Corrosion is a natural mechanism that occurs to all metals
There are 6 main types of corrosion
Corrosion failures cost the world in excess of over $2 trillion dollars
Corrosion can result even in the absence of oxygen
Corrosion protection is best addressed in the design stage
Cathodic protection works to make the corrosion reaction thermodynamically unfavorable
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In our last notes, we discussed how a leaky basement is a recipe for disaster waiting to happen. Why? Because clearly all the elements required for an effective corrosion cell (the basic building bloc of corrosion) to easily form and self replicate are present….in abundance.
But really, how bad can this corrosion get? Is it something that will make my building collapse? Is it something to worry about? Is it something to think about? How will it affect the sustainability of the building?
Lots of questions…
For starters, let us discuss how sustainability and corrosion are interlinked. If your building can be made to last an additional 20 years by stopping corrosion, then the technology that allows you to do this is a sustainable technology. This is the link between corrosion mitigation and sustainability.
What about our leaky basement? What can we expect in terms of how bad the corrosion can get.
The biggest risk posed to any structure from corrosion would be if the corrosion were to initiate in a ‘structurally sensitive’ area and remain accelerated and localized in that area. You can imagine what this would like; a gradual but accelerated reduction of the reinforcing steel diameter in an extremely short span of time. This is the nightmare situation for any building. It happens often. I have seen corrosion of structural columns in basements in under 5 years after completion that have caused massive cracking. It’s quite ugly and frightening. What does this tell us about how bad things can get? It’s very difficult to point to a specific rate of corrosion because corrosion is mix of so many factors – electrical, electrochemical reactions, temperature, moisture, pH and much much more. So in essence, it is difficult to predict – but who is prepared to take the chance? Would you? I wouldn’t! It is something to worry about.
The thing about corrosion is that it grows and gets worse as time passes – much like a tumor would. As a matter fact, in Australia, it is nicknamed ‘concrete cancer’ - and unless you move quickly to snuff it out, its going to destroy the building and cost you an arm an a leg.
Many owners have gone about attending to leaky basements in a strange kinda way. As soon as leak is seen, it is plugged by crack injection. Sometimes the situation is so bad that the top layer of concrete is removed and reinstated – all in the hope of …..wait for it…removing the salt chlorides. Now why would I care so much about the chlorides. Primarily because it is a corrosion initiator and when present in excess of a certain amount, corrosion is guaranteed.
If only we had a technology that would stop corrosion in an inexpensive way irrespective of how much chlorides were present! Well it exists. Cathodic Protection. In our next part on this blog, we will discuss how this technology works for basements.
In the UAE and in the region in general, the geology of our coastal cities in the Middle East require the use of pile or raft slab foundations built from reinforced concrete to be used. These very large underground structures are typically constructed in the water table. Waterproofing attempts typically fail to stop all water ingress, and the basements are often times leaky and inundated with groundwater or significant leaks. Sometimes I have seen entire basements flooded almost to the ceiling of the basement.
The question we should be asking ourselves is, once the leaks are plugged and the water pumped out, do we still have a problem or are we in the clear?
Do we still have a problem or are we in the clear?
To be sure this is not a one liner. Let’s consider the situation. The floor is made from reinforced concrete. It is now fully laden with chlorides, even after removing all the offending water...
We certainly can’t see the chlorides, but they are there – unless you have somehow managed to miraculously to suction out the chlorides from within the concrete matrix.
With the chlorides present in party like quantities, you now have the main recipe for corrosion;
Water (moisture in the concrete)
Unfortunately for corrosion engineers, and fortunately for owners, the initiation of corrosion is not something that you can see. If the waterproofing fails…poof….and there is a leak
If corrosion begins….there is only silence. You won’t hear anything, you won’t see anything, at least not until it is too late.
So while the owner goes about renting out his building and counting his rental income, the corrosion reaction also goes about eating away at his steel foundation.
What are the owner’s options?
There are a plethora of remedies available. All claim to stop this phenomenon in some way or form. But to be honest there is only one method, which will in effect freeze the corrosion in its tracks. Cathodic Protection. In the next part of this blog, we discuss in more detail the corrosion problem, cathodic protection and sustainability.
The Middle East with its high temperatures and extremely high saline content of its sea-water & ground water forms an extremely aggressive environment in terms of corrosion. When constructing structures that are exposed to this environment the challenge is how to ensure corrosion durability.
For diaphragm walls that are cast in situ, this is a special challenge for two reasons.
