Thursday

The Cost of Corrosion

When you think about the costs associated with the corrosion of materials used in key infrastructure, your first inclination might be to consider the monetary impact it will have on a city’s annual budget. While there’s no getting around the fact that unabated corrosion could be the death knell of a municipality’s financial plans, the cost to public safety is also considerable. 


Corrosion and Public Safety


In the eyes of the public, when corrosion occurs, the effects are quite obvious. Those with more experience with corrosion however, know that corrosion comes in many forms, some of which are not so easy to detect. For example, localized corrosion is much more difficult to detect than generalized corrosion, largely due to the fact that the former is concentrated in one specific location. Generalized corrosion on the other hand can affect the entire surface area of a piece of equipment. Though each type of corrosion may differ in terms of their prominence, they both represent a significant danger to human health and safety.


When generalized corrosion, as unsightly as it may be, is spread over a large surface area of the infrastructure, it can be dealt with in a relatively swift manner and usually before the asset can degrade to a point where it poses a danger to human life. Localized corrosion is therefore viewed as the more insidious of the two – since its effects are concentrated in one specific area, there’s a much greater chance that it will go unnoticed and progress to the point where the integrity of the asset is severely compromised. In the oil and gas industry, this translates into spills and leaks that will have an egregious, far-reaching impact on the environment and on human life. 


Cost of Corrosion


The Monetary Cost of Corrosion


As was previously alluded to, the financial cost associated with corrosion is not insignificant. Discovering an asset that is severely corroded can derail a company’s or a municipality’s plans for the entire fiscal period. With that said, it’s in everyone’s best interest to treat and mitigate signs of corrosion as soon as they are identified. To put the cost of corrosion into a bit more perspective, NACE International, a recognized authority on corrosion, estimated that the global cost associated with corrosion is in excess of US$2.5 trillion, which is roughly equivalent to 3.5 per cent of combined global GDP.


The interesting thing about that figure is that it doesn’t need to be that high. A study conducted by the International Measures of Prevention, Application and Economics of Corrosion Technology (IMPACT) concluded that by simply implementing a set of industry recognized best practices to battle corrosion, the global cost referenced above could be slashed by 15-35 per cent; or US$400-$900 billion. It’s sobering to think how such funds could be re-allocated to other endeavors. 


Pipeline Corrosion Monitoring


The IMPACT study paints a pretty picture, but is it actionable? There are, of course, two hurdles to reducing the global cost associated with corrosion: developing the cost effective technology to do the job, and having the will to put it into place. Fortunately, both of these don’t appear to be much of a hurdle any longer. Pipeline corrosion monitoring systems can quite effectively monitor the health of a piece of equipment and alert the proper parties the moment corrosion is detected. Corrosion monitoring programs are able to identify the presence of non-conforming alloy components, components that are typically susceptible to accelerated corrosion.


When implemented as part of a preventative maintenance program, pipeline corrosion monitoring technology offers a number of advantages. For example, the information gathered can be used to make well-informed decisions on when and how maintenance and replacement activities should take place. A cathodic protection unit can be installed to prevent corrosion from occurring. Strategies can also be developed for extending the life of the asset. Additional corrosion monitoring activities include:


  • Identification of all critical components.

  • Identification of component alloy composition.

  • Measurement of the location and extent of corrosion.

  • Identification of failure mechanisms.

  • Determination of fitness for service condition.

  • Inspection scheduling.

The cost of corrosion isn’t always monetary. The permeating effects of crumbling infrastructure affect the health and safety of the community in which it exists, as well as the bottom lines of the companies and municipalities who manage it. Mobiltex has a robust array of pipeline corrosion monitoring solutions to fit any remote monitoring situation.