Interview with R&D Director, Jevon Pugh – PART 2

Read PART 1 of Jevon’s interview here.

Sustainable Solutions

While the UK and US serve as the two core bases for Belzona’s global operations, its footprint expands into further territories. It also has corporate presences in the form of training and support centers in Thailand, Canada and China, and a global network of distributors in over 120 countries. Increasingly, the popular polymer coatings manufacturer is turning its attention to expanding its portfolio of sustainable solutions.

“The latest step in Belzona’s journey is its work in the renewable energy sector,” Jevon details. “We talked earlier about repairing assets instead of replacing them. That’s always been fundamental to the Belzona philosophy. Originally, though, that philosophy would’ve been primarily driven by cost: it’s generally cheaper to repair an asset than to buy a new one, so the customer saves money. To this day, that logic remains. However, there’s another, increasingly important, aspect in play today: sustainability. The planet is moving away from fossil fuels to more renewable sources of energy, and looking for new ways to reduce waste and improve efficiency, and Belzona intends to be a part of that journey.

Fast, in situ application of leading edge repair and protection solution, Belzona 5711
Fast, in situ application of leading edge repair and protection solution, Belzona 5711

“For example, we’re now heavily involved in the maintenance and repair of wind turbines,” he explains. “One key challenge that wind turbines face is the gradual erosion of the leading edge of their blades, which wear down over time due to the combination of high velocity and rain or dust impacts that each individual blade will experience. To combat this and improve efficiency, thereby generating more clean electricity, we applied our knowledge of abrasion resistant coatings from other industries to create a polymer system that can be used to restore the original profile of the blade, and then protect it from future erosion – all in situ. In practical terms, that means the asset doesn’t have to be decommissioned and dismantled; instead, a contractor can repair and protect the blade on-site with a suite of Belzona products and restore the integrity and efficiency of the turbine, eradicating the possibility of having to replace the asset. In fact, we’re currently finalising a second-generation leading edge protection coating, which we look forward to presenting with other Belzona solutions at a wind exhibition in Hamburg later this year, as well as delivering to our customers in due course.”

Another fascinating part of Belzona’s sustainability drive is its investigation into the efficacy of plant-based polymer solutions. As Jevon informs us, one negative aspect of working with polymers is that the chemical building blocks used throughout the performance coatings sector are derived from oil, which carries an environmental impact. However, that’s starting to change. “More recently, we’ve been exploring the development of high-performance polymer solutions using feed stocks derived from a renewable carbon source: plants,” he observes. “Though plant-based chemicals have been available for low-performance solutions, including decorative paints, for some time, it has not previously been possible in the heavy industry market.

R&D are in the process of formulating greener products
R&D are in the process of formulating greener products

“But, more and more, chemical manufacturers are recognizing the need for plant-derived polymers,” Jevon notes. “And it’s now possible to achieve very similar performance to oil-derived equivalents. At Belzona, we’re really excited about this ongoing change within the chemical industry, and as a down-stream producer, we intend to pull together with manufacturers, encouraging the adoption of more renewable-carbon solutions that don’t compromise on quality or performance. It’s a win for our business, our customers, and the environment.”

Going forward, that focus on sustainability and conservation of the planet’s resources is informing much of Belzona’s future endeavors. For example, the Company’s engineering and chemist teams will be continuing to optimize systems for containing SF6 leaks (sulfur hexafluoride), a gas commonly used in electrical switch gear and power transmission equipment due to its insulating qualities. As Jevon points out, this greenhouse gas is many thousands of times more damaging than carbon dioxide, so even small leaks must be repaired. “This is a massive problem, and one that we’re really excited to be working on in partnership with industry,” he concludes. “The SF6 project reflects an increasingly important mission being adopted by Belzona: creating products that solve industrial problems in a safe and sustainable way. As we move into the next part of our Company’s history, we will continue to fulfil that mission because it makes good business sense, but also because it’s what our customers and staff want.”

Bespoke application training underway

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