The first reason is that during construction, some methods employed involve the boring of the excavation, lowering the steel cage into the bored excavation and then casting. The excavation is typically inundated with bore -hole chemicals to ensure that the excavation does not collapse. During this period, it can be expected that chlorides from the surrounding groundwater permeate the excavation walls. Therefore it follows that the reinforcing steel cage will, once it is lowered, be immediately exposed to potentially high levels of chloride.
The second reason that diaphragm walls are a challenge in terms of ensuring durability, is the exposure after construction. On one side the reinforcing steel is exposed to highly saline sea-water, while on the soil side, the wall is exposed to highly saline ground-water. The wall is seemingly sandwiched between to very corrosion environments.
By deploying a well-designed cathodic protection system using impressed current, the corrosion of the reinforcing steel can be stopped or significantly reduced to a negligible amount. Cathodic protection (CP) is a technique used to control the corrosion of a metal surface by making it the cathode of an electrochemical cell. A simple method of protection connects the metal to be protected to a more easily corroded "sacrificial metal" to act as the anode. These systems (also known as sacrificial cathodic protection) can be designed with a service of approaching 20 years.
For longer service life systems, the ‘sacrificial metal’ method above is not sufficient. Metals made from coated titanium cast into the concrete matrix. These provide a means to create electrochemical cell, by introducing direct current onto the steel to be protected, in this case the reinforcing steel. The source of the direct current is typically located close to the structure in an electrical room. These systems can be designed in excess of 50 years.
Once deployed, these systems can be monitored with extreme ease remotely. Many asset owners fret about the upkeep of these systems. In fact, the upkeep is insignificant. With IoT devices, Ducorr has already developed systems that can be monitored from your smart phone or tablet, sending you updates at intervals you chose.
These systems are extremely powerful durability tools providing a hands-on and active approach for managing corrosion – almost unheard off a few decades ago.
A tunnel or bridge structure exposed to salt water can expect corrosion of the embedded steel during its service life. Cathodic Protection (CP) has proven itself as the only permanent repair of existing corroded steel reinforced concrete.
Many underwater tunnel structures have been experiencing water leakages worldwide. Tunnel structures experiencing water leakages are not only old, but also new in some case. The concrete tunnels structures located underwater are generally protected by waterproof membranes as the first defence to prevent water leakages and rebar corrosion. However, once water leakage occurs, the corrosion mechanism is quite different from other concrete structures which are exposed to marine or de-icing salt environments. When rebars corrode in concrete, the accumulating corrosion products develop expansive force and crack the concrete. When the concrete cracks grow, the concrete spalls and falls to the roadway. For the based slab, concrete spalls create potholes on the driveway. Therefore, it is important to clearly understand the corrosion condition of the rebars in the tunnel caused by salt water leakage.
Loss of Durability
Why does the durability of bridges, multi-level car parks, supporting walls, tunnels and sea water structures decrease?
The main problem is the de-icing salt on the streets. These salts contain chlorides which penetrate into the constructions and destroy the protective layer of the rebar - the consequence: corrosion.
These factors together with a too thin concrete cover and too low density as well as changing weather conditions and humidity lead to an increased risk of corrosion. Corrosion of the rebar reduces the steel cross section and as a consequence the support safety. Furthermore, it cause cracks due to the increased volume of the rust.
Concrete Remediation Works
Certain methodology must be developed to remediate the corroding steel and mitigate further corrosion on mild steel components and reinforcement. This would allow the tunnel to achieve its required life with minimal ongoing maintenance. This involved the repair of damaged concrete, encapsulation of mild steel bolts and application of cathodic protection.
Design Options for Cathodic Protection System
There are various design options to be considered to provide cathodic protection for tunnel reinforcement. The three main options were:
a) Ribbon/discrete anodes in slots/ drilled holes in the concrete.
b) A distributed anode system along the full length of the tunnel.
c) Installation of remote anode groundbeds at the two ends of the tunnel
Ducorr was awarded a contract to deploy a Cathodic Protection System for Dubai’s $107.3 million Shindagha Bridge project.
Ducorr role as cathodic protection specialist is to ensure the durability of the parts of the bridge that require corrosion protection.
Shindagha Bridge is a part of the AED5 billion Shindagha Corridor Project extending 13km along Sheikh Rashid Street as well as Al Mina, Al Khaleej and Cairo Streets.
The bridge’s iconic design features an architectural arch-shaped in the form of the mathematical symbol for infinity. The top of the infinity arch rises 42 m. About 2,400 tons of steel will be used in the construction of the bridge.
Hassan Sheikh, Managing Director of Ducorr Middle East, said: “It is truly a great honor for us to be a part of the Shindagha Bridge Project, as Shindagha is one of the oldest and historical areas of Dubai and was home to the late Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai.”
