Montana to use biobased corrosion inhibitor in deicing solution

By Erin Voegele | December 06, 2011

Missoula, Mont.-based Rivertop Renewables was recently awarded a contract from the Montana Department of Transportation to supply 110,000 gallons of biobased corrosion inhibitor for use with liquid deicers on the state’s roads this winter. The company’s inhibitor, named “Headwaters,” will be mixed with MDT’s salt brine deicers to prevent corrosion on bridges and vehicles.

According to Dave Wilkening, Rivertop’s product manager for corrosion sciences, the Headwaters product is chemically modified sugar that is derived from dextrose. The product, he said, has a high affinity for metal surfaces. “Basically, we have a proprietary formulation which combines a few ingredients with this oxidized sugar to create a product we sell as a corrosion inhibitor for the deicing market,” Wilkening said. “Being derived from…agricultural sources, it’s also biodegradable, so it replaces products which are detrimental to watersheds. It is a very effective corrosion inhibitor, but it also has a very small environmental footprint. It reduces corrosion by approximately 70 percent compared to straight uninhibited salts.”

The process currently uses sugar derived from corn, but Wilkening noted work is underway to allow the technology to take in cellulosic sugars. “We’ve produced those [cellulosic] materials on the lab scale already,” he added.

To fill the order from the MDT, Rivertop is working with a local chemical and a local trucking company. The raw material is shipped to the chemical partner, said Wilkening. Using Rivertop’s formula, the company formulates, blends and creates the liquid Headwaters mixture. “Once we’ve batched the material, a local trucking company…transports it to the various DOT sheds,” Wilkening said. From there the product is blended with salt brine and used to treat icy and snowy roads.

“Our Headwaters product provides the state a highly effective, affordable and environmentally safe corrosion inhibitor that not only helps keep the roads clear, but reduces the impact on infrastructure and the environment,” said Jere Kolstad, President of Rivertop. “Essentially MDT will put sugar and salt on our roads to keep winter drivers safe and our state’s economy flowing, while protecting infrastructure investments and our environment.”

Rivertop is seeing interest in the product from potential customers outside of Montana as well. According to Wilkening, the company is currently in discussions with the state of Washington to supply material to its transportation department. He also noted that interest in the use of salt brine is growing around the country. “Wherever those salt brine operations are,” he said, “we hope to be selling product.”