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Interview

Jan Willem Tegelaar, General Manager – PPG Protective Marine Coatings – EMEA and Kees van der Kolk, Global Technical Director – PPG Protective and Marine Coatings – Netherlands

Jan Willem Tegelaar, General Manager – PPG Protective and Marine Coatings EMEA, and Kees van der Kolk, Global Technical Director – PPG Protective and Marine Coatings, discuss how PPG is “bringing innovation to the surface” via such products as PITT-CHAR XP and work such megaprojects as Allseas’s Pioneering Spirit.

As introduction for our readers, please highlight a few of your key milestones or achievements in the last few years as General Manager of PPG Protective and Marine Coatings EMEA.

JT: The foundation of PPG’s Protective and Marine Coating business was significantly bolstered by the acquisition of first Ameron and then later SigmaKalon. One of the first achievements during my tenure as General Manager was guiding the successful integration of these two companies’ protective coatings activities into PPG’s current product lines, while preserving the brand equity and legacy of our now two flagship brands—SIGMA COATINGS and AMERCOAT. In hopes of establishing a more centralized structure to further strengthen our presence in EMEA, we’ve based all technical, marketing, and R&D related activities out of our office here in Amsterdam, while establishing individual manufacturing and supply chain operations within each of the individual sub regions—Western Europe, Central Europe & Turkey, the Middle East, and Africa. The individual sales and field technical teams have since developed significantly and given excellent support and services to our customers in several key countries.

On numerous fronts, we’ve undertaken investments to fortify our core capabilities. Two years ago, we opened up a new state-of-the-art production facility in Poland, while also upgrading our factory in Antwerp. Additionally, in Amsterdam, we invested in a furnace to further refine our technology in fire protective and heavy-duty steel applications, ultimately leading to the introduction of STEELGUARD—a range of EU approved cellulosic fire protection solutions. Similarly, continued product development also resulted in a new version of our biocide-free fouling release coating SIGMAGLIDE, an environmentally friendly solution that generates significant fuel savings for ship owners. Looking to our customers, we’ve been proudly chosen as the supplier of marine coatings for the largest vessel in the world, Allseas’ Pioneering Spirit, both in Korea and here in the Netherlands.

The increasing use of protective coatings in oil and gas and petrochemical industries, coupled with constantly increasing safety regulations, is providing new opportunities for the global protective coatings market. To this end, what strategic importance does the Netherlands, as Europe’s energy hub, hold for PMC?

JT: We have a longstanding history here in the Netherlands, especially given SIGMA COATINGS’ origins, which date back to 1722. That legacy is still thriving today. The Netherlands is a key location for shipping operations, driven by one of world’s largest marine ports in Rotterdam. The connected petrochemical infrastructure located at the Europort is significant in size as well. Both aspects provide sufficient opportunities for developing Protective and Marine coating businesses and serve as a jump board for connecting to identical market segments around the world, which has been imperative in providing adequate and time-based products and services.

Historically the Netherlands has been well presented in the development, manufacturing and commercialization of PPG’s heavy-duty anti-corrosive coatings. AMERCOAT, although having its foundation in the US, has found pervasive inroads in a variety of protective coating market segment in EMEA, with its wide range of heavy-duty products. Together with SIGMA COATINGS, both brands are now supported by a leading R&D organization centered in Amsterdam. A part of the wider PPG global network of R&D locations, Amsterdam supports the current product portfolio and specifically specializes in new innovations for product technologies including Anti-fouling and Fouling Release coatings, which protect against marine fouling of seawater exposed structures (Sea going ships, Offshore platforms, FPSO, Buoys, etc), Chemical resistant tank linings for storage and cargo vessels, and Passive Fire Protection coatings for large infrastructure projects.

 

Kees van der Kolk, Global Technology Director, PPG Protective and Marine Coatings

KK: Within the Netherlands, there’s a massive build-up and cluster of technological expertise regarding heavy-duty anti-corrosive companies. That originates from the former presence of Shell laboratories, which aggressively pushed epoxy resin technology into the market. With a close tie-in with Shell, SigmaKalon jointly developed and strengthened that epoxy technology for heavy-duty anti-corrosion applications, effectively establishing a robust foundation for further development and incremental innovation.

