“It’s a good time to be in the chemical processing industry if you are a materials provider.” That’s the message Thom Johnson shared with the audience at Tuesday’ s CAMX educational session entitled “Design Engineers Depend on FRP for Corrosion Challenges in Chemical Processing.” Johnson, corrosion market manager for Ashland Performance Materials, said, “You don’t have to look very far in this country to see it’s an area of high interest and high investment.” And he had numbers to back up his assertion, including these two eye-opening ones:
- The $3.3 billion U.S. chemical market is growing faster than the gross domestic product (GDP).
- Overall spending in the U.S. chemical market is forecast to reach $35.9 billion next year, up 29.6 percent from 2014.
In particular, specialty chemicals are growing. “These processes can really benefit from the use of FRP as a means to manage corrosion in corrosive chemical environments,” said Johnson.
So what does the lift in chemical processing mean to fabricators of FRP? “This is a niche that really understands and appreciates the value of corrosion-resistant FRP,” said Johnson, adding that the chemical industry has been using FRP for more than half a century. “They understand the technology and use it, so it’s an easier sell than in a lot of places where we’re trying to get our toe in the water.”
Still, FRP is just one material commonly used to control corrosion in chemical processing environments. Others include rubber-lined steel, resin-lined steel, stainless steel alloys, high nickel alloy clad carbon steel and thermoplastic-lined FRP. But there are two main reasons a customer might choose FRP – durability and cost. “We tend to win on both fronts as long as the environment is corrosive,” said Johnson.
The chemical resistance of FRP equals or surpasses high nickel alloys in many environments. In addition, there is considerably less repair and maintenance required than rubber-lined steel. When considering cost, fabricated equipment is about the same as lower-end stainless or rubber-lined steel. And the installation cost is far below that of nickel clad steel, said Johnson. He then shared some chemical processing industry applications that are a good fit for FRP: