Materials.Business Weekly ⚙️

March 23, 2021

Quote of the week: “MIC is mainly a result of poor material selection and bad management decisions.” — Quote from a workshop held June 2018 in Singapore.

From The Editor's Corner


Valuable infrastructure at risk

​Since the cavemen times, underground housing and urban infrastructure options have been used to provide better safety conditions, work requirements, or as a cover against extreme weather. In lots of cases, structures and equipment are often underground. Currently, our civilization runs on a dense network of pipes under the ground across the globe, supplying our hands with water and fuels. Although these buried structures and equipment are out of sight, they play a critical role, mainly in sectors like utilities and O&G and mining and other industries that construct things like tunnels, towers, poles, buildings, etc. According to a Colombian study illustrating the magnitude of corrosion problems in the country, 17% of companies were affected by corrosion in soils. It was rated as the fifth most corrosive environment after atmosphere, seawater, chemical, and freshwater. However, out of all the industries studied, utilities and O&G were the most affected. This situation is not uncommon and follows similar global patterns, as pipes are the most buried assets worldwide, by far. For instance, in Canada, the first transmission pipeline was built in 1853, and right now, the national network is made up of more than 119.000 km of underground transmission lines (three times more pipelines than highways). In the USA, the underground pipeline system as a whole (O&G, utilities, etc.) is estimated to run 3.85 million km long. This length includes the famous trans-Alaska pipeline, built between 1975 and 1977, that was 1.287km long with a 1.22 m diameter that delivers oil from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, Alaska. However, it does not include the planned extension of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project (3.456 km), canceled by President Biden, which initially aimed to transport 830.000 barrels of tar sand oil per day from Alberta, Canada, to the Gulf Coast of Texas, in the US.

​A list of the world’s longest pipelines includes:

​● West-East Gas Pipeline, 8.707 km. Phase I connects the Tarim Basin gas fields in Xianjing to Shanghai, China, stretching 4.000km. Furthermore, it consists of eight branches, reaching 66 cities in ten provinces. Phase I cost USD 5.700 million and holds up to 17.000 million m³. Phases II and III each hold 30.000 million m³.

● Druzhba Pipeline, 5.500 km. Druzhba has been operating since 1964 and runs from Almetyevsk in Samara, central Russia, to Schwedt in northern Germany with its north branch, and Hungary with the southern one. Construction of the pipeline costs around USD $5.92 million and consists of nearly 1.300.000 tons of pipe, 99% underground, and is buried roughly 1.3 m below the earth’s surface. It has a capacity of up to 2 million barrels of oil per day.

● Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean Oil Pipeline – ESPOOP, 4.857 km. This pipeline connects the town of Taishet in the Irkutsk oblast in central Siberia to Kozmino on the eastern Siberian coast. It consists of a branch that connects them to the Skovorodino refinery and port near the northern Chinese border. Its current capacity is 36.7 million tons of crude oil per year.

● Yamal – Europe, 4.196 km. It is considered the world’s widest pipeline, connecting the natural gas fields in the Yamal peninsula in Russia to Germany and Austria. Regarded as the world’s widest pipeline, it has a 1.42 m can transport 33.000 million m³ per year.

​As in the Keystone project mentioned above, other than economic and technical issues, environmental and political factors are the biggest concerns. This is the situation with the Nord Stream, a system of on-and-offshore natural gas pipelines connecting Russia and Central Europe through the Baltic Sea (the longest sub-sea pipeline globally), with a yearly capacity of 110.000 million m³ of gas. According to the schedule, phase II, the first of the two branches, will be completed in the current semester. Similarly, some other planned pipelines under consideration, such as the Trans- Saharan Pipeline, connecting Nigerian O&G sources with the Hassi R’Mel gas fields in Northern Algeria, is designed to be 4.127 km long. The proposed East African Crude Oil Pipeline, 1.445 km long, will be used to transport oil from Uganda to a Tanzanian port on the Indian Ocean. And lastly, the National Unification Gas Pipeline -GASUN, 4.989 km long, will connect Bolivia’s reserves in the Rio Grande region to Porto Alegre on Brazil’s southeast coast and crossing Northern (Amazon) and Northeast Brazilian states too.

A practical and ethical resistance

​Many of these buried structures are often left to their own devices. There are practical reasons for this because usually, it is difficult to check and maintain them. Corrosionists can generally predict what could happen. So appropriate materials selection, proper design, protection measurements, and inspection practices are usually implemented beforehand to reduce these corrosive environments’ impact. However, inspections and interventions are not possible in many cases, so materials protection becomes very limited. Furthermore, simply burying these assets in a trench is not so much as to hide it as is the point of other buried items (i.e., treasure) in the history of man and animals. It is, of course, an issue of sound engineering principles; it is an ethical duty both for companies and engineers. Buried assets are hard to protect, but they must not be forgotten, and neither should corrosion problems be buried. This is a severe ethical subject that must always be kept in mind, where duties start with proper handling of underground corrosion basics.