The cyclical nature of the oil and gas industry has created a rather stringent operating environment, forcing many players to divest non-core assets and implement aggressive cost-reduction strategies. How have you structured the PMC business in EMEA to effectively weather the effects of supply and demand fluctuations in the market?

JT: Given our established presence in the Netherlands and leading positions in Western European markets, we have begun shifting an important part of our global footprint, especially with regards to manufacturing and supply, into emerging markets—allowing us to exhibit more flexibility and adapt quicker to market fluctuations. Shifting our focus towards more emerging markets and effectively locating our resources closer to the customers, has constituted new investments within alternative segments including subsea hardware, ports, equipment supplies, and especially infrastructure, and allow us to diversify our portfolio in addition to the oil and gas industry—leaving us better positioned for short-term swings in the market.

Similarly, as a public company, PPG constantly faces public pressure from an earnings perspective. In appealing to your shareholders, how do you offset short-term risks, while maintaining or even enhancing long-term capabilities?

JT: PPG’s vision is to be the world’s leading coatings company by consistently delivering high-quality, innovative and sustainable solutions that customers trust to protect and beautify their products and surroundings. To achieve this vision, the company is firmly focused on maintaining a balance that allows employees to act with integrity at all times and be true to our values and ethics, while at the same time delivering superior shareholder returns. PPG is very much focused on having that balance well understood in the company. The ethical and compliance program has a strong history within the company, and serves as the foundation for PPG’s success, as well the basis for operating on a worldwide scale. For more than 130 years, PPG’s reputation has been rooted in a steadfast commitment to the highest standards of ethics and rigorous compliance to ethics principles. PPG’s commitment to perform with integrity is instilled in employees as an expectation of behavior guided by the PPG Global Code of Ethics. The Global Ethics and Compliance Committee, under the leadership of PPG’s CEO, reviews and reinforces the Code of Ethics on a regular basis to ensure that it is consistent with evolving global standards as our businesses grow globally.

PMC caters to a multitude of segments within the offshore and broader oil and gas industries including drillships, FPSOs, rigs & platforms, refineries, and terminals. Out of all the segments, which of these have experienced the most promising growth prospects? And why?

KK: With the upswing several years ago, oil prices reached a new peak—driving new investments in the oil and gas sector. But not just in the traditional sense; we’ve been witnessing growing developments in new types of assets such as FPSOs and deepwater drilling projects with increasingly complex subsea manifolds. In parallel, those operations were subject to harsher and more stringent environmental conditions—significantly driving demand for more durable systems that could protect those assets for longer periods of time.

FPSOs are a relatively new kind of approach towards oil and gas production, exhibiting their own challenges in terms of protection. Not just for the basic properties of paint systems, anti-corrosive properties, and aesthetics, but more about safety systems. To this end, there’s a manifold in providing paint systems that double as long-term protection of steel assets against oil and jet fires. That gave us the opportunity to provide this industry with products that possess a third functionality—protecting steel assets against hydrocarbon and passive fires. Such coatings exhibit intumescent behavior such as swelling of coating systems for prolonged protection against high temperatures, allowing people to safely exit a platform or FPSO in the case of a fire.

The other element in that development is the increasingly complex nature of construction projects, augmenting the amount of piping systems on board, which also require long-term protection. The piping systems, when exposed in a very cell-line and maritime environment, are highly subject to corrosive elements. Given the high cost of investment and essential nature of such assets, any downtime due to coating maintenance will frustrate production volumes, return of investment, and overall financial performance of the installation. There are two kinds of piping protection systems. Quite often there are systems for protecting against high temperature and corrosive environments, but also systems for pipe insulation. When you start to insulate the pipes, you can’t visually examine on a daily basis what the state of the piping structure is, so companies have to rely on very trustworthy systems that can provide the anti-corrosive protection and high resistance. This is new part of the business that we have entered with our HI-TEMP coating products—a relatively novel addition to our current set of standard solutions targeted specifically at this segment.

