21st Century Coatings Inc. received a license to manufacture its FPU WC Series Fluorinated Polymer from the US Navy Research Laboratory in 1994. The inventor, Dr. James Griffith, is a famous scientist who worked until his retirement at the US Navy Research Laboratory (NRL) and received many top Navy awards for his work. The Navy Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAEC) specifies FPU for welded-steel fuel tanks. Lloyd's issued certificates for FPU WC Series coating systems in four applications: Salt Water Ballet Tanks, Refined Spirits, Crude Oil, and Void Spaces.
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Polyurethane coatings were introduced in the 1960s as a material to line massive fuel tanks used for long-term storage of aviation, marine, and vehicle fuels. This was done as a means of achieving longer lifetimes for the fuel tanks, cleaner fuels for aircraft and ships, and the elimination of fuel leakage through the porous welds of these large, underground steel tanks. Each tank holds 300,000 barrels of aviation fuel and is 30 m in diameter by 76 m high. One tank holds enough gasoline to give a 48 liter fill-up to 1,050,000 automobiles.
To improve the polyurethane coatings, the NRL developed tank linings consisting of a fluorinated polyurethane filled with Teflon powder. The material is both hydrophobic and oleophobic and impermeable to water, gases, hydrocarbons (fuels), and other corrosive agents. Use of the lining began in 1983, and by early 1986, the lining had been installed in tanks at naval air stations in Pensacola, Florida (four tanks); Corpus Christi, Texas (two tanks); Norfolk, Virginia; and Patuxent River, Maryland; as well as at naval support facilities at Yokosuka, Japan; Craney Island, Virginia (two tanks); Diego Garcia (two tanks); and Pearl City, Hawaii (five tanks).
In estimating the financial savings of the fluoropolyurethane topcoat, the Naval Facilities Engineering Command performed a life-cycle cost analysis for a 60 year life for the tanks at Craney Island, Virginia. Costs for coating installation and necessary replacement, plus periodic cleaning of the tanks, were included. In 1993 dollars, based on 18 fuel tanks coated to date, the total life-cycle savings for using fluorinated urethane coatings in place of conventional urethane coatings is $11.4 million and more than $33 million by replacing epoxy coatings.
The U.S. Army also mandates this lining for the same purpose, and the Defense Fuel Supply Center also specifies this coating in all new tanks. Finally, a clear coating of this polyurethane was adopted in 1987 as the standard coating for BRA-22 radomes on all Los Angeles-class submarines since the water-shedding characteristics of the coating provide more rapid access to stable radar when broaching the sea surface.
The system worked so well that the US Navy mandated the use of the Fluorinated Polyurethane for its steel welded fuel storage tanks. The number of tanks to be coated has been increasing each year. Since then, domestically and internationally, 21st Century Coatings generated and achieved beachheads in several areas of the coatings market. The company has a production facility in Florida and has licensed several companies series in the US, Europe, and Australia to blend the product. It has established distribution facilities in the UK, Denmark, Sweden, and the Middle East.
For the last three years, the coating systems have protected the splash zone areas on one of ARAMCO's offshore oil platforms in Saudi Arabia from abrasion and very severe weather.
Below is a list of some of the areas within the US Armed Forces and the domestic private sector, where the coatings are being used and/or tested:
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