Corrosion occurs as a result of exposure of any given material, equipment, vehicle, infrastructure, or home appliances when they react chemically or electrochemically to the environment. Effective corrosion control is possible if the forms, mechanisms, detection, and occurrence of corrosion are identified. Simple as it may seem, but it is very complex to address corrosion prevention and control owing to many external factors like proximity to stray current, soil properties, effect of the saline environment, handling methods, and others. Some corrosion effects are easily visible, while others need further examination. Corrosion control is possible by proper selection of material for the purpose, providing coatings on surface such as paints, cathodic/anodic protection, and inhibitors in the form of additives such as those injected in the natural gas supply by pipelines.
The phenomenon of corrosion is one of the biggest challenges in the E&R industry. The National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE) estimates put the loss at USD 2.5 trillion roughly equivalent to 3.4% of the global gross domestic product (GDP). It is possible to save between 15 and 35% of costs (i.e. between $375 and $875 billion annually worldwide) if measures are undertaken to control corrosion. It is difficult to measure cost savings from corrosion control owing to the different environments the same material behaves in for time elapsed. Oil & gas, metal, mining, and infrastructure are the sectors most affected by the corrosion phenomenon.
Of late, industries have started acknowledging the problem of corrosion considering how devastating and costly it could be. To give an instance closer home, the Andheri bridge collapse in Mumbai injured five people. A major accident was averted owing to a watchful local train operator and providence if we can call that. The bridge collapse happened because there was additional construction on the main bridge without proper design and maintenance and it had corroded. There were many such instances around the world and accidents owing to corrosion where we were not so lucky. Merely acknowledging a challenge as big as this goes a long way in addressing solutions.
The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has known for quite a while that their operational efficiencies are less than normal owing to corrosion. They have been warning for a long time that systems could be dysfunctional when they are really needed if proper corrosion control measures are not adopted. Hence the asset lifecycle management is increasingly looking at measures to incorporate corrosion mitigation measures early in the lifecycle. The U.S. DoD has now set up a separate division to look into corrosion problems in defense which are resulting in billion-dollar losses every year.
What this means to industries is the change in outlook of asset maintenance and choice of materials. This could have a major impact on the cost and schedule of projects if not clearly identified at the early stage of said projects. If engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) companies proactively include corrosion control in asset lifecycle management early into their projects, they may have the edge over their competitors.
Some of the related topics were discussed, solutions were showcased, and research papers were presented in the recently held CORCON 2018 International Conference on Corrosion Control held under NIGIS (NACE International Gateway India Section). The discussion in the Plenary talks and Memorial lectures veered around technologies such as IoT, Robotics, which are now being adopted amidst the traditional solutions of material chemistry and corrosion processes including control.
What this holds for technology companies like TCS?
· Improved collaboration in getting technology to validate the corrosion control processes
· Application of IoT to look for signs of corrosion and related failure
· Monitoring of assets with technology e.g. using drones
· Leveraging data and information for better and improved designs
These are only a few applications, and there are many more possibilities as the industry progresses. TCS’ own participation in the CORCON conference was significant, with key figures laminating on how emerging technologies can be applied to corrosion control.