Deep sea drilling is another growing trend in the oil producing industry. Here large production manifolds are placed on the sea bottom and require coatings that can withstand elevated operational temperatures together with resistance to permanent immersion in a seawater environment. The combined temperature/seawater exposure requires specialized coating systems with extreme good substrate adhesion and barrier function. Coating technologies that historically have found application in the transport of chemicals have proven to be well suitable for the subsea manifold application. Reliable anti-corrosion performance over the lifetime of the subsea manifold is a design requirement as maintenance during operation is virtually impossible. PPG’s phenolic epoxy coating technology known under the product name PHENGUARD has been fully qualified for this type of application and recent inspection feedback of operating manifolds show extremely good performance not requiring any need for coating maintenance.

Due to the ever-growing complexity in operations of oil and gas companies, we’re starting to see an increasing interest in total-package solutions from coatings players, offering more than just anti-corrosion protection and aesthetic appeal. Such dynamics complement PPG’s philosophies well—we’re not just about bulk and standard materials, but also incremental improvements in innovation, performance, and cost-efficiency. PPG with its long history, track records, and drive to be a technology leader therefore continuously invests in technology innovation to generate long-lasting robust coating solutions.

What is the significance of PITT-CHAR XP’s distinguishing characteristic as the only flexible intumescent epoxy and single-production solution for the LNG market today?

KK: Given our solid track record of over 25 years in industry experience, we’ve always strived to provide a new standard in value-added products through continuous incremental innovation—resulting in the introduction of PITT-CHAR XP to the market.

Intumescent epoxies are typically applied in thick layers up to centimeters thick to provide effective steel protection in case of oil or gas fires. Thick films are typically prone for internal stress build-up and, in turn, cracking, especially when such films are comprised of epoxy resin matrixes, which is standard across the industry today. PPG’s proprietary flexible epoxy technology allows build-up of intumescent coating systems with an indefinite layer of thickness without the tendency to build up internal stresses. Long-term performance tracking has indicated that PITT-CHAR XP shows no performance risks when exposed to wide environmental temperature variations including long term exposure to Arctic conditions.

Laboratory testing confirms that PITT-CHAR XP shows to be resistant to immersion in liquid nitrogen even in the extreme case creating a substrate temperature of -180°C.

The liquefaction of LNG potentially creates the risk of cryogenic spills, which can lead to film cracking in intumescent coatings when not formulated with sufficient flexibility. Moreover, cryogenic spills may diminish the structural strength of the steel construction. PITT-CHAR XP has been extensively tested on cryogenic spill resistance and has shown no tendency to crack formation. If needed, PITT-CHAR XP can be applied at higher thickness beyond what is needed for effective fire protection and so can result in additional insulating protection to the steel substrates on which it is applied.

All in all, this makes PITT-CHAR XP the right choice for application on decks of current and future FLNG units.

What is the long-term scalability of this product’s technology with regard to global market penetration, considering the domestic and international interest in LNG?

KK: We see an increased interest in this type of product particularly for FLNGs, FPSOs, offshore platform, and onshore petrochemical installations, as the prolonged steel integrity is the foremost concern in the case of oil fires for these assets. We’re starting to see a diverse array of applications for this technology—partly driven by everyone’s strategy in providing the safest standards in working environments. The increasing level of safety and protection standards during installation and operation will continue driving interest for this technology moving forward.

In 2014, the company developed Safety 365, highlighting the company’s commitment to fostering and maintaining a culture of safety at home and at work. How does this program position PPG as the frontrunner in safety awareness and communication within the protective coatings industry?

JT: This is an internal PPG initiative focused on higher awareness of our employees in taking ownership of not only their own safety but also the safety of their co-workers. Safety 365 is PPG’s around-the-clock, year-long safety awareness and communications initiative that empowers employees to take ownership of safety. Every employee should take personal initiative to ensure safety. We encourage our employees to speak up and say something about it if they see something that may be unsafe. If they see something that may be hazardous, they have to take action. It’s part of our ongoing commitment to fostering and maintaining a culture of safety at home and at work.

