for the protective coatings industry, has implemented challenging sustainability goals to create safer and more sustainable products. An important part of our sustainability strategy is to integrate renewable carbon materials into our raw material supply chain while reducing energy use and greenhouse gas emissions and thus aiming for a more circular economy for epoxy products.
An important focus area for coatings remains the reduction of VOC emissions to improve air quality, with the ultimate goal of bringing these emissions down to zero, as is already being addressed with our “Aquareous” epoxy technology. The transition of more traditional solvent-borne application segments to water-borne or high solids approaches will require binder systems which are comparable to solvent-borne systems in robustness, user-friendliness and ease of formulation. A step towards less complex and more stable paint formulations is our new Enabling Curing Agent technology, and further development is ongoing to offer solutions for less controlled application conditions. More universal epoxy resin systems and paint products with a longer shelf life can facilitate stock keeping and product management, and ultimately reduce waste.
On the actual application side, a reduction in the number of layers would result in lower energy consumption regarding application and drying, along with other cost savings. This can either be achieved by increasing the performance level at reduced coating thickness, or enabling a higher film build per layer. Improved binder performance and formulation design will help to achieve a higher application efficiency.
What trends do you expect to influence the corrosion protection market in the next five years?Vogt: As already discussed above, sustainability will increasingly be regarded as central product feature rather than just a label. The European Green Deal is already going a long way into this direction, and further harmonisation of regulations and environmental tax systems is expected within Europe, additionally covering the use of renewable energy sources along the value chain.
As energy prices are now peaking every day, and not only the energy supply situation has been met with uncertainty, an optimised management of production resources such as energy, water, waste and recycling streams is gaining in importance. I cannot imagine that anyone reading this interview has not been confronted with supply chain issues over the last year. Therefore, a high priority will be given to reliability of supply. Consequently, there will be a stronger focus on local or regional production. This will go in parallel with the demand for back-up options such as implementing alternative production sites and second supply options.
On the technical side, coatings systems with enhanced performance and functionality continue to play a key role in improving efficiency and reducing material and energy demand. Therefore, the individual cost of single raw materials needs to be weighed against possible savings in paint formulation, application cost and the gain in durability. As sustainability will become an increasingly important asset on the overall balance sheet, the seemingly higher cost for a performance gain can quickly turn into added value for raw material suppliers, manufacturers, applicators and end-users.