No Ifs, Ands, or Buts About It: Proactive Engineers Choose Pyrogel®

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By John Williams

January 25, 2019

Engineers, by nature, are proactive in their quest to improve the processes, systems, and designs that they work on daily. But, looming deadlines and budget constraints often mean that you make insulation choices without added consideration. Are you choosing insulation because it’s what was already in place and that’s good enough for now?  We’re not knocking that approach; we get it. However, if you’re looking for long term solutions for problems that plague your insulation systems­­—including CUI— we think it’s time to ratchet up your proactive ways and make a different choice. So, let’s talk about that.

Corrosion under insulation can only occur in a wet environment. The implication of wetness on insulation selection is well summarized in section of NACE Standard SP0198 Control of Corrosion Under Thermal Insulation and Fireproofing Materials:

“Because CUI is a product of wet metal exposure duration, the insulation system that holds the least amount of water and dries most quickly should result in the least amount of corrosion damage to equipment.”

In both hot and cold service, non-wicking, non-absorbent insulation is often the preferred material choice. No one wants their insulation to get wet—wet insulation is truly one of industry’s contradictions. Yet, today, many facilities continue to use outdated, water-absorbing insulation, putting their processes and profitability at risk, and their assets and risk for CUI.

It’s a conundrum, for sure. But Pyrogel offers something that proactive engineers are relying on more and more.

Proactive engineers choose Pyrogel because:

  1. Most insulation materials can absorb water—and hold it against your piping and equipment.
    But hydrophobic Pyrogel repels water throughout the CUI temperature range, so that underlying assets stay dry even if jacketing is compromised. Pyrogel also prevents water from getting in in the first place.
  2. Weather barriers and the underlying insulation can be compromised by mechanical impacts, footfalls, and the use of fibrous and rigid insulation that cannot withstand compression events. If any of these things happen, water can be allowed into the insulation system and, ultimately, in contact with the pipe.
    But Pyrogel, although flexible, is stiff in compression and offers excellent spring back, recovering even after major compression events—supporting jacketing when it’s subjected to tool strikes, footfalls, and expansion-contraction cycles.
  1. Surface water/moisture can get trapped by non-breathable insulation materials, significantly increasing dry-out times and throwing processes off kilter.
    But—in the event that a Pyrogel insulation system does get exposed to water—its open-cell construction allows water vapor to escape, enabling assets to quickly dry out. Bonus: faster dry-out time means process performance is minimally impacted for better optimization.
  2. If jacketing/weather barriers get damaged, holes or “fish mouths” open and provide liquid water with an open door to reach the insulation layer. Even worse, if that insulation is water absorbent, that water has a direct path to the underlying asset.
    But Pyrogel—installed in multiple layers based on temperature and processes—acts as a breathable, protective membrane around your piping and equipment. If water does permeate the outermost layer of Pyrogel, not only will it will dry rapidly, it also makes it even harder for water to reach the layers closest to the pipe or asset.
  3. Equipment maintenance and inspections can be difficult and expensive, especially around frequently serviced flanges where damaged jacketing and CUI is often found.
    But Pyrogel’s robust thermal efficiency and thin profile can provide a finished diameter that is smaller than the flange’s bolt circle—enabling insulators to run right up to the flange face, and operators to service exchangers, vessel heads, and piping connections—without damaging the adjacent insulation.

Of course, keeping water away from the protected assets lessens the chance that CUI will develop. That’s the long-term result of a “keep it dry” engineering approach. But don’t forget, short term benefits show up in the form of improved process stability and performance, and reduced maintenance cycles. So, as a proactive engineer who chooses Pyrogel, what do you have to lose?