Alexander Murillo, technical service engineer at Belzona (Miami, Florida, USA), recently joined the MP Interview Series to provide technical insight and application tips regarding industrial coatings and engineering composites. See below for a complete transcript.
In the podcast episode, Murillo shares specifics regarding application experiences in the field, as well as a technical overview of how Belzona’s solutions can help asset owners fight corrosion, erosion, and wear.
Source: Belzona, www.belzona.com.
Ben DuBose: Alexander, good afternoon. How are you?
Alexander Murillo: Good afternoon, Ben. I’m good. I’m good here in sunny, rainy Miami. But happy to be here and just talk a little bit about, first of all, corrosion and how we’re involved in it.
BD: I think a good place to start, Alexander, for our audience that isn’t aware of you before listening to this, tell everyone about your position, your background in the industry. For example, I know you're a NACE coating inspector, Level I certified. Talk a little bit, if you could, about your current job and your areas of expertise.
AM: I’m a chemical engineer. I have a B.S. in chemical engineering. I’m also a chemist. I joined Belzona a little over five years ago and basically jumped right into it. I had an experience before with heavy machinery, so I did see different types of alloys used to counter corrosion, but I was never really involved in it until I got to Belzona. Once I got into Belzona, I literally was thrown into the whole corrosion, erosion, and wear industry. Basically, started that.
Some of the basic things that we do — and this is just everyday things — is support to our customers and all their needs, usually heavy industry. We usually work mostly in heavy industry, very little in commercial. Support on any of our products. We do field support a lot, phone support, we do of course email. Those are the basics. Then we do trainings. We do field trainings a lot of times. We go and help supervise jobs, all different types of jobs. Here in Miami, we take care of all the Americas, so it’s North, Central, and South America. We go all around those countries for specific training. We do different field trainings for different types of application techniques, be it coatings, be it wraps, be it spray, be it flange phase, be it whatever the situation requires. We do that.
We’re in constant contact with, first of all, our distributors and our consultants that are directly in contact with the customers. In this case, a lot of times we’re in contact with a lot of NACE inspectors during jobs. It’s a flow of everything. We do investigation also. We do research and development with R&D to look at new products or upgrade new products or look at new techniques or new problems that are coming up and try to find out solutions for them. We do a little bit of everything. We’re also well connected with our marketing team. We work very close because marketing and social media right now, it’s very important. It’s very important to get your message out and to get the correct solutions out. Let’s limit, as much as you can, the broken telephone type of service. That’s it.
BD: As I mentioned earlier, Belzona specializes in repair compounds, industrial coatings. For anyone that’s unfamiliar with Belzona prior to your explanation right there, where exactly do you all fit in within corrosion control? What are the different types of corrosion that Belzona materials might be able to address?
AM: Corrosion across — the whole spectrum of corrosion problems. I think the only limitation we’ll have is, they are organic coatings, so we have a temperature limitation. We could only resist a certain temperature, and then certain times, certain chemicals. Some chemicals are very aggressive.
First of all, like you said, 1952 is when we originally came out. We’re actually a global company. We have about 140 different distributors across 120 different countries. We have five corporate office, one here in the U.S. We have one in Canada, in the U.K., China, and Asia Pacific. We have corporate businesses, and then we have satellite distributorships everywhere. Out of these offices, we work with all types of corrosion.
Starting from the basic, general environmental corrosion, just your basic iron wanting to be back to iron oxide type of situations. Then going into corrosion under insulation, microbial corrosion, bimetallic corrosion, chemical attack — which in a way is a type of corrosion because in certain environments, almost any alloy can corrode. Then erosion corrosion, which is always worse. Cavitation, we look into it also, even though you wouldn’t say it’s corrosion. It’s part of the industry. It’s a part of the system. It’s part of the wear that you have, and the combination of all these words is always worse. Abrasion. Any other type of corrosion that you could think of, we probably address it. Corrosion in itself is a whole semester of study, just for a couple of corrosion, some of the basic corrosion problems. We cover literally as many corrosions as there are out there. Each situation that comes up is sometimes a little bit different. We come up with different things because we cover such a wide range of industries.
