With corrosion management and corrosion-related incidents costing a massive US$2.5 trillion a year across the globe, it’s no wonder that advancements in corrosion mitigation technology are always evolving and eagerly awaited.
The cost of corrosion is not only monetary. Corrosion-related accidents have also damaged the environment and taken lives, according to the May 23 study “Global Impact of Corrosion: Occurrence, Cost and Mitigation” by Mohammed A. Jafar Mazumder of the chemistry department at King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals in Saudia Arabia.
Accidents cited in the study include a pendulum-style thrill ride that failed due to rust at the Ohio State Fair in 2017 killing one and leaving several injured, and a corrosion monitoring field detection and leak system that failed in 2006 in Prudue Bay, Alaska that caused a spill of 267,000 gallons of crude oil. (For an analysis of another incident, see our INFOGRAPHIC: The Flixborough Disaster.)
No Immediate Revolutionary Changes to Corrosion Prevention
While developments and improvements to existing technologies are always occurring, Homero Castaneda, associate professor, and director of the National Corrosion and Materials Laboratory at Texas A & M University, doesn’t expect any revolutionary advances in corrosion mitigation technology in 2021.
“There is no short-term breakthrough that’s going to be revolutionary or a game-changer,” he said. “However, there are many developments that will follow what exists, are being improved, and which could lead to that potential breakthrough.”
“There is no short-term breakthrough that’s going to be revolutionary or a game-changer,” he said. “However, there are many developments that will follow what exists, are being improved, and which could lead to that potential breakthrough.” - Homero Castaneda, director of the National Corrosion and Materials Laboratory at Texas A & M University
In the five general areas of corrosion mitigation: coatings, inhibitors, cathodic protection, remote data analysis (IoT) and material selection, he and others expect to see some improvements.
Advances in Coatings
His assertion is echoed in a study “Functional Superhydrophobic Coating Systems for Possible Corrosion Mitigation” that has shown that superhydrophobic coatings are effective candidates for use in corrosion mitigation.
According to the study, published in March 2020 in the Journal for Automation Technology, “a superhydrophobic coating has a water contact angle (WCA) greater than 150 degrees with a surface sliding angle less than 10 degrees, and very low hysteresis between the advancing and receding angles. Its surface exhibits the so-called lotus leaf effect, whereby water bounces and balls up on contact.”
Advances in Corrosion Inhibitors
In inhibitors, Castaneda expects new formulations that are more robust and environmentally friendly. He notes that damage to the environment from commercial corrosion inhibitors is putting a damper on their use. He expects to see developments in the use of plant extracts and fruit wastes as green-based corrosion inhibitors. The study “Review on Corrosion Inhibitors for Oil and Gas Corrosion Issues” published in January 2020 also asserts that plant extracts and fruit wastes are potential corrosion mitigation sources.
Advances in Cathodic Protection
In the area of cathodic protection, Castaneda anticipates the improvement of materials used in this mitigation method. (Get an introduction to this corrosion protection method in the article The Basics of Cathodic Protection.)
Like Castaneda, Troy Rankin, president of Farwest Corrosion Control Company in Downey, California, also doesn’t expect any revolutionary technological advances in corrosion mitigation in 2021. Nonetheless, he also anticipates ongoing advancements in various areas.
“For coatings, I know there are many developments in nano coatings and things that are being developed now that one day will reap huge benefits in our industry,” he said. (Related reading: The Advantages of Smart Coatings and Nanotechnology for Corrosion Prevention.)
For cathodic protection, which is his area of focus, “there have been no huge leaps and bounds," Rankin said. "Cathodic protection science hasn’t changed. But there is now remote monitoring of what’s going on with cathodic protection systems from our desktops. And there will continue to be improvements to these systems,” he said.
Rankin says that companies save time and money and improve safety when they no longer have to send staff into the field to monitor rectifiers or the power supply. (For more information, see IoT for Corrosion Monitoring in the Oil and Gas Industry.)
“Now there are monitors to track that performance so we don’t have to send humans out to a remote section of pipeline to measure performance.”
