PPG PITT-CHAR® XP: Refineria de Cartagena S.A., Cartagena, Colombia

Refineria de Cartagena

The ultimate solution for extreme hydrocarbon fire scenarios

The Customer

The Reficar refinery, located in Cartagena, Colombia was originally built in 1956 by Intercol and is now operated by Refineria de Cartagena S.A. (Reficar), a subsidiary of Ecopetrol. The refinery consists of crude oil processing units, fluid catalytic crackers, and light oil product, polymerization, amine, and sulfur plants.

A USD 4 billion-dollar expansion program saw Reficar increase its crude oil refining capacity from 80,000 barrels per day to 165,000, and also allowed the refinery to supply petroleum products to domestic and export markets.

The Challenge

On this particular project, the main challenge was the magnitude of structural steel that needed to be fireproofed in order to protect the refinery from potential fire and explosion hazards, as well as meet the strict construction schedule set by the design engineer and fabricator, CB&I.

This phase of the expansion project required fireproofing for 28,000m2 (300,000ft2) of structural steel with PPG PITT-CHAR XP epoxy intumescent coating.

The steel was fabricated in China and then shipped to Cartagena. The PPG PITT-CHAR XP coating was applied in two offsite facilities using five plural-component application units to meet the demanding construction schedule. The steel was then transported by truck to the refinery for erection and fireproofing of block-out areas on site.

This required a fire protective coating with flexibility and toughness to allow for pre-coating, transportation and assembly with limited need for touch-up.

In addition, the seasonal humidity conditions in Colombia presented further difficulties for substrate preparation and fireproofing application.

The Owner

Refineria de Cartagena S.A. (Reficar), a subsidiary of Ecopetrol

The Design Engineer and Fabricator


The Location

Cartagena, Colombia

The Challenge

  • Meeting the tight production schedule
  • Facilitate pre-fabrication of fireproofing and minimize touch-up after erection
  • Application to block-outs on site in conjunction with other construction activities in the refinery
  • Protect refinery structural steel from potential fire and explosion hazards

The Solution


The Benefits

  • A smooth finish on the fireproofing
  • Easier block-out for onsite installation using wire mesh reinforcement after erection

The Result

  • Excellent appearance achieved with PPG PITT-CHAR XP
  • The challenging production schedule was met with two onsite application facilities nearby

The Solution

Using plural-airless spray equipment, the first layer of PPG PITT-CHAR XP epoxy intumescent coating was applied and then steel mesh reinforcement was installed on the flange tips to achieve the UL 1709 2-hour fire rating.


Excellent aesthetic finish achieved with the PPG PITT-CHAR XP coating system

A second layer of the PPG PITT-CHAR XP coating was applied over the mesh and rolled to an aesthetic finish.

Lastly, a layer of urethane topcoat was applied to further protect the coating system from the high humidity and sunlight in the coastal region of Cartagena Columbia where the Reficar refinery is located.

The entire coating system included:

Passive fire protection: PPG PITT-CHAR XP
Primer: PPG SIGMACOVER™ 280 (76 μm/3 mils)
Topcoats: PPG SIGMADUR™ 550 (50–76 μm/2–3 mils)
PPG AMERCOAT® 450 H (50–76 μm/2–3 mils)

The Benefits

The flexible, tough PPG PITT-CHAR XP epoxy intumescent coating provides superior fire protection by forming an insulating char upon exposure to high heat. This will ensure the structural steel’s integrity for an extended period of time, allowing workers to evacuate the structure safely in case of fire or explosion.


Block-out areas to coat after steel erection

In addition to fire protection, the PPG PITT-CHAR XP coating delivers excellent resistance to corrosion in this tropical climate where the steel structure is exposed to daily ultraviolet radiation all year, as well as high heat and humidity.

The owner, Reficar, and the fabricator, CB&I, reported their full satisfaction with the fireproofing appearance and ability to meet construction schedules.

The Result

The PPG PITT-CHAR XP epoxy-intumescent coating system has been ideal for achieving an excellent aesthetic appearance on this Reficar refinery fireproofing project. The steel mesh reinforcement has been an advantage for ease of fireproofing the block-out area, which is done by hand on site after the structural steel has been erected. This is critical in a project like the Reficar expansion project where many other trades are active completing other pieces of the expansion project while block-out areas are being completed on site.

Hydrocarbon passive fire protection

Hydrocarbon passive fire protection

Hydrocarbon PFP (Passive Fire Protection) coatings are used extensively throughout the Petrochemical and Offshore industries to protect structures from the constant danger of hydrocarbon fires. This type of coating is designed to expand upon exposure to heat into an insulating protective char. This prevents steel from heating up rapidly and delays the loss of load-bearing capacity and integrity – buying crucial time for personnel to escape.



PPG PITT-CHAR XP is the only flexible intumescent epoxy on the market today and offers proven hydrocarbon passive fire protection (PFP) against the constant threat of hydrocarbon fire in many industries throughout the world. It also provides cryogenic spill protection providing a single product solution for the LNG market.

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