A look at why The Lubrizol Corporation isnít just pipe and fittings

Many hear the name Lubrizol and think only about lubricants, engine oils and fuels. But, what many don’t know is that The Lubrizol Corporation acquired B.F. Goodrich technology in 2004, expanding its product portfolio. The work of Benjamin Franklin Goodrich, the 19th century industrialist and inventor who once led the rubber industry, influenced the development of space suits used by NASA astronauts, and pipes and fittings installed by contractors.

Today, Lubrizol is separated into two divisions: Additives and Advanced Materials. Lubrizol CPVC is part of the Advanced Materials division. This division pioneered chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) for use in pipe and fittings systems. In 1960, one of the first CPVC pipe and fittings applications was installed in a residential plumbing system at the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) Research Home, in Lansing, Mich.

When Lubrizol started producing CPVC, its products were used in residential applications, mainly for potable water. As the company expanded, it continued servicing the residential market while moving into the commercial market, including high-rise buildings with various small diameter applications. The FlowGuard Gold Pipe and Fittings product line was developed for applications up to 2 inches, and the Corzan Piping Systems product line was created for applications up to 24 inches. Through work with its world-class manufacturing partners, Lubrizol compounds are extruded into pipe or molded into fittings engineered for a variety of applications.

From acquiring B.F. Goodrich technology to now being a wholly owned subsidiary of Berskshire Hathaway, Inc., Lubrizol has an undeniably rich and extensive history, with advanced technology and testing capabilities. With a team that helped developed past and present American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) standards and day-to-day plumbing codes, Lubrizol is more than a specialty chemicals company that provides compounds for pipe and fittings.

Lubrizol has expanded into a technology-driven, global business that combines complex, specialty chemicals to optimize the quality, performance and value of customers’ products. The company’s offerings include lubricant additives for engine oils, driveline and other transportation-related fluids, industrial lubricants, as well as additives for gasoline and diesel fuel. In addition, Lubrizol makes ingredients and additives for home care and personal care products and pharmaceuticals, and specialty materials, including plastics technology and performance coatings in the form of specialty resins and additives.

There is continued investment in CPVC technology from Lubrizol. The company has an expanding compounding and resin plant in Louisville, Kentucky; a resin plant in The Netherlands; and a compounding plant in Belgium. The company recently announced it will also open a new CPVC compounding plant in Dahej, India. Construction of this plant is an integral component of the company’s previously announced $400 million global expansion of its resin and compounding manufacturing capacity. Lubrizol will be one of the first major global producers of CPVC to establish operations in India.

The fact that Lubrizol provides high quality, raw material to some of the best manufacturing companies in the industry is a point of pride for the company. In addition, its sales team, made up of industry experts, is out in the field working to provide quality training and overall support to construction industry professionals.

CPVC systems have been used in new construction, refit, and repair projects within domestic plumbing and industrial and fire sprinkler piping, for more than 50 years. But, in order for CPVC systems to achieve peak performance, they must be properly matched with complementary construction products including thread sealants, leak detectors and firestops, etc. Lubrizol stresses that chemical compatibility issues can result from a mismatch, causing headaches for contractors and manufacturers alike. Don Townley, global manager of codes and approvals for Lubrizol, and Steve Manis, market development manager for Lubrizol, sat down with Phc News to explain why the company’s approach to CPVC pipe and fittings should be important to our readers.

Phc: From a design perspective, why choose Lubrizol’s CPVC offerings?

DT: Whenever you make a product there is an ASTM standard. We’ll just talk about the [ASTM] D2846 that FlowGuard Gold Pipe and Fittings is made to, which defines the minimum requirement that a product has to meet. It includes minimum pressure requirements, cell class for the compound, pressure ratings, and those sorts of things.  Third-party certifying agencies, such as NSF International, certify the pipe and fittings to the requirements of the ASTM standard. One of the advantages of FlowGuard Gold CPVC is that it exceeds those requirements.

Regarding impact resistance of the pipe, when CPVC first came out in the 60s, when it was first commercialized, one of the concerns for the product was that it was a little brittle. So, it performed well, but it was difficult for the installer to use. One of the things that Lubrizol did was improve the compound and make it more ductile so it’s easier to cut and handle.

We talk with engineers and specifiers about the minimum cell classification for CPVC pipes and fittings, which is a 23347. Each one of those numbers means something. The three means the impact resistance of the initial compound. Our FlowGuard Gold pipe compound has a higher classification, it’s a 24448. The important number you want to look at is that first three changed to a four, which means the impact resistance of our compound is five times greater than what the minimum requires it to be.

