Nanotechnology Offers Big Protection: Tesla NanoCoatings Provides Novel Solution to Pipeline Coatings
A small company in Massillon, Ohio, is employing tiny molecules to solve a big problem for energy infrastructure. Founded in 2012, Tesla NanoCoatings Inc. has developed a new solution for corrosion control using nanotechnology, which is the manipulation of matter on a near-atomic scale to produce new structures, materials and devices.
The entrepreneur behind Tesla NanoCoatings is company founder, president and CEO Todd Hawkins, who was trained in petroleum engineering and geology. While working in the aerospace industry, Hawkins was inspired to develop a new corrosion-resistant coating system that uses carbon nanotubes.
Carbon nanotubes are among the stiffest and strongest materials known to exist, Hawkins says, adding that the technology offers up to 200 times the tensile strength of steel.
The system that Hawkins’ company has developed, called Teslan Carbon NanoCoating, is a two-coat system featuring low VOC epoxy primer and a topcoat that Hawkins says offers many advantages in corrosion protection for steel surfaces, as well as a reduction in the time and effort to apply the coating. The application time is reduced because the product can be applied wet-on-wet, allowing the topcoat to be applied 30 to 45 minutes after the primer. Teslan is designed to replace more conventional three- and four-coat liquid corrosion prevention systems and fusion-bonded epoxy (FBE).
Hawkins and Tesla NanoCoatings chief scientist Jorma Virtanen worked together to develop the Teslan formulation, which offers unique mechanical, thermal and electrical properties, while forming a protective barrier that is stronger than conventional rust-resistant paints and exhibits self-healing characteristics to withstand abrasions.
The product can be applied by spray, brush or roller — just like other conventional coatings.
While Tesla NanoCoatings’ products have not yet been used on onshore transmission pipelines, Hawkins adds that the company has provided corrosion protection coatings for a variety of piping in the oil and gas industry, mostly offshore and in refineries.
Hawkins calls offshore oil and gas facilities the “bread and butter” of Tesla NanoCoatings’ business. The company’s corrosion protection products are currently used to protect deep water energy production assets in the Gulf of Mexico, Western Africa and the Middle East, including rigs, pumps, trucks, tanks, plumbing and pipelines. The company also has a corrosion resistant deck coating that has the added benefit of providing traction for improved worker safety. However, Hawkins says Tesla NanoCoatings is pursuing business opportunities to protect onshore pipeline.
“It’s a natural fit for us,” Hawkins says. “We’re already working with a majority of those customers that own [onshore] pipelines. Our products are easily adaptable for pipeline applications.”
The Teslan coating system eliminates the need for stripe coating at weld joints and has unique conductive properties that make it able to work well with cathodic protection systems, Hawkins says. The company is currently working to test its products for cathodic disbondment, an issue that is specific to the onshore pipeline sector.
Teslan applies like paint but acts like plating. As one of the strongest materials known to man, the mechanical properties of carbon nanotubes can be engineered into epoxy. The benefits include increased tensile strength and barrier properties, the ability to eliminate microcracking and prevent the coating from breaking down from weathering.
From its headquarters in Massillon, Ohio, which is about 50 miles south of Cleveland and less than 10 miles west of Canton, Tesla NanoCoatings serves customers all over the world. The company is based in a former newspaper building, which once housed offices, printing presses and a warehouse. Those facilities provide the perfect space for its new resident, offering a mix of corporate amenities and space for research and development, storage and shipping. The products are manufactured offsite.
Tesla NanoCoatings relies on field-tested experience and university-based research and development talent. Located 20 miles south of Akron, the company has access to the scientific minds from the University of Akron and other nearby institutions where corrosion and technology breakthroughs continue to be made.
Tesla NanoCoatings has earned several technical and professional awards in recognition of a wide range of applications. R&D World (formerly R&D Magazine) presented the company with its R&D 100 Award in 2011, and the company received the NorTech Innovation Award in 2012.
CNBC recognized Tesla NanoCoatings as No. 15 on its inaugural Upstart 25 list of promising start-up companies. The cable news network began recognizing entrepreneurial success stories in 2017, highlighting companies that are scaling quickly, growing their user bases and sales. The list has grown to become the Upstart 100.
The Silicon Review named the company among its list of the 50 Smartest Companies of the Year in 2018.
“We’re demonstrating a value proposition that we’re able to provide the longest life coating that will save the asset owner time and money up front,” Hawkins says. “While we’re more expensive by unit cost, our coatings provide the lowest installed cost compared to other coatings.”
Hawkins says the company continues to conduct tests on its products to develop a significant amount of data to support its claims.
“We represent a change in philosophy in the oil and gas industry,” he says.
Bradley Kramer is managing editor of North American Energy Pipelines. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.Tags: March April 2022 Print Issue