An Older Interview Republished
14th March 2018, Paris
Interview with Juan Antonio Merino, Olin Epoxy
Inside Composites talks to Juan Antonio Merino, Olin area president for Europe, the Middle East, Asia and India, at JEC World in Paris.
Juan Antonio Merino: Olin as a name is perhaps not as well-known in the composites sector here in Europe as it will become in the next few years, because following the acquisition of Dow Chemical’s US Gulf Coast Chlor Alkali and global chlorinated organics and global epoxy businesses in 2015, we have become the biggest manufacturer of these products, including epoxy resin systems. And we have a 125-year history of know-how and experience to build on.
Olin globally now has an annual turnover of more than $6 billion, with 6,300 employees and regional headquarters in Zug, Switzerland, for Europe, the Middle East, Africa and India. The company employs over 650 professionals in its European offices, research and innovation centres and manufacturing locations in Baltringen, Rheinmunster and Stade in Germany, Pisticci in Italy and Terneuzen in the Netherlands. As a global company, we also have manufacturing operations in North America, Latin America and Asia. Around 15% of the epoxy we manufacture goes to the composites industry and we see the potential for significant growth.
What are your key epoxy brands for the composites industry?
JAM: Our Airstone and Litestone epoxy composite systems, which we tailor to meet industry and environmental conditions specific to customer design, fabrication and system integration requirements. They provide advantages for a variety of composite manufacturing methods, including hand lay-up, infusion, pultrusion, filament winding, prepreg, SMC/BMC, resin transfer moulding, tooling and more. These are tested systems providing enhanced resistance to temperature extremes and chemicals, improved fatigue resistance, faster cure for improved productivity and reliability, for lower cost of ownership.
At JEC World 2018, you were the sole sponsor of the Building Planet exhibition. What were your key aims with this impressive showcase?
JAM: We have a really strong position in the wind power sector, but feel that there are still huge opportunities for composites within the building and construction industry, and in meeting other future infrastructural requirements, that are not yet being fully grasped. Our intention was to attract the major OEMs and suppliers from this sector to the show, in order to meet and discuss the latest developments.
What innovations did you highlight?
JAM: We are excited about the new rebar we have developed with our customers for concrete reinforcement, which is based on basalt fibre and as such offers an improved corrosion resistance to alkali over steel. In addition it can be coiled, unlike glass fibre. We’ve also improved the finishing so the product doesn’t need to be coated while also enhancing the strength and thermal insulation it provides. And of course, composite rebar is much lighter than steel. Here at JEC World our manufacturing customer No Rust Rebar is introducing a product with a helical twist for better adhesion to the concrete which can be made in long lengths and coiled for shipment to the job site. This will lead to tremendous advantages in terms of both transportation and installation. There is a huge market out there which composites can become a much bigger part of.
Also in the pipeline, is the development of rebar which has sufficient flame retardancy to enable it to be used in the residential market.
Another interesting development related to this is the patent-pending anti-seismic C Spring we have jointly developed with Sardou SAS, using its proprietary Eposil additive mixed with our Litestone epoxy. This composite base insulation system is intended for use as the basis for earthquake-resistant architectural structures. The springs provide high fracture toughness and hardly age, meaning less maintenance and increased safety and sustainability for buildings.
And you’ve also made advances in the development of composite pressure vessels?
JAM: Yes, we have a series of epoxy resin systems for use in fabricating composite pressure vessels that store compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and we’ve introduced a new toughening technology allowing us to now enable 700 bar pressure vessels, meaning the latest products are suitable for hydrogen transportation and storage. We know the petrochemicals industry generates a lot of hydrogen waste. Our toughening technology can enable pressure vessels suitable for hydrogen and thereby make huge logistical and energy savings possible. There is huge potential in this.
In addition, there is also an increasing demand for lightweight alternative fuel storage systems with improved fuel economy, reduced corrosion and improved overall safety that composites can provide for many applications, including fuel cell powered electric cars. Hydrogen is the only answer here.
All in all, we’re pretty excited about the range of new product developments we’re currently involved in.