Corrosion is an economic threat to industry and the wider community, as well as a physical threat to infrastructure and personal safety

Corrosion is an economic threat to industry and the wider community, as well as a physical threat to infrastructure and personal safety

Corrosion is an economic threat to industry and the wider community, as well as a physical threat to infrastructure and personal safety. In a report released this year by NACE International, it has been estimated that, globally, more than 7% of GDP – billions of dollars – each year is spent on corrosion mitigation and repair.

While there are news reports of oil pipeline ruptures, sewer explosions or sink holes appearing after a burst water main, the effects of corrosion usually take many years to appear. Effective management or prevention of this insidious threat is essential to minimise its impact.

The changing dynamics of the economy mean that companies offering corrosion management services have to convince their customers of their value.

“Asset owners expect a better ROI on the money they spend on maintenance,” says Dean Ferguson, materials engineer with Infracorr Consulting and senior vice president of the Victorian branch of the Australasian Corrosion Association (ACA). Infracorr is a leading engineering consultancy specialising in rehabilitation and durability solutions for concrete and masonry infrastructure.

“Budgets for asset maintenance are never large enough to cover requirements. Coatings are seen as passive, so structures are often left to fend for themselves until corrosion damage is severe,” adds Aaron Davey, director of Bastion in New Zealand, and a member of the ACA. “When coupled with the wrong coating, subsequent costs can appear far sooner than otherwise expected.”

The Australasian Corrosion Association (ACA) works with industry and academia to research all aspects of corrosion in order to provide an extensive knowledge base that supports best practice in corrosion management, thereby ensuring all impacts of corrosion are responsibly managed, the environment is protected, public safety enhanced and economies improved.

Mr Bastion has been providing innovative leadership to engineering, construction and maintenance projects throughout NZ for nearly 10 years, primarily with public infrastructure organisations and manufacturing industries.

“In the past, short-term, low cost solutions were what owners and operators were looking for,” says Sean Ryder, senior engineering consultant with Phoenix Solutions in New Zealand. “Today we are able to discuss the benefits of looking at the ‘whole of life’ asset costs.”

Monitoring the impact of corrosion on any type of structure is a critical aspect of ensuring asset integrity. A key way of minimising corrosion is to employ appropriate protection technologies. “Asset owners often prefer to put off maintenance until it is too late,” says Mr Ferguson. “Everyone knows that it is cost effective but rarely have the budget to implement an integrated design and servicing program.”

However, practitioners have noticed a gradual trend toward asset owners recognising the benefits of maintenance planning. “Since starting in the industry in the 1990s, I have seen a shift in attitude by asset owners,” Mr Davey explains. “More are appreciating the wisdom of doing it right the first time.”

It is usually government bodies and larger companies that take a lead role when new business concepts are implemented, but it can still take some time for there to be a ‘ground swell’ of acceptance. “Once larger government agencies start doing it, the uptake flows down through other bodies and commercial companies,” Mr Ryder adds.

Best practices for construction and servicing operations have been changed and adapted to reflect the latest health and safety legislation and regulations. The safety aspect of designs are being viewed as part of the overall maintenance strategy.

“If it is difficult to get up to an area of a structure to re-apply a protective coating, it would have been better to design it with easier access,” said Mr Ryder. If, when it is built, there are few constraints on the access to a structure or the equipment to be maintained, it is possible to reduce the frequency of servicing.

Advances in technology and the spread of the Internet means that the amount of information that is readily available to designers, builders and contractors is vast. “There is a new generation coming through with a focus and interest in doing a job well using the best technology and materials,” says Mr Davey.

An added benefit of planning for sustainability and designing projects to require minimal maintenance is a reduced impact on the environment. “If you can maintain it effectively, you do not need to replace an asset as often which therefore has an environmental benefit,” adds Mr Ryder.