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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Protal 7200 - How Do I Reduce Waste?

5 Ways to Get More From a Liter of Protal 7200 Paint On Epoxy Pipeline Coating

     Every epoxy manufacturer our there will tell you to anticipate as much as a 35% waste factor when calculating how much two part epoxy you will need for your pipeline coating job (see a usage chart here).  This can be a hard pill to swallow!  If you're paying $40 or more per liter, 35% can quickly add up to an astounding number! (On a quick side note, if you're paying $40 per liter, please give us a call the next time you need a liquid epoxy pipeline coating because you are not buying through the proper channels!).  

     So in this article, I'm going to be discussing some of the ways you can maximize that liter of Protal 7200 and maybe even get your wastage number down to a less painful level.  There will always be SOME waste, that is just the nature of liquid epoxies given that they do have a limited pot life due to their curing nature.


     The biggest danger to waste (ie - Protal 7200 epoxy curing in the can; unused) is down time.  Anyone who has ever been on a pipeline spread knows that there is going to be down time.  But we've got to minimize it as much as we can.  As an example, if you're going to be coating field joints on a 12" pipe (in this case: not a road bore), then in a perfect world you are hoping to get 3 field joints coated with each Liter of Protal 7200.  So, before you even open the lid on that 1 Liter kit of Protal 7200; you'd better be absolutely CERTAIN that you've got 3 field joints welded; preheated and cleaned.  Otherwise, you're just giving your money away.  I'll repeat:  THREE FIELD JOINTS READY TO GO before you even pop the lid on that Protal kit.  

 2. Control The Pipe Temperature 

      After the pipe has been welded, preheated and blasted clean (proper surface preparation is vitally important prior to applying any pipeline coating), there is probably going to be SOME temperature to that steel that is higher than the ambient weather conditions.  Here is the interesting thing about epoxies:  Their 'thickness' is going to vary depending on temperature; very much like honey.  Picture a cold morning: you're eating your breakfast outside at deer camp.  You reach over to where the honey sat on a table all night and it is COLD (say 40 degrees F).  You turn up the honey and....nothing.  It isn't flowing at all.  You squeeze the tube and find that it is hard to squeeze!  You've practically got a block of cement in there!.

     Now picture the same thing, but the weather is different.  It is a HOT, HOT Houston summer afternoon and that honey has been sitting in the sun all day.  You tip up the honey and it pours out faster than you can blink; spilling all over your plate.  Now you've got a mess on your hands!  

     In any case, you can control (to some degree) what the temperature of your pipe is when you begin brushing on the Protal 7200.  If you start applying it when the pipe is 190F, the epoxy is going to get very thin.  The epoxy is going to run off the pipe faster than you can work it and you're going to end up with a patch of ground that is the color of Protal 7200. Pipe too hot = high waste factor as epoxy ends up running down on the ground.

     If, on the other hand, you've got a pipe that is COLD to the touch (say 75F - quick disclaimer - installing on a hunk of 75F steel would not be recommended) then the Protal 7200 is going to go on VERY thick.  It won't hardly move at all, which means it is difficult to work, which means the pot stays full longer and means that your coating thickness is probably going to significantly exceed the thickness required in the specification.  Longer install time (due to cold pipe) = waste factor as Protal cures in the pot.  A single coat that is drastically thicker than what is required in the specification = waste as you're putting 60 mils on a field joint instead of the required 25 mils (50% waste!). 

3.  Use a Wet Film Gauge

film gauge
Having one of these on site can ultimately save you a LOT of money!
      This builds just a little bit on the last point.  If you want to minimize your waste with the Protal 7200, you absolutely MUST know two things:  1.  What is the specification thickness required and 2. How thick am I putting it on?  If you don't know two things; you've got a lot of problems - and waste is only one of them.

     So, every crew needs to have a wet film gauge.  If the spec calls for 25 mils; there is no reason to be putting on 60 mils.  I know it sounds simple, but there are a lot crews out there wasting large amounts of epoxy because they don't have a way to measure their work!  Insanity!  Say you can buy a wet film gauge for $15.  That wet film gauge will last FOREVER as long as you don't lose it (and as long as you wipe it off after every use).  That wet film gauge might pay for itself over the course of 2 Liters of Protal 7200!!!  Imagine the savings it could offer on a project where 15,000 Liters are used!  Such a simple thing.  Such a fantastic investment.  Why aren't you buying a box of wet film gauges for every project?

4.  Mix Carefully, Thoroughly, Evenly and Quickly

      Anytime you're working with Protal (or any epoxy) you need to be sure you're mixing properly.  If you don't mix evenly; you are probably going to get a different (sometimes significantly) pot life than projected.  This can cause all kind of problems.  In addition you want to make sure you are not mixing in a way that fills your epoxy with air bubbles - boy will that slow down a job - resulting in epoxy curing in cans - wasting your money.  At the same time though, you need to mix that Protal quickly!  Mixing for 15 minutes instead of 10 has just wasted 5 minutes of your pot life.  Now you're going to have to work quick.

5.  Get Your Crews Trained!!

     All of these points that I've listed would be covered in a training session.  Yes, sometimes a training session costs money (it all depends on job size, location, notice, length, etc).  But those training costs (if you even had to pay them) truly pay for themselves over the course of a pipeline job.  Better trained crews absolutely lead to less Protal waste.  Better trained crews lead to fewer repairs (and fewer repair costs).  Better trained crews lead to faster field joint coating time (which means less labor cost).  Better trained crews leads to fewer problems with inspectors (which means less labor and less repair costs). 

     Getting your crews properly trained is beneficial on every single level.  So put in that phone call today.  Ask if your next project can kick off with some product training.  It will more than pay for itself in the long run. 

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