The company is using a bio-resin with important properties that make it suitable for boatbuilding
The shift to cleaner and greener practices in the marine industry has yet to resemble a rush, but some boatbuilders think they can and should become better stewards of the environment because it’s good for business. They’re moving toward sustainable practices, products and technologies that are readily available and aren’t prohibitively expensive.
At Campion Marine, of Kelowna, British Columbia, the builder’s push to reduce its carbon footprint and the release of other emissions follows the implementation of lean manufacturing practices several years ago. The initial goal was to improve production synergies and reduce waste, but since 2010 the company also has been building its boats with an unsaturated polyester resin that has 12 percent bio content (by weight) derived from soybean oil and corn-based ethanol.
The product, Envirez 86337-T30, was developed by Ashland (www.ashland.com), and it has heat-distortion temperature and elongation properties that make it suitable for boatbuilding. “If there’s A and there’s B, and B is more eco-friendly, let’s do it,” says Campion managing director Brock Elliott, explaining the company’s motivation to go green(er).
Campion (www.campionboats.com) produces more than 37 models from 9 to 30 feet — about 800 boats a year, including those built for other brands, such as Infinyte Marine, an electric-boat builder that Campion took over in January. The company began to consider materials and production processes that are more eco-friendly out of a sense that a healthy environment is good for people and recreational boating.
“We calculated that the amount of [bio] resin we use produced more than 100,000 pounds fewer carbon emissions,” Elliott says. “In the two-year evaluation phase, we did a two-boat test in real-world conditions on a Chase 550 and 600 that were equipped with V-8 5.7-liter 320-hp dual-prop sterndrives, good enough for 60-plus miles, and we noticed no difference [from] conventional resins.”
In addition to fewer carbon emissions, Elliott says, there are other benefits to building boats with Envirez. It’s easier to pull parts from the mold, so there’s less need for fairing and other touching up afterward, and the resin’s favorable elongation properties help reduce fiberglass damage — for example, from bumping into a dock. Less cracking or crazing of the gelcoat also means fewer warranty repairs.
Ashland, a Fortune 500 chemical company based in Covington, Ky., operates Ashland Performance Materials in Dublin, Ohio, where resins with renewably sourced contents (bio and recycling) are being developed for such applications as sheet and bulk molding, resin transfer molding, infusion and pultrusion.
About 10 years ago, before ethanol replaced MTBE in gasoline and biodiesel began gaining popularity, the United Soybean Board and John Deere were trying to create more demand for subsidized crop products, such as those derived from soybeans and corn. Ashland says it commercialized the first bio-based resin in 2002, and it was used in sheet-molding applications for tractor and combine panels. “For a few years the John Deere resin was the only one we had,” Envirez product manager Bob Moffitt says. “By 2006 or 2007 there was enough interest [in this technology] that we started developing other resins for open-mold construction, like boatbuilding.”
The carbon savings come at the point of manufacture and are computed with a factor of -0.20, according to the product specifications. So the production of 1,000 pounds of Envirez puts about 200 pounds less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Although that might not seem spectacular, it’s not the only upside: Making Envirez also takes less energy. The savings are given as 2,100 British thermal units per pound of resin, or 2.1 million Btu per 1,000 pounds of resin. For comparison, one barrel of crude oil equals about 5.85 million Btu.
The price of most bio-based Envirez resins, Moffit says, is about 10 percent above conventional petro-based resins. Resins made with recycled content don’t carry that surcharge. Campion says it did not pass the price difference on to its customers because the Canadian dollar’s exchange rate tracked favorably in comparison to the U.S. dollar and because the company also received a price break from Ashland for research and development work.
A customer’s vision
The idea of buying a boat built with an eye toward environmental impact sat well with Mark Hayhoe, who is in the milling business near Toronto. His company, K2 Milling Ltd., mills plant material that is left over after oil extraction and turns it into flour that is incorporated into food and biofillers. “I wanted to integrate ag-based products with our lifestyle to set an example for the kids,” he says.
However, as an avid powerboater, Hayhoe found himself adrift in his quest for a greener boat within his budget. “I asked several builders without getting any response,” he says, recalling drawn-out research that ended when he heard Campion was experimenting with Envirez.
He bought a Campion 645 Allante bowrider with a 220-hp Volvo D3 5-cylinder diesel sterndrive and runs it out of Campbell’s Landing Marina on Lake Muskoka. He fuels it with B100 biodiesel that is made right down the street. Calling his ride the “bio boat,” Hayhoe says he notices no difference in performance from a boat made with conventional resins and praises the diesel’s fuel economy, which he estimates to be 30 to 40 percent better than a V-8 gasoline engine with comparable performance characteristics. He loves the fact that he does not depend on imported crude to fire up his Allante or his pickup truck, which also runs on biodiesel.
Hayhoe says he plans to use engine and transmission lubrication that is made in Ontario from locally grown plant oil. After two seasons and 120 hours of bio boating, the engine is still running fine, he says. “No fuel issues whatsoever.”
Back in Kelowna, on Lake Okanagan, Campion continues to explore sustainable ways to build fiberglass boats with products that meet performance specifications while reducing environmental impact. Most of them are readily available, such as lighter and stronger tri-axial glass mats, which reduce material use and hull weight, and Maxguard gelcoat, which contains less styrene and produces about 50 percent fewer emissions, according to Ashland’s product literature.
Elliott is also partial to Acrastrip, a semiaqueous, non-flammable acetone composite resin remover that is not as toxic and dangerous as acetone and helped cut solvent use by 80 percent. For flotation, Campion uses Ecomate polyurethane foam products that are VOC-exempt and do not contribute to global warming and ozone depletion, according to the manufacturer, Foam Supplies. “The workers now only need to wear a mask, not a full protective suit,” Elliott points out. “And we don’t have to wait to conduct factory tours for hours after foam work, like in the old days.”
Campion also phased out incandescent bulbs in most light fixtures, replacing them with LED technology that curbs energy use and needs replacement less often. The company also has begun using Airex T92 structural foam, made in Switzerland with some recycled content from polyethylene bottles, and cushioning with 12 percent soja content in the upholstery.
Campion has been recognized for environmental stewardship by the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce, Boating magazine and, most recently, at the Toronto Boat Show by the Canadian Safe Boating Council. “We will continue to push eco-friendliness and throw the challenge back to our suppliers by asking them if there is a greener application or a greener twist,” Elliott says. “If we can do it leaner, we might be able to do it greener and cleaner.”
This article originally appeared in the February 2012 issue.