When you consider fittings, it’s very important you have a complete and robust system. This goes, historically, into how the ASTM standards were written. There are pressure requirements on the materials used to make the pipe. Those requirements are not on the fitting compound, it’s just how the standards were developed. That’s why you always notice that a fitting is 25 percent thicker than the pipe, just to build more of a safety factor in because the fitting compounds are not required to be pressure rated. We, at Lubrizol, took it another step further with a pressure rated fitting compound, even though it is not required. To get a pressure rating, you literally put your material into cabinets and you test them, everything from quick bursts up through 16,000 plus hours (about 1-2 years) and extrapolate that for 50 years to show that the material itself is able to hold the pressure. And, what’s important to the user is that even though it wasn’t required, we submitted all of that data to a third-party organization, the Plastic Pipe Institute, and had them certify that. The contractor probably won’t know or even care about the details. But, with our product what they will know is that with FlowGuard Gold they’re getting all of these things in the background and they can count on these certifying agencies to verify that they’re getting a superior product to install.

Phc: Looking more into the contractor’s perspective, why choose Lubrizol CPVC offerings?

SM: Out in the field, people look at us as consultants. The only thing I sell is ideas and solutions to piping problems, because I don’t have to go in and come out with a purchase order. I’m there to help the business install the product correctly. With that, one of the challenges that we see at Lubrizol is the apathy of contractors. They’re thinking that what we’re presenting them with is just a system that anybody can put together. The reality is that at Lubrizol we spend a lot of money with our sales people throughout the world on installation training. It’s something we bring to the industry for free. In these trainings what we talk about is proper installation techniques, solvent welding techniques, capability, how to support the pipe, and overall techniques that ensure system success. People think they are gluing pipe together with this and anybody can do it. The reality is they are chemically welding two pieces of pipe together with solvents. So, our biggest challenge is to change the mentality of the contractor to where he or she knows there should be a trained installer with them.

When I was a contractor, what I liked most about the FlowGuard Gold brand was that I knew it meant the product went to the next level with standards and certification. I knew that FlowGuard Gold was the best CPVC product on the market. From as simple of a thing as cell class, especially in areas with cold weather where cutting the pipe can show the difference between a generic CPVC and FlowGuard Gold. FlowGuard Gold is clear in the ease of cutting. These are features that the contractor does not necessarily know, so Lubrizol brings a field expert in to educate them.

Phc: Fifty years is a long time to have a product on the market. What changes have been made to Lubrizol’s CPVC offerings to make that possible?

DT: We have an R&D staff that is dedicated to CPVC for plumbing and other applications. One of the other big advantages of what we do is that our people are out in the field, and they’re not only talking, they’re listening. For example, I talked about impact resistance. The changes made there came from direct feedback from customers. Flame and smoke ability changes have also come from feedback in the field.

One of the big innovations that happened in the 90s, on the copper tube side, was related to when you put the pipe and fittings together. Today you use one-step cement; you don’t have to use a primer. Our FlowGuard Gold just uses a one-step cement, and that was based on feedback from an installer asking if on a smaller job did they really need all of the steps. One of the questions we especially got in commercial was about when installers went out to make a repair and the traditional solvent cements took longer to cure sometimes. We worked with our customer and partner Oatey SCS on that, and they developed what they called a repair cement designed specifically for when you’re going in a building and making a cut in or modification to a system. That cement sets and cures quicker to get the building back in line as quick as possible.

SM: One of the things we changed recently was our 25/50 requirements for use in a plenum. Some of the feedback we took from contractors was about condensate drains and pressure and temperature (P&T) lines. These applications are usually in closets that are dry. With that, Lubrizol decided to go back to the lab and document that FlowGuard Gold CPVC meets the 25/50 requirement, even with no water in the pipe, making it the ideal product for P&T lines or drains and condensate drains.

Phc: Lubrizol CPVC’s FBC System Compatibility Program is another fairly recent change. Can you explain the program?

DT: All materials have inherent strengths and weaknesses. On a metallic system, things will attack those systems, everything from water on a copper system causing it to corrode. There are also some materials out there that can attack CPVC and cause some issues, and those can be used in things like caulking or thread sealants. So, one of the solutions we offer to industry professionals is our FBC System Compatible Program. In that program, we have customers and partners that are leading manufacturers of a number of different materials; I believe we have roughly 80 different products in the program. Those companies have submitted their products to a third-party lab to have them tested to verify that they are chemically compatible with our FlowGuard Gold, BlazeMaster, and Corzan systems.

To qualify for inclusion in the compatibility program, the manufacturer of auxiliary construction products must agree to: submit their products for testing by a third-party lab, not alter the tested formulation, and have their manufacturing facility audited annually by the third-party lab. This means no product in the program will cause a potential issue for the three piping systems as a result of incompatibility.

What it does for the industry professional is makes it much easier to identify ancillary products that are chemically compatible with Lubrizol CPVC products. All of the products in the program are marked with the FBC logo. A listing of the products within the program can be found on the “Lubrizol More Inside” mobile app for Apple and Android devices, and also on the web at www.fbcsystemcompatible.com. We are the only ones in the industry with a program like this. It’s another one of those things we did in response to feedback from the customer. The end goal is to make the installation as dependable, trouble-free, and easy as possible.

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