He also anticipates improvements in data recording and instrumentation. At FarWest, for instance, the company offers technology geared to provide accurate voltage potential readings on a pipeline, particularly when a reference electrode has aged or otherwise degraded. It also works in conjunction with common digital multimeters used by all CP technicians.
“Right now, when you take a reading you can’t be sure that the reference electrode that you’re using is completely accurate or not,” he said.
Another new technology from FarWest changes the way DC power, used for CP systems, is provided. According to Rankin, current technology rectifiers have changed little in 50 years. They employ large transformers to modify the input power and a stack to convert the AC power to DC. The new technology, called “switch-mode power”, uses solid state components to convert AC to DC power.
"This eliminates the old and less efficient transformer and rectifier stack, is more electrically efficient, using much less AC power, and it provides a very pure DC power output, which is needed for CP applications," Rankin said.
It’s a new power supply and it’s unique in our industry because it’s much more efficient and needs far less power than a conventional cathodic protection power supply,” he added. “I equate it to a car that will get you from point A to point B. Well, some cars do it much more efficiently and have a lot more features. That’s my analogy for this power supply.”
In addition to FarWest, another company introducing a new corrosion mitigation technology is Structural Engineers in Columbia, Maryland, which already produces the Life Jacket System, a product that’s been used in 30,000 installations at structures such as piers, pilings and wharves that are corroded by saltwater.
It has adapted this technology in a new form, that also utilizes zinc mesh, but is a putty that can be applied to surfaces that aren’t affected by salt water.
The non-cementitious, glass fiber-reinforced binder was developed as an embedding and activating matrix for anodes. The binder is applied like a fine putty to uncoated concrete surfaces. Zinc mesh is then imbedded and, finally, a finishing layer of the binder is applied to encompass the zinc mesh. The binder adheres to concrete surfaces, with a volumetric porosity of less than 35%, high ionic conductivity and high durability.
“It’s an emerging technology,” said Doug Leng, senior business manager. “It’s on a fast track. We’ve been testing it for a number of years and now we’re making it commercially available.
He envisions the technology will be useful in a variety of settings.
“This system will work in parking structures, buildings, elevator shafts, bridge decks and soffits – areas that other technology wouldn’t be appropriate because they need salt water to work.”
The anode also acts as a barrier against future contamination.
“The protective current output self-adjusts to meet changes in temperature, humidity, concrete resistivity and a number of other factors, delivering optimum corrosion protection to the joint at all times,” Leng said.
Advances in Corrosion Prevention Applications and Data Analysis
Another company, Canada-based Atrasim, tackles the pressing issue of corrosion damage in power transmission and utility towers, oil and gas pipelines, and infrastructure.
The company’s software uses algorithms, a state-of-the-art simulation engine and NASA’s satellite databases to model corrosion in underground metals.
“The models that currently exist are dated,” said Mark Huvenaars, founder & CRO of Atrasim. “The model that’s used most prevalently is about 50 years old or maybe even older. We have a new software package that’s quite novel. It relies on a new algorithm as the fundamental component to assessing corrosion.”
All industries can benefit from more accurate corrosion modeling for better planning purposes and for corrosion mitigation, he said.
The algorithm was developed by Dr. Davood Nakhaie, founder and CTO at Atrisim, who has more than 10 years of laboratory and industrial experience in corrosion and protection of metallic materials. During his Ph.D., Nakhaie developed a mathematical model to estimate soil corrosion of buried galvanized steel structures.
According to Huvenaars, the software enables businesses to better understand where corrosion is occurring, to centralize corrosion data to better understand costs and asset lifespan, and can reduce training and maintenance costs significantly. The software can analyze satellite imagery and integrate live field data into corrosion models to provide accurate corrosion simulations.
So, what should we expect in 2021?
While there may be no dramatic advances in corrosion mitigation technology in 2021, Castenada said one never knows what may be coming down the pike.
“You never know when a development may occur,” he said, adding that being a member of NACE International is one way to keep track of industry developments.