Much of the world runs on pipelines. When you drive your car, the fuel that you use will probably have passed under pressure through pipelines at some stage. The water that you drink, likewise, just like the gas that you use to heat your dinner. And these pipelines depend on monolithic insulating joints.
This is because pipelines are subject to corrosion, just like any metal object that is exposed to the elements. Whether overground, underwater or buried underground, pipelines need to be protected against damage from water and the air, as well as electric currents generated by lightning.
Simpler, easier to use and more effective than older anti-corrosion methods
Monolithic insulating joints (or isolation joints) provide just such protection. Specially designed to be shock absorbent and insulated against the electrical charge, they isolate sections of the pipeline so that currents can only pass so far. Materials placed within the monolithic isolation joint also work by attracting electrical charge and preventing corrosion. This is achieved by something called cathode protection - where the material in the joint becomes an anode, and the pipeline becomes a cathode. The anode protects the pipeline from corrosion. You can see the same devices attached to ships, while they are also installed in concrete constructions and on bridges as well. Without them, complex engineering would be extremely difficult.
The advantages of using the monolithic isolation joint are that this kind of joint avoids small parts such as gaskets and flanges, and can be produced to exacting standards of precision. They can be ordered in whatever pipe size is required and sealed easily and safely without the need for welding. They can also be delivered to clients pre-tested and produced to the specifications of the client, avoiding the need for technicians to attend to the installation process.
Save money and prevent accidents by using the latest technology
Every monolithic insulating joint can be fully customized for the needs of each client. They are adapted for both main and service line applications and come in a wide range of different diameters.
By installing a monolithic insulating joint at periodic points along the pipeline, firms can prevent leakages in pipelines carrying liquids such as water, liquid gas and petroleum, and also stop electric currents passing through the pipe casing, improving safety. They are a cheap, effective solution to the problems faced by pipeline maintenance operations across the world.
Previously, oil and gas firms have often relied on less effective and more expensive insulating flange kits. With the need to avoid industrial accidents and financial losses through leakage greater than ever, it makes sense to invest in the most efficient way to safeguard pipelines against corrosion. That is why European and Middle Eastern firms have already embraced isolation joints, and why American operators are following suit.
The pricing in the table below is an approximate price of the additional steel required in sacrificial thickness, and it is based on steel price for structural sections. This is excluding additional costs and is based purely on steel price, while also assuming the minimum sacrificial thickness allowable.
The protection offered by Cathodic Protection (CP), design life of 30 years, usually is significantly less expensive than the sacrificial thickness.
The design for corrosion protection is dependent on exposure area, as with its increase the mass of steel loss increases. By increasing the sacrificial thickness, the total mass of steel increases, whilst not guaranteeing the design life. The increase of exposure area also requires an increase in cost with CP, the reason for this is the fact that the anode mass is dependent on the area. Typically for an element without paint cover it requires an estimated (at current prices) 90 AED/m2, and for an element with paint cover it reduces to 55 AED/m2, in accordance with the DNV standard. Cathodic protection is a proven technology and the likelihood of corrosion with is significantly less.
There is a misconception of the maintenance cost of cathodic protection. Typically, once installed, these systems self regulate and require little or no on-going costs. International standards do not have a scheduled requirement and many times it is the owner’s apprehensiveness about the system that leads to excessive looking after. For example, it is possible to install a CP system on a jetty using sacrificial alloy anodes and not need to inspect for upto 3 years.
The severity of corrosion for a steel member in a marine environment varies depending on the location relative to sea water. Most design codes specify this and advise that the design can be optimised based on these corrosion rates.
The section just below MLW experiences some of the highest corrosion, and this section is most prone to ALWC attack. This is an area that can be actively protected by a CP system, thus inhibiting and limiting corrosion. Therefore, negating the need of excessive sacrificial thickness for protection and insuring that the structure does not deteriorate before the allotted time.
The primary reasons for corrosion protection safety for structure against failure, to prolong the life span of the element, and to reduce the total project and operation life cost. Unforeseen failure to structural elements is both dangerous and very expensive, as remedial action is far more difficult manage in comparison to providing a protective system from the beginning. A sacrificial thickness is a good methodology to obtain durability with regards to conventional, uniform corrosion. However, in conditions of extreme localized corrosion attacks it can only limit the ingress for a short period of time. For protection against these, one of two methods are recommended. First, is regular monthly inspection of all elements at risk, so that remedial action can be taken in the early stages before the reduction of safety factors. Secondly is the installation of a cathodic protection system, which is also recommended by CIRI C634, which is proven to provide protection against all forms of electro chemical corrosion, this system requires annual monitoring only.