Laura Reinhard, Global Business Manager, Spray Foam, at Honeywell Talks Spray Foam Blowing Agents
By Dan Taylor
Laura Reinhard is extremely active in the spray foam industry, whether at industry events discussing blowing agent technology, meeting with systems houses to gather insights about formulation needs, or visiting with contractors at job sites to see first-hand how systems are performing. Reinhard is also highly involved in the dialogue about environmental regulations that impact blowing agents and the overall spray foam industry. Spray Foam Magazine recently spent some time with Reinhard in hopes to gain some insight into the importance of spray foam blowing agent technologies – particularly addressing the Montreal Protocol – as well as analyzing her perspective on what can be expected on the horizon.
Spray Foam Magazine: First, tell us how you came to be in your current role.
Laura Reinhard: I started my career as a manager at Deloitte, applying my educational background in finance and accounting. After joining Honeywell in 1994, I worked in various roles of increasing responsibility in finance, strategic marketing, and business management. Then, I transitioned into a project management role to oversee the military project in Iraq, where we applied spray foam to the tents at numerous forward operating bases. From that role,
I was given the opportunity to lead marketing and business development for our global commercial spray foam applications, which includes foam blowing agent technologies. It’s been five years and I am thoroughly enjoying this role.
SFM: What do you enjoy most about your role at Honeywell?
LR: One of the aspects I enjoy most is getting out into the field and meeting with customers who are truly pioneering exciting new spray foam systems across a wide range of commercial and residential applications. It’s energizing to be part of an industry that is growing and rapidly evolving.
One of my responsibilities includes expanding the spray foam business globally in high growth regions. I enjoy meeting customers around the world and learning about the unique challenges and opportunities they face, as well as common interests we share. One of those common interests is a focus on improving energy efficiency and reducing overall environmental impact. I am proud to work for a company that is the global leader in blowing agent technology, where approximately 50 percent of our products are directly related to energy efficiency.
SFM: Why is it important for SPF contractors to know which blowing agents are used in their systems?
LR: Contractors can benefit from knowing which blowing agent is being used in their spray foam formulations for two main reasons: First, the blowing agent has a tremendous impact on how their foam performs. Secondly, environmental regulations impacting spray foam blowing agents are becoming increasingly stringent, so it’s important to stay informed about these changing requirements to ensure compliance, now and in the future. It also helps when addressing questions from architects, builders, and owners.
I recognize that many spray foam contractors rely on their systems suppliers to ensure that their products meet all of the certification and regulatory requirements. However, by understanding the latest blowing agent and formulation technologies, contractors can be confident they are spraying the best systems available.
SFM: Do blowing agents differ in open-cell versus closed-cell spray foam systems?
LR: Yes. One of the key differences between open and closed-cell foam insulation is the insulating gas, or blowing agent. At Honeywell, our blowing agents are used in closed-cell foam and are sold under the brand names Enovate® 245fa, Solstice® Liquid Blowing Agent (LBA) or Solstice® Gas Blowing Agent (GBA). In open-cell foam, the cell walls are “broken” or open to the environment and limited to containing air as the insulating gas. The foam is expanded by carbon dioxide which is generated in a reaction with water to rapidly expand the open-cell foam.
In closed-cell foam, over 90 percent of the cell walls are closed, enabling the use of higher performance blowing agents, or insulating gases as they are sometimes referred. These blowing agents are better insulators than air, and therefore deliver higher thermal insulating values when compared to other materials with comparable thickness. Both the density and openness of the foam have a significant impact on insulation performance, and the resulting benefits it can bring.
SFM: Can you expand further on how the blowing agent impacts closed-cell spray foam?
LR: The blowing agent is one of the key ingredients in the polyol resin blend side of the system, along with other additives such as catalysts, surfactants, and flame retardants. When the polyol resin blend side of the system is reacted with the isocyanate side, the blowing agent helps expand the foam. It’s impressive to see how the foam typically expands to 30 times or more of its original volume.
Tiny blowing agent bubbles are trapped inside the millions of closed foam cells. This has a huge impact on the foam’s properties, accounting for up to 70 percent of its insulating value, or R-value.1 The foam cells are held together by the polyurethane polymer. In fact, in 1 cubic meter of foam, only four percent of the total volume is occupied by the polymer, while the remaining 96 percent is filled by the blowing agent.2 The blowing agent also contributes towards the air barrier, water resistive, flammability, and structural properties of the foam, as well as its environmental profile.
SFM: Can you explain how blowing agent technologies have changed over time and what has driven these changes?
LR: Foam blowing agent technologies have changed significantly over time and Honeywell has been at the forefront of those advancements. The improvements have been driven by both a demand for better performing foam and efforts to continually reduce climate impact. Since the use of the first-generation of blowing agents known as chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, began in the mid-1900s, the global regulatory landscape has continually evolved. With a focus on protecting the ozone layer, second-generation blowing agents, known as hydrochlorofluorocarbons, or HCFCs, were introduced. Some contractors may recall spraying systems formulated with HCFC-141b. These were phased out in North America by third- generation blowing agents, called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs. HFC foam blowing agents are considered non-ozone-depleting by the U.S. EPA and are commonly used worldwide. At Honeywell, we offer Enovate® 245fa, an HFC blowing agent that has been a proven solution for over fifteen years and is widely used today.