BD: I’m looking at your bio, and I know you've worked a lot within the power industry, spray application, composite wrap repairs. What are some of the common problems with those types of assets, as it pertains to maintenance? I suppose a better way of phrasing it, When clients in those sectors reach out to you guys, what are some of their concerns?
AM: This is really across all industry. You could see the same issues across different industries. They’re just different situations. Let’s take, for example, power. I work a lot with power. You have coal, you have hydro, you have gas, you have biomass, you have wind, solar, nuclear, geothermal, and just general fossil fuels. For example, coal, which is — and this is no surprise to anybody — it’s coming down. In the last couple years, they’ve pulled a lot of plants down. But coal’s a great example, where you have a lot of abrasion. You have chemical environments, chemical processes as part of the process. The tanks, the substrates, they’ll just corrode naturally through that. Hydro you have general corrosion, especially in places like in your penstocks, in your piping. Erosion happens consistently in hydro.
Gas is one of the cleaner ones, but you still have general corrosion. You always have chemicals, and you have chemical containment. You have tanks. Over time, sometimes, let’s say, things don’t come out the way you think they’re designed. A lot of times you’ll have bimetallic systems that weren’t planned and corrosion happens there. Corrosion happens a lot in welds. Welds are especially prone to corroding easily. This happens in all these types of instances. Biomass — you have microbial corrosion. Even in wind. In wind right now, we’ve gotten very strong in wind and leading-edge protection. It’s a type of environmental corrosion erosion that basically damages the leading edge on the wind turbines and can actually bring down the efficiency of the turbine to about 20 to 30%. So you're losing a lot of money there.
Fossil fuels, burning of fossil fuels, of course, that’s always going to give you a nexus of different types of environments that are very corrosive. Even when you don’t think about it, even the fumes that are coming out of your basic processes are actually coming out and going onto all your different metal substrates or your structures, and those corrode.
Corrosion happens literally from every level of a plant. There’s usually no level that safe from corrosion. Top-of-the-line alloys are very expensive. It’s not feasible to be able to alloy a whole plant. This is where we come in, and we find solutions for our customers. Our model is really “Repair, Protect, and Improve.” We really believe it. First, we normally repair whatever issue you have. If you have pitting, if you have loss of metal with one of our paste-grade epoxy products. Then we protect it against whatever corrosive environment it’s in, this way improving the process. That’s our motto, and that’s really what we do. We improve the process, try to save the customer money in the long run, and save the customer the asset in the long run. It’s no different than what else we see in other industries, in chemical process industries, in wastewater.
Corrosion is everywhere, and it really depends on the chemicals that are being used. For example, in oil and gas, are a little bit different than you would use, let’s say, in wastewater. But corrosion’s going to happen. It’s going to happen. It’s going to affect your assets. The process affects your assets, and that means downtime. Downtime literally means loss of thousands, sometimes millions of dollars.
BD: We mentioned earlier your chemistry background. Let’s talk about materials, because Belzona’s solutions — I mentioned broadly — repair compounds, industrial coatings. If you could, go into a little bit more depth about the technical side. What are the features that these asset owners need? In terms of the chemistry of all of this, what are the types of features that Bezlona solutions typically have, or that you're trying to develop?
AM: No problem. … We have our main line of coatings. We don’t call them paints. We’re a coating company, in a way. Or epoxy resins. Epoxy resins, they’re long-chain polymers but they have specific properties. Epoxy resins, once you engineer them, you can make them very rigid and very tightly bound, if you could say that. They’re going to give you certain properties that are extremely good. They’re going to be very tight, so chemicals are not going to pass through them very easily to your substrate.
