By Ian Vallely, Plastics & Rubber Weekly
Roydon, UK - A recent US court case could lead to new laws banning mercury as a catalyst in the manufacture of polyurethane elastomers this year, according to Dr Barrie Colvin, managing director of IFS Chemicals.
The European Union is also likely to ban use of mercury totally in the near future.
In response, Colvin's company has developed a range of polyurethane elastomers that do not use mercury or other undesirable catalysts.
Colvin argued that the outcome of the court case late last year meant that oil and gas industries could no longer depend on polyurethane pipe manufacturers that have traditionally supplied their engineering contractors.
The case involved a $100-million fine and concerned an operator that disposed of hazardous solid waste from a pipe coating plant to one of its non-hazardous landfill sites.
Colvin warned: "Over a period of time, mercury can leach out of polyurethanes into soil and watercourses and create pollution."
He added: "We have carried out full evaluation of the mechanical properties and processing performance of prototype mouldings.
"They have also been aged for 12 months at elevated temperatures in air and in seawater. All our findings confirm that the basic polymer structure has remained unchanged, and the beneficial properties normally experienced with mercury-catalysed systems have been retained with the non-mercury variants.
"Underwater applications, particularly seabed and sub-sea uses, were of particular interest when we instigated this research," Colvin added.
IFS Chemicals is based in Roydon, Kings Lynn.
Plastics & Rubber Weekly is a sister publication of Urethanes Technology International