With continued regulatory pressure to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, fourth-generation blowing agents known as hydrofluoro-olefins, or HFOs, have been introduced that offer low global warming potentials, or GWPs. They are gaining rapid acceptance by systems houses and contractors as replacements for HFCs.
SFM: Why are HFO blowing agents gaining popularity across the spray foam industry and elsewhere?
LR: I attribute it to a couple of important reasons. First, compared to HFC blowing agents, contractors using systems formulated with Solstice LBA, which is based on our HFO technology, are benefiting from significantly higher yields, improved thermal performance, better adhesion, less gun clogging, and a smoother finish. Bottom line…they really like its sprayability and the resulting improvements in crew productivity. We also offer Solstice GBA, which replaces HFC blowing agents such as HFC-134a, in low-pressure and one-component spray foam applications.
Secondly, they can feel confident knowing that they are using a blowing agent that positions them well ahead of regulations calling for a phaseout of HFC blowing agents in closed-cell foam. Solstice LBA is nonflammable per ASTM E-681, VOC-exempt per the U.S. EPA, and non-ozone-depleting. But here’s the real differentiator. It has an ultra-low GWP of only 1. That is 99.9 percent lower than HFC alternatives and it is equal to CO2.
Systems suppliers know it takes time to develop, test, certify, and introduce new spray foam formulations. By being proactive, they can stay ahead of the curve and deliver superior systems for their customers while meeting regulatory and certification requirements. With Solstice LBA, there is no trade-off in foam performance to meet the environmental mandates. Therefore, many systems houses see value in switching to HFO blowing agents well ahead of the HFC phaseout deadlines. Many have already done so or are collaborating with us now. Plus, many contractors are already using Solstice LBA-based systems and feedback has been outstanding.
SFM: Can you tell us more about the changing regulatory environment impacting blowing agents?
LR: As mentioned, the regulatory landscape for blowing agents continues to change significantly in Canada, the U.S., and globally with a transition away from HFCs to low-GWP alternatives, such as HFOs. Along with other industry stakeholders, we remain engaged in the regulatory process so we can anticipate, develop, and deliver blowing agent solutions that the spray foam industry and others need.
For example, the U.S. EPA has announced phaseout dates for HFC blowing agents under its Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program through two new rules 20 and 21 published in 2015 and 2016. These rules will lead to increased adoption of materials with radically lower GWPs. For spray polyurethane foam, the current SNAP rules ban the use of HFCs in high pressure two-component foam and low pressure one-component foam effective January 1, 2020. For low pressure two-component foam, the ban takes effect on January 1, 2021. I’d also like to underscore that this HFC phaseout doesn’t just impact the United States.
In October 2016, delegates to The Montreal Protocol agreed in Kigali, Rwanda to a historic amendment that adds high-GWP HFCs to the Protocol and establishes schedules for their phase down in developed and developing countries. Canada supports the accord that will further accelerate the adoption of HFC substitutes not only for spray foam insulation, but in aerosols, air conditioning, refrigeration equipment, and others.
SFM: With the new U.S. Administration in place, do you anticipate changes with regard to regulations impacting the spray foam industry?
LR: We look forward to working with the new Administration in the U.S., and continuing to serve all of our customers across our global footprint. The new Administration has been clear that they are taking a hard look at new and pending regulations with the goal of ensuring that regulations help, not hurt, U.S. businesses. Current regulations may get more scrutiny in the future, but at this time, I am not aware that there will be any changes to SNAP or other regulations. In the case of our industry, we believe that the majority of U.S. manufacturers of spray foam systems support the SNAP program as an enabler to providing next-generation products and equipment world-wide.
SFM: How is Honeywell assisting customers to prepare for this transition to HFO-based systems?
LR: Honeywell decided long ago to invest heavily in R&D to develop next-generation HFC replacement solutions. Looking across our entire Solstice platform, we are investing nearly $900 million in R&D and new capacity, and have entered strategic partnerships to ensure the broadest portfolio of Solstice solutions and reliable supply for our customers.
We have a significant manufacturing footprint in the United States to produce HFO solutions. Our Solstice LBA plant started up in May 2014 in Geismar, Louisiana followed by the startup of our Solstice GBA plant in October 2014 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We also work closely with our customers to assist them with formulation development and testing. Our world-class R&D center in Buffalo, New York, is one of the key locations for our spray foam business where our scientists and technical service team innovate leading-edge solutions and provide excellent customer support.
SFM: What’s your outlook for the spray foam industry?
LR: I am very optimistic about the future of the spray foam industry in Canada, the United States, and around the world. As energy codes continue to become more stringent, demand for better performing insulation grows. The growth of the spray foam industry is
a testament to the product’s value and the efforts that our industry puts forth in maintaining high standards and driving innovation.
Of course, there is still work to be done, especially in the area of education. The industry spends significant resources on training, outreach, and updating jobsite best practices, including a special emphasis on safety. I think we can do more to inform architects, builders, owners and government agencies about the benefits of spray foam insulation and what we are doing as an industry to continually raise the bar. We are excited to be part of that dialogue and I believe our best days are ahead.
1. The higher the R-value, the greater the insulating power. Ask your seller for the fact sheet on R-values.
2. DUNA-USA brochure, pg. 4. USA Headquarters: 4210 FM 1405 – Baytown, TX 77523. Note: data applies to 40-45 Kg/m3 foam.
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