Also, our epoxies are 100% solids. A lot of times when you have coatings that are not 100% solids but have solvents, you end up having solvent entrapment and you have voids. Through these voids, a lot of times, the chemicals or liquids, or just aggressive corrosive environments, go to your substrate. Having 100% solids is extremely important. Another thing that epoxies have is that they have a high heat resistance for being organic. The epoxy technology lets us use the epoxy chain, add different functional groups of organic chemistry, and tweak our epoxy system to what we want in a certain solution. If we want high heat in a certain solution, we might make it extremely tight, very little fillers, we’re just looking for a tight system where it’s going to resist heat and chemistry. If you have a system that your problem is corrosion but it’s also erosion, we might add different fillers to give the erosion resistance. In the past, we’ve used ceramic fillers. Now there’s something new called thermoplastic fillers. These thermoplastic fillers, what do they do? With ceramic fillers, for large areas, you end up, when you what to do a large job, it’s much more feasible with a spray application. Ceramic fillers usually eat away the spray pump and the whole equipment. New thermoplastic fillers give us the option to do spray jobs for erosion-resistant systems. Mainly, it’s epoxy coatings and epoxy rebuild materials.
We also have a line of polyurethanes. Polyurethanes are a little bit more flexible, so we adjust to whatever situation we have. Conveyor belts in the mining industry, a lot of times. Rollers. They’re all made of rubbers, so we try to help repair and protect some of those issues. But the polyurethanes, what are they going to give you? They’re going to give you more flexibility, but, of course, they’re not going to have the same heat resistance and chemical resistance. It’s like everything. You have a little bit of something better on one side, but you lose something somewhere else. You just have to find a balance.
BD: Let’s switch gears and talk about the application of those types of materials. I know you have a unique role in terms of what Belzona does from an oversight perspective. You touched on that earlier. What are some of the keys to applying those types of materials successfully? Feel free to share some of your own experiences as you answer that topic.
AM: We, here at Belzona, we believe we’re at the high end of the coatings spectrum. We’re very strict with our requirements. Talking to NACE, of course, number one on our list is surface prep. You can have the best product in the market, the most expensive, but if you do not have good surface prep standards, it’s not going to work out. It’s just not going to work out. So number one is surface prep. Then once you have a good product and you have the right standards, you’re going to need logistical advantages.
For example, I’ll give you an example, and this is how we helped solve a problem for — I don’t know if you’ve heard of Barrick Gold. Barrick Gold is one of the bigger gold companies in the world. They have a mine in the Dominican Republic. It’s called Pueblo Viejo Mine. They had an issue. First of all, getting into these mines, it’s really not easy. Sometimes I think it’s harder to get into these mines than to get into certain military facilities. We got in, and they had a very unique issue. They had a big tank. The tank was about — coverage rate was going to be somewhere around 9,000 square feet to be coated. It’s a slurry neutralization tank. It’s part of the process of purifying the ore and getting the different minerals out of it.
They had a couple problems. Number one, they had general corrosion in the system. The slurry tank worked at 160 °F. They needed something that could take the corrosion, take the chemicals in there. It was a little bit acidic, and there was microbial corrosion because there were microbes in there that ate the sulfite and caused horrible corrosion in the system. Another problem is that it was slightly acidic, and you had the ore erosion. Then high temperature. They really couldn’t find a solution. They were looking for a solution, but anything they could find was only brush applied. The problem they had is they only had 20 days to do it. They were looking for a material that could do it in 20 days. That means that it had to be spray applied.
You see how you end up having — you might have a great product, but you need the logistical advantage to be able to apply it correctly. Another problem is that, at the actual site, it’s a humid environment, so you're always having flash rusting after you're doing your blast. You need to get it done as quickly as possible. Any time there was actual lightning, all work had to be stopped for three hours.
The logistical challenge was, you have a great product, you have a product that’s going to meet your conditions, your temperature conditions, your erosion conditions, your chemical-resistant conditions. But now how do you apply within 20 days, having all these issues? Being able to spray it was very important. That’s why I told you having these new technologies and being able to spray, the product was able to help us meet their downtime, those 20 days, within stops and continuing the actual application. We were able to do the application in about 12 or 13 days, which if they would have had to do by hand, it would have been impossible.
