Fusion bonded epoxy coatings have been in use since the 1960s. Continuous improvements on the technology have made fusion bonded epoxy (FBE) a popular choice in coating technology across a wide variety of applications. Most commonly, FBE coatings are used to protect pipelines that carry petroleum and natural gas. Fusion bonded epoxy coatings, like all pipeline coatings, have a common purpose: protecting the pipeline material from corrosion, which is accelerated in these types of warm, wet, and abrasive environments.
The process behind the actual application of a fusion bonded epoxy coating may not be universally understood, but it does provide an interesting insight into the coating technology that benefits us every day – protecting the pipelines that deliver our energy resources and clean water.
The application process of a fusion bonded epoxy coating is multi-faceted. Before any coating is applied, the pipeline surface must be “prepared” by abrasive blasting techniques to remove all rust, grease, and other surface contaminants. Not only will this create a clean surface for which the powder is applied, but also it will also create varying anchor patterns which will interlock the cured powder to the metal.
Once the surface is cleaned thoroughly, the metal is pre-heated to the appropriate temperature for the application depending on manufacturer specifications. Once the metal is up to temperature, the actual FBE coating is sprayed onto the substrate, where the high temperatures cause the powder coating to gel and fuse to the pipe through chemical cross-linking. The metal is finally placed into the oven one more time to ensure the complete curing of the product. This strong bond is irreversible and provides superior protection compared to a simple coating like traditional paint. No amount of heat or abrasion will return the coating to its original form, making fusion bonded epoxy an easy choice for sensitive and important operations like the transportation of liquids through pipeline.
The average person might not be familiar with fusion bonded epoxy coatings and its applications, but this important technology affects us all in significant ways every day. The application process is one that has been refined for decades and continues to improve in protecting the pipelines that make modern life possible.