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Monday, November 17, 2014

Epoxy Pipeline Coatings in Cold Weather

Installing Two Part Epoxies on Pipelines in Cold Weather

     Two part epoxies, by their very nature, require heat in order to properly cure.  In some scenarios, the chemical reaction that occurs as the two epoxy components mix actually causes heat to be generated, resulting in a naturally occurring faster cure time.  At the same time however, at certain temperatures, many epoxies will not begin the curing process (at least in any significant way) no matter how long you wait.  Two part epoxies that are not curing are very similar to honey or wet tree sap.  They are very thick, but you certainly wouldn't expect them to withstand soil stresses, pipe racks, directional drills or even someone bumping up against them.  All would result in a nasty sticky mess.

     Even though everything I've said here is general public knowledge, every single winter we still see cases where people are planning and attempting to install two part epoxy pipeline coatings in the winter.  What the heck?!?  I don't get it.  So let's take a little closer look at some of the common options out there.

     SPC has a specially designed epoxy that is formulated exactly for lower temperature conditions.  This material is called SP-2831 Low Temperature Cure Coating.  The data sheet that is readily available online says very specifically that this epoxy has "the ability to cure down to 0C (32F)."  Based on that, I'm confident it is safe to assume that this material will not be recommended (or likely even usable) when ambient temperatures are in the 20's and below.  Yet there are still folks out there trying to require that this material is used in sub-freezing temperatures!

     Likewise we can look at a product like Powercrete R-65/F1.  This product is sold as "extreme fast curing."  The folks at Seal for Life are very open and honest in the data sheets (which is one of the reasons that they are my most trusted partner in the industry).   Their data sheet says very clearly "Minimum Ambient Application Temperature - 35F (2C)."  Very clear.  Very honest.  I don't think there is any question.  Based on the data sheet for Powercrete R-65/F1 - if your ambient temperatures are going to be in the 20's (F) or less - you must use a different product.  Yet still, there are jobs out there right now requiring the this product be used in sub freezing temperatures.

     Then there is a product like DIRAX.  Because of the heat applied at different steps of the installation process; DIRAX has no issue with cold weather.  DIRAX utilizes a two part epoxy (S1301M) so it does incorporate all of the strengths of an epoxy coating system (CD Disbondment, Shear, etc) but also incorporates all of the strengths of a dual layer, fiber reinforced, high density, radiation crosslinked backing.  It won't be hours before you can move the pipe.  It won't be days before you can bore the pipe.  Based on install and cure times, your crews probably won't even notice that it is cold outside!


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