Even though you have the great product and you have the technique, you need to be able to have the technique to do the right application. In this case, it was sprayed. That actually got us that one tank. I spoke to the consultant today, and it’s in perfect condition. It’s been there for four years and he’s already done about six or seven more tanks. Not only because we had the good product. Because first we had a good NACE inspector there that helped keep all the standards for surface prep. You had the product, and then you also had the machinery to do the product and the personnel that were trained to do the product, to do the application correctly. With any job — I think with spray applications, and almost any job, it’s all about logistics. You have to have the correct logistics, the people that understand the logistics, for a job to go down smoothly. Of course always maintaining the correct standards, the correct surface prep standards, because if there’s not correct surface prep standards, you're going to end up having a lot of issues down the road. That’s one example, and that was done with our high-temperature erosion corrosion coating.
Other examples that we’ve done. For example, composite wraps. Composite wraps are big in the industry, especially in oil and gas. We have a system that is ASME ISO standard — it’s compliant to those standards. The system itself brings piping back to standard. A lot of times, you have internal corrosion in piping, and the processes don’t stop. The processes just keep on going. You really can’t stop the process. So there are corrosion studies down to see how the pipe is in certain areas. Once the pipe has lost a certain amount of material, you need to get it back to standard, structural standard, to be able to run.
We designed a system called SuperWrap II to get these back to standard, to be able to do it while in service. Of course, if there’s a hole, the hole has to be plugged, and then we get it back to service. This system has to be done by trained people. People have to be trained in the SuperWrap system. They have to be certified. They have to pass a pressure test for spools they do during training, and then they’re certified to be able to apply the system. It’s a great system, but it had a couple limitations, which is you have to be trained.
We looked into — this is a great system, and it’s an engineered system — let’s look into using the system in other situations, and we did. We started calling these types of wraps or patches non-compliant patches. The system is a carbon fiberglass and resin system. Individually by themselves, they’re nothing special. But it’s like any other type of mixed composites. Once you actually mix them, when you do certain testing, the stress versus strain diagram is extremely similar to how carbon steel reacts.
So in a way, what you’re doing is you're actually adding, in a way, more structural support without having to weld. This is very important. This actually gives an advantage and some type of confidence to the asset owner that they’re not just putting a patch here. They’re not just stopping the corrosion. They’re actually giving structural integrity back to the system.
We decided to do non-compliant wraps where we made estimates of how many wraps would go into a system, not engineered. Non-compliant, but it’s worked out very well. We’ve done different jobs. For example, we did a job here in Florida with a gas fire plant. What they had is, in their cooling towers, they actually used fiberglass piping to limit the corrosion. But what happens is that, of course, they’re a lot more susceptible to erosion or to basic damage, to stress damage. They had a leak. When they tried to fix the leak, the piping was underground, they actually hit the pipe while they were trying to excavate it and they cracked it even worse.
The asset owner tried using fiberglass and fiberglass bonding. Didn’t work. He was out of solutions. He called us. We went in. It already had a big hole. We did a metal plate bonding on it, and then we went over it with a fiberglass system wrap. The carbon fiber system wrap. We actually solved it for him. They had already spent $30,000 on looking at other solutions, and we literally solved it for less than $5,000. So it’s knowing the situation, knowing what products you have, to be able to help your customer with the right solution.
BD: That’s really good insight. For anyone that wants more information from you or Belzona, as we wrap up this podcast, how can they find it? What are some resources that you all have available for our listeners?
AM: We have, of course, www.belzona.com. That’s our webpage. We have blog.belzona.com. That’s the Belzona blog page. And we have our LinkedIn page. Just search LinkedIn for Belzona. Then for any technical questions, even if it sounds a little bit too weird, just send it to us at Technical. That’s going to be three letters: email@example.com. Short for “technical.” We will always try to help you, and with honesty. We’ll tell you if we have something, and we’ll tell you if we don’t have anything. I think that’s the most honest thing you could tell a customer.