The concept of ‘sovereign manufacturing capability’ extends to servicing and enabling a wide range of crucial industries that Australia depends on, including the ‘process manufacturing’ sector. Process manufacturing is where individual raw materials and inputs are converted into a final product in liquid, solid, gel or powder form using a thermal, pressurised and/or chemical. process. Industries that use process manufacturing include minerals, foods and beverages, pharmaceuticals, paints and coatings, chemicals, cosmetics and personal care.
Written by Kerryn Caulfield, Executive Director, Composites Australia Inc.
Fibreglass reinforced plastic (FRP) tanks play an important role in process manufacturing. These composite workhorses provide safe, non-combustible, non-corrosive storage of raw material inputs, formulated outputs, waste, and effluent. They house caustic solutions, oxidizing chemicals and won’t react to chemicals with aggressive properties. Being lighter than steel they can be made to hold volumes and are not prone to thermal expansion and contraction.
Sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) is a high strength industrial antiseptic or cleaning agent used in a variety of industrial applications including large scale water treatment, household cleaning products and pharmaceutical synthesis. Hydrochloric acid (HCl) is another industrial chemical often used to regulate the acidity (pH) of solutions where purity is important, such as food and pharmaceuticals and to neutralize waste in ore refining in processing minerals. Both chemicals have powerful acidic and toxic fuming properties that corrode most storage materials, particularly steel, and have serious health and environmental risks.
Operating from manufacturing sites across three states on the eastern seaboard, Corrosion Technology Australia Group (CTA) produces a range of FRP tanks and other composite products for petrochemical plants, utilities (water and sewage treatment and energy), food processing and other industry sectors. Founded in 1991 by Managing Director, Alex Brown, CTA services the growing nationwide demand for FRP piping, ventilation and storage systems, including chemical and waste water tanks.
“Built as ‘workhorses’ for process manufacturing, our tanks are made with specialty epoxy vinyl ester systems which are otherwise known as ‘problem solvers’. Their properties exceed both polyester and epoxy in corrosion resistance and toughness and are typically used when high durability, thermal stability and extremely high corrosion resistance are needed,” says Alex Brown.
Though built to the standard for Reinforced Thermoset Plastic Corrosion-Resistant Equipment (ASME RTP-1) and or to the standard for ‘GRP Tanks and vessels for use above ground’ (EN 13121), the recommended corrosion barrier for some chemicals has increased from 3 to 6 millimetres in recent years based on long term monitoring. “Proactive continual monitoring of FRP tanks by resin companies has enabled continual validation and improvement of the chemistry,” said Brown.
Australian made EasyVeil® from Regina Glass Fibre is a C-Glass surface veil included in the corrosion barrier for most chemicals at the inner surface of the laminate which is the interface of the FRP composite and the stored corrosive material. The veil serves to provide a durable, resin-rich (90% resin) surface for the composite. The same resin matrix will typically be used throughout the composite structure with reinforcements used in up to three specific areas of the laminate. The tanks are post cured to drive the curing reaction by increasing the cross lining density and to maximise the resin and ultimate mechanical properties.
The production of a broad portfolio of vaccines is another example of sovereign manufacturing capability that Australia needs to protect and develop. Technology driven and highly-regulated, vaccine manufacture is a challenging process manufacturing industry that requires large amounts of raw material, technical equipment and sterile supplies processed under exacting operational conditions. The Commonwealth Serum Laboratories (CSL) was established in Australia in 1916 to service the health needs of our nation isolated by war. CSL soon created the flu vaccine for the 1918 pandemic. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of vaccines in protecting and saving lives is as critical as ever. The federal government announced in March it had finalised a deal with global vaccine manufacturer Moderna that will see the production of mRNA vaccines from as early as 2024 at the new facility, also in Victoria.