For PPG, environmental health and safety is the number one priority in the company. That safety culture is very important in everything that we do. As such, our safety initiative extends as far as our Protective and Marine Coatings field technical service (FTS) organization, encompassing individuals working on dry docks, tankers, etc. Our FTS safety management system includes strict policies for example about working in confined spaces and is very focused on raising red flags when an unsafe situation occurs. Ultimately, PPG’s goal is for everyone to go home safe each and every day.

For our customers, we’ve also launched products to help them work safer. PITT-CHAR XP, for example, is a solution for protecting live and assets in the onshore and offshore industry. STEELGUARD encompasses a range of products that are used to prolong steel integrity within the infrastructure market. We think about airports, stadiums, buildings, where the fire protection coating will make sure that, in the case of a fire, the structures hold while people have time to evacuate. Another example is that we promote the use of solvent-free products, which aid in preserving people’s health, and also creates an all-around safer workplace. As you can see, our conviction towards safety is not only evident internally, but also externally through our products in the market.

What sort of green initiatives or innovations highlight the company’s conviction towards the longevity and resilience of the environment?

KK: Our solvent-free technology spans a variety of products for various applications such as chemical tank linings and ice-resistance coatings for vessels shipping in the Arctic. The other area in which we drive environmental and sustainable developments is in the protection of underwater ship hulls against fouling. Fouling typically influences the efficiency of ship operations. Basically if a ship fouls, it consumes more fuel. Aside from the financial impact, this also means a greater level of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. For this purpose, underwater ship hulls are protected with fouling protection systems. So there is the traditional solution of using biocides that basically prevent the growth of algae or barnacle, and thus resulting in a cleaner ship hull, which minimizes the dragging influence of fouling growth. The other direction is to provide ship hulls with non-toxic fouling protecting systems. We call this fouling release. The technology is here creates a substrate on which the typical fouling species cannot adhere properly. Through the friction of the ship and the seawater, the ship essentially cleans itself the moment it starts to sail. That gives a durable and highly efficient situation for protecting fouling, without the use of any biocides or anything that can influence the aquatic environment around the vessel. Additionally, the vessel’s fuel efficiency is improved through the slippery surface that our product creates. It reduces the drag of a ship and thus positively influences the fuel efficiency of a vessel.

We’ve also been focusing our efforts on improving the productivity of paint applications. Most of the cost of protecting a substrate is around the preparation and application of the materials, not for the product itself. So, we are continuously looking to optimize the application process by having more versatile products that can be applied on a wider range of substrates and areas—eliminating the need to continuously switch between products.

JT: In terms of manufacturing, we’ve made significant strides in the following objectives:

  • Minimizing VOC emission by production in closed system
  • Limit waste and maximize re-use of off spec materials
  • Energy consumption reduction
  • Migrate to non-hazardous material use
  • Minimize packing waste by bulk supplies

All of our factories run this program for continuous improvement and production, to ultimately reduce PPG’s environmental footprint and further each country’s green agenda.

In terms of performance, capabilities, and reputation, how has PPG better positioned for future success when compared to your peers? And where to you hope to see the company in five years time?

JT: PPG continues to invest funds and resources toward coating innovations that provide solutions in the areas of high temperature exposure, passive fire protection, and antifouling – just to name a few. In addition to providing total product solutions, PPG’s business continues to expand global capabilities in several areas including manufacturing, distribution, and sales and technical supportLast year, PPG completed the acquisition of Hi-Temp coatings and invested in a Passive Fire Protection center in China. These are just two examples that showcase our expansion and growth ambitions, which PPG will continue to pursue in all Protective and Marine coatings segments. Our investments in innovation, products, services, and people will help us to provide our customers with coating solutions that will meet their future performance requirements. We strive to be the business partner that our customers trust to protect and beautify their assets.

KK: Long-time, reliable, and innovative coating solutions. Reliability is very important because our customers trust that we provide them protection over long periods of time and any failure in coating performance creates a lot of hassle for them. So, first is reliability of performance, and then through our increasingly ambitious standards of innovation, we can continue being the leading provider of total coating solutions.

Click here to read more articles and interviews from the Netherlands, and to download the latest free oil and gas report on the country. 

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