What are Acetates?

Acetates are a class of chemical salts of common elements such as potassium, sodium, calcium and magnesium.    They are formed when these element forms such as soda ash are mixed with high purity glacial acetic acid to form sodium acetate.    Dolomitic lime, which is a natural blend of calcium and magnesium carbonates, is mixed with acetic acid to form calcium magnesium acetate: CMA.   These two common forms of acetates, Sodium Acetate and CMA, are only available in dry form, however they can be mixed with water to make a suspension or solution depending on which acetate you use.    However, if you want a liquid acetate, then our potassium acetate liquid is most likely a better choice.

Facilities management professionals will prefer acetate chemistry when they are working towards either environmental compliance dictated by an order of conditions by a regulatory agency possibly due to being located on top of an public water supply.  Another reason may be they are working to become LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified under the US Green Building Council (USGBC).

Why use acetates for LEED Certification?

LEED certification is the apex of green building achievement for most buildings.    It considers all aspects of environmental impact of a building, and then the actions taken to minimize those impacts.   In winter snow and ice operations, the typical chemistry used to melt snow and ice is chloride based.    Chloride based deicers have some inherent challenges and some distinct advantages.   On the challenges side, chlorides are corrosive to ferrous metals and can shorten the lifespan of steel infrastructure if not managed carefully and effectively.   Chlorides are also pollutants that can accumulate in water sources.    In the case of rock salt, sodium chloride, the sodium component can enter ground and surface waters and raise sodium levels above the EPA’s potable water limits.   The chlorides also are problematic for many plants and with a high freezing point they can contribute to concrete damage by way of more frequent freeze-thaw cycles.    On the advantage side chloride deicers are readily available and cheap.   However, these adverse consequences of using chloride chemistry are problems with any building or property that is working towards environmental compliance or leadership that is the hallmark of LEED certification.  Chloride chemistry for deicing is not environmentally friendly as general rule.   Acetates are biodegradable and generally are environmentally friendly.

Why use acetates if not for LEED certification?

Good question.   There are other driving factors to using non-chloride based deicing products in places such structural concrete parking garages, elevated walkways, brick and other hardscape features that also are frequently damaged by chlorides.   There are examples nearly every year of structural collapse that is caused by chloride based deicers attacking the ferrous metal skeleton of a structure. The horrific 2007 bridge collapse in Minneapolis was partially linked to corrosion caused by chloride deices. That collapse killed13 and injured 145 others.

It is helpful to understand how chloride deicers cause these structures to fail.    Most concrete structures are poured around reinforcement bars, or rebar, which are steel.    Concrete is air entrained and porous and those air voids throughout the concrete matrix provide a pathway for chloride brines formed by melting snow and chlorides to then seep into and begin to silently corrode the steel skeleton, fasteners, and other critical components.    As these components begin to corrode, they shrink in size from loss of mass.   Once that happens, the steel is no longer in contact with the concrete matrix and the concrete alone is now holding up the structure.   A rumble of a truck or other normally innocuous event causes a crack in the concrete and that is the danger point.

When a bridge inspector checks a concrete bridge for safety, typically they use a common hammer and tap the structure throughout and they listen for any hollow sound.   Any hollow sound is clearly heard and that is telling them that skeleton is no longer in contact and there is a void in there.    That is first sign of trouble and one not be ignored ever.

Airport and airside use:

Acetate chemistry does not corrode metals and that is the main reason that nearly every airport in the world uses acetates for snow and ice control.  They cannot risk applied deicing chlorides being pulled up and into airplane engines and avionics where they can cause corrosion and catastrophic failure.   All of our airport certified acetate deicers meet the FAA specifications for airside use (AMS1435A and AMS1428).

Liquid or Dry?

The answer to this question is determined by the needs and application equipment of the site.   We offer our dry acetates in 55 lb. sealed poly bags, and liquids come in 55 gallon drums, 265 gallon totes.

Do deicing products that contain CMA really reduce corrosion?

No.   Not even a little bit.   The minor addition of CMA (less than 2% by weight) to any chloride deicer is akin to adding a thimble of gasoline to a gallon of water and then expecting that you can run your engine on that “blend”.   CMA blends are ineffective if the level of CMA in the chloride is below 40%  by weight.   Why do they add CMA to salt if it is ineffective?    That answer is usually simple; to make you think you are getting value and benefit that is not there but will allow a higher price to be charged than the actual ingredient value would dictate.   With costs of CMA in the range of $1/lb, if a blend contains 1% CMA, that is ½ lb in a 50 lb. bag and the costs of that addition are in the range of $0.50 to the bag of salt.   Salt alone sells for $3-4/50 lb. bag.   If you add a little dye and a little CMA (and for the record, we’ve not seen any blends with more than 1% CMA and most are less than 0.25%) you can charge $7-12/bag for the blended product that incrementally costs less than $0.50 for added ingredients.   In plain words, most CMA blends are a sham to overcharge for regular salt.

The importance of full disclosure

We not only advocate that all ice melt products fully disclose their ingredients, we do it and will provide a certified analysis and formula for any product we sell.   Federal and most state right-to-know laws require disclosure of ingredients.   The notion that an ice melt product is a proprietary formula for refusal to disclose the ingredients, not only violates right-to-know but it is morally wrong.   The sole reason for refusing to disclose the formula of any ice melter is because the provider does not want you to know for obvious reasons.    Demand a full disclosure for any deicing product you use and if they say it is a secret formula, agree to sign a non-disclosure agreement and reveal the secret formula under right-to-know.  If they add peanut oil to their product for some reason, the user that has a peanut reaction and goes into anaphalactic shock is a huge potential problem.   It is just wrong to hide what is being sold to you.    This is how CMA and acetate blends have gotten sudden traction in the marketplace.

We stock and offer pure 100% sodium acetate, NaAC, 100% calcium magnesium acetate, CMA, and liquid potassium acetate 50% in all of our warehouse locations.  Additionally, we have in stock and offer blends with CMA, magnesium chloride, but we don’t hide the amount we add.

And lastly, we have a new (2018/2019) bulk   bio-preferred snow and ice product that is still in the development stage, but well down that road and if you are interested in a bio-preferred snow and ice control product, please call us.   This new product is completely bio-based and 99% renewable resource produced.   Please talk to your sales representative.