Through the Looking Glass: 50 Years at Belzona
Today we are interviewing Geoff Binks, who has dedicated 50 years to Belzona, to learn more about his experience in the industry and how his career evolved over the years.
Geoff was born and raised in Harrogate and joined Belzona in 1965 direct from Technical College with a chemistry background. He first worked in R&D on a broad range of products, particularly the Belzona Metals which saw radical development in 1968 with the introduction of the first Belzona Super Metal formulation.
In the early 1980s, Geoff joined a newly formed Technical Service Department, the Molecular Engineering Department (MED), responsible for field visits, inspecting and supervising applications and delivering in-plant training. Mr Binks’ exposure to all aspects of Belzona’s business, ultimately led to his position as Technical Service Coordinator acting as a link between chemists, engineers, sales and marketing.
With his wide ranging knowledge and experience, Geoff provides global technical support to Belzona customers, distributors and staff. After celebrating 50 years in Belzona, the time was right to ask our “Belzona Guru” a few questions about his experience and get his account on how the industry changed over the years.
Your career started in the 1960s. Can you describe some of the standard industry practices of that time in terms of repair and maintenance?
First of all, polymer repairs were almost unheard of. We had to show people exactly how the polymer works, changing from a liquid to a solid state.
Health & Safety was not a major priority at the time. This was throughout the industry, little PPE such as gloves or eye protection, as well as in our laboratory, where pranks were commonplace. Can you share some of your favourite pranks? I will not go into too much detail, but one prank involved polystyrene drinking cups being attacked with solvent leading to loss of containment!
How has the Belzona brand evolved over time?
We always say that Belzona does not corrode, which is of course true, but there was a time when Belzona Metals could corrode. Back in the early 60s we used iron powder in the polymer, which was able to rust, before silicon steel alloy was deployed into Belzona Metals in 1968.
The number and variety of products over the years has increased dramatically, with product ranges such as the Belzona Magma and Elastomer systems being introduced. Our moto used to be “Total Maintenance Capability”, which meant that we endeavored to have a product for every problem a customer may be faced with. So, we ended up with a diverse offering of repair and protection materials covering a broad range of substrates and operating conditions.
Additionally, Belzona was mainly sold in small quantities, as pack sales. Now, however, we get increasingly involved in large scale projects, sometimes requiring several tonnes of Belzona materials. For example we recently completed a job on a new Ichtys platform installing riser bearings which involved over 25 tonnes of Belzona 1321.
Belzona injected to bond bearings and housings, 2014
Belzona has always been involved in providing solutions to multiple industries. Can you comment on how some of them changed over the last 50 years?
- Oil and Gas industry
At first, the word “Oil and Gas” did not exist in our vocabulary. In the 60s we mainly concentrated on the UK market, and at the time oil was imported from America. Petrochem was the word used, referring to the work we did in the downstream refineries. We really became seriously involved with upstream Oil and Gas industry in late 1980s, when we successfully carried out a lining job on a separator in the North Sea. Lining process vessels has ultimately become a large part of what we do in Oil and Gas with us delivering projects such as the internal corrosion protection project of 143 pressure vessels operating at the oil and gas field off the north east coast of Qatar in the Persian Gulf.
Several process vessels protected with Belzona for an offshore Oil and Gas project off the coast of Angola, 2014
- Marine industry
You can’t carry a spare for everything – something we learnt from providing marine solutions for over 50 years. Belzona has been stocked onboard for emergency repairs and I believe many ships continue to do so today. Drydock repair procedures such as rebuilding and reseating rudder pintles and bearings have become standard procedures although it was big news when Belzona was used to carry out emergency repairs on the Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1978 saving the operators from huge losses that cancelled cruises would have incurred. In 2005, we worked on another internationally recognized ship, ss Great Britain, originally constructed in 1843 by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, “one of the most ingenious and prolific figures in engineering history”. To prepare it for a public display in Bristol in 2005, major work had to be carried out requiring considerable quantities of Belzona metal repair material to arrest corrosion, fill holes in the wrought iron plates of the ship’s hull and to bond a steel section between deck and hull. Now the ship has been overhauled, it is proudly displayed in Bristol as a testament to science and engineering.ss Great Britain, originally constructed in 1843 by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, “one of the most ingenious and prolific figures in engineering history”.
- Power industry
Power has always been one of our key industries as we successfully addressed issues of abrasion and corrosion. Power business is now rapidly changing for us, with coal fired power plants being phased out globally. Challenge for the future will be to identify common issues in the gas fired and renewable power plants that Belzona can address.Belzona was used to seal leaking flanges at an offshore wind farm, 2015
- Mining industry
British Coal was one of our biggest customer at one point in time. As you cannot weld underground and removing equipment for repairs is costly and time consuming, Belzona came as a welcome alternative. This time marks a decline in the UK mining business for us, but there are plenty of opportunities in the rest of Europe, the U.S. and South Africa among others. We continue to innovate and a short while ago have completed a large project with our recently introduced chocking compound locating the bearing seat of a large Excavator.1750 Kg of Belzona 7111 was poured to accurately locate the bearing seat.
What are your career highlights?
Being involved in the development of the first Belzona Super Metal in 1968. This set the standard being corrosion resistant, easier to mix and apply and had higher physical properties, particularly adhesion and heat resistance, than other materials available at the time. This product has remained one of our best sellers and is synonymous with the Belzona brand due to its performance and versatility. After working on product development for many years, my job evolved through technical service and technical writing to when the Molecular Engineering Department (MED) was created. At that time we also recruited Ron and Dave, our current Managing and Technical Directors.
One of my responsibilities at that time was managing the Belzona Slide Library, an impressive collection of 100,000 or more 35mm slides, vital in the creation of literature and customer presentations. This led to my involvement with marketing, working on creating technical and sales literature, particularly Know How in Action as well as our audio-visual (AV) presentations, the precursor to today’s videos. AVs with titles such as “Dr Belzona”, “The Unconventional Alternative” and “Simply the Best” were the key tools used by Consultants. I guess another highlight would be the opportunities, I have had to work in so many different areas of the business which has allowed me to meet many different people from many different industries and led to some, but not excessive, global travel.
What does the future hold for repair and protection against erosion and corrosion?
As heavy industries are beginning to decline, and planned maintenance increases, we will need to continue to adapt and ensure we target emerging markets and industries. Most of our current customers probably only use 10% of our product range, so there is always potential there.