Towards a solvent-free future

VOCs – Towards a solvent-free future

Sustainability is at the heart of Hempel’s vision for the future.

Hempel is the only coatings supplier in the Getting to Zero Coalition, an alliance of more than 90 companies in the maritime industry and beyond, focused on achieving a zero emissions marine industry.

This ambition is driving us to create more sustainable solutions across all coating areas, but especially in marine newbuilding, where environmental regulations can be the most demanding. One point of focus in our innovation effort is the reduction of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) in the marine coatings used during newbuilding, shaped particularly by the demands of the South Korean and Chinese markets.

South Korea is pursuing a solvent-free strategy focusing on universal primers, which account for up to 80 per cent of coatings used in newbuilding projects. As a result, we’re testing a variety of technological solutions that enable solvent-free coatings to meet shipyard and regulatory requirements without compromising performance – essential in markets where formulations need to meet the demands of all year round application.

A technical challenge

Reducing or eliminating solvents in coatings presents major technical challenges. Shipyards require a range of application properties, including low mixture viscosity, short drying times and long pot life for application flexibility – all in a wide range of climatic conditions, including sub-zero temperatures.

Naturally, this must be achieved without compromising the excellent anticorrosive and mechanical properties that vessel owners require from their coatings. And, it must be delivered in a cost-competitive way.

Towards best-in-class solutions

Our teams in South Korea and Denmark are already working on how to deliver the best products to the market – products that meet the needs of high productivity for the shipyard and long-term performance for the owner.

Meeting this challenge is pushing us to go beyond existing formulation tools to create genuinely innovative new technology in the field – a challenge we relish and befitting our reputation as creators of globally trusted best-in class coatings.

Once these solutions have passed our rigorous testing programmes to ensure they meet both productivity demands and protection requirements, we will deliver products that can truly meet the full range of needs, including year round application performance.

Following developments in China

In the Chinese newbuilding market, we’re following developments around the GB/T standard, which comes into force early this year. The standard requires VOC limits as low as 350 gr/litre and includes primers applied on several ship areas, such as engine rooms and accommodation.

Our strategy is to reformulate our coatings by decreasing the VOC level. At the same time, we’re taking tried and tested products from elsewhere in our product portfolio that are already compliant and making them available for marine customers. This will ensure continued product availability, while maintaining application flexibility and keeping shipyard productivity high. In the longer term, in accordance with market trends, we’re also exploring solutions for waterborne products.

High-performance solutions that are more sustainable. That’s the future we see at Hempel.                                                                  

Performance and sustainability

Working to reduce VOCs is not new for Hempel. We’ve already reduced VOCs by more than 50 per cent in our Hempaguard product family compared with conventional nanoacrylate antifoulings. 

In 2020, Hempaguard X7 reached 2,000 applications and we have continued to document its ability to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions since its launch in 2013. At the time of writing, Hempaguard X7 had reduced collective fuel consumption on the vessels it’s been applied to by 7.6 million tonnes, lowering CO2 emissions by 23.5 million tonnes. At the same time, it had reduced the collective fuel bill for the vessels’ operators by at least USD 2.6 billion.

Solutions like Hempaguard prove that better environmental and business performance can go hand-in-hand. At Hempel, we believe this is the future of the industry and we will continue to push the boundaries of performance with sustainability.