A complex corrosive environment

​We know that water is the universal corrosive agent and that natural environments are corrosive for thermodynamic reasons. Water itself, air, and earth, too, are all natural corrosives. All three are essential for life and human development. Air is what we breathe and is one source of the energy we need (think back to our bodies’ metabolic reactions). The land (i.e., earth) has been the conventional factor of essential product generation. Water is omnipresent, and it permeates air and soil; it is the “greater treasure,” and nowadays is priming to be an issue of business at the New York stock exchange. Now for this next part, let’s recap some of the basics of soil corrosion. In principle, the established electrochemical corrosion cell is simple: the material at risk acts as a cathode and the water in the corrosive soil as the electrolyte. And the corrosion trend is closely related to the homogeneity degree of the system. As usual, the point of anticorrosive measures is to either break or modify that cell. Of course, the nature of the asset’s material is relevant; for example, other than just the composition, the homogeneity of the surface at the macro and micro levels can influence the establishment of macro galvanic cells, or localized dissolution and pitting appearance due to non-metallic inclusions. Other characteristics concern the assets’ interaction mode due to the regular long-time exposure (i.e., many decades) in these corrosive environments. However, most of the complexity of corrosion problems' comes from the soil’s traits and its variable heterogeneity. Corrosion rates are non-linear, and the problem is multivariate. Additionally, we found limitations for its study because of the unavoidable alterations during the intervention. From this point of view, we can discuss the following three kinds of soil factors that influence the corrosion of buried assets, most of them are interconnected:

● Physical-chemical: This involves weathering factors, aeration level (including atmospheric gases like O₂, CO₂, H₂S, and nitrogen and sulfur oxides), water content (including extreme situations as mud and permafrost, and variability of the water table), pH (where mineralogical composition plays a remarkable role), texture (i.e., the ratio between sand, silt plus clay), soluble salts, resistivity, redox potential, and magnetic fields and their anomalies.

● Microbiological: Here, we need to mention three kinds of microorganisms. The first one has a direct effect on the corrosion cell reactions (e.g., the sulfate-reducing Bacterium Desulfovibrio desulfuricans); the second microorganisms affect organic protective coatings (e.g., cellulolytic bacteria, able to deteriorate some kinds of cellulosic coatings), and lastly, the third microorganisms produce corrosive substances (e.g., Thiobacillus thiooxidans, generating H₂SO₄ as a byproduct of its growth).

● Operational: This includes galvanic pairs (accidental or not, even kilometers wide), stray currents (unsuspected most of the times), burial depth, accidental intervention on the buried asset, and contamination (e.g., fertilizer, accidental spills, but also industrial wastes, including nuclear; moreover the increasing risk of deposits of atmospheric pollutants like the underground CO storage technologies that have been proposed currently).

​Consequences of the corrosive attacks by soil include generalized corrosion and the pitting mentioned above. But due to the cited factors, the galvanic attack is typical, and concentration cells often happen. Thus, crevice corrosion becomes another common mechanism of asset deterioration. Furthermore, stress corrosion cracking is usually found, and sometimes the dealloying mechanism of attack also appears. In these cases, it is mainly cast iron pipes with free graphite as a microstructural constituent that are prone to such phenomenon, undergoing the so-called graphitic corrosion.

What we can do

​Management and handling of soil corrosion have received a more hands-on approach than other corrosion fields. One of the most studied engineering rules is corrosiveness prediction from one or more parameters and concluding how high the corrosion attack risk is. The soil's electrical resistivity has broadly been used as this property is directly related to the electrolyte effectivity. Other people prefer to use the redox potential as a good indicator of the corrosion risk. Likewise, a combination of the soil characteristics, including resistivity, redox potential, water content, pH, and concentration of ions such as chlorides, sulfites, and sulfates, are applied for predicting the behavior. However, such an empirical approach is hazardous, and one way of avoiding this is to follow standardized practices. Consequently, technical and operational handling of underground assets is extensively standardized (for example, the Canadian pipeline standards document is over 500 pages).

Standards and other scientific and engineering criteria are a valid starting point for a corrosion prevention practice, and this is a great responsibility from the very beginning of any project. Simple but powerful methods include heterogeneities prevention, thus making homogeneous beds essential. Sometimes, concerning unique beds, looking for homogeneous and less corrosive environments is necessary to avoid galvanic couples and stray currents and is critical in the design stage and service life. Conventional anticorrosive methods must be considered as part of the design, too. This could be using barriers between the asset and the soil through jackets, plastic films, protective coatings, and paint systems. The inversion of the corrosion cell by cathodic protection is another robust and well-developed method. A protective coating is often complemented with cathodic protection. It is also necessary to select either no metallic assets or avoid burying them and put them above ground.

Another duty concerning buried assets is inspection. In the case of pipelines, advances in tools for the inspection inside the pipes have been significant. Right now, the so-called “pigs” or “hedgehogs” are broadly used in many cases. Here, technologies such as artificial vision, data analytics, and unmanned robotics are being combined, and technicians can follow the conditions inside the entire pipeline online. Of course, there are limitations concerning diameters, geometries, handled substances, and so on. Although, such kinds of tools cannot as well inspect the state outside.

Outstanding issues

The need further than the spirit of exploration, colonization, and innovation instinctive to humans forces us to imagine that we will significantly increase subsoil use shortly. In addition, the soil environment’s complexity is a true challenge for corrosion engineers and a physical barrier for inspection, maintenance, and repair. In conclusion, there are more than enough reasons to consider the importance of taking advantage of the emerging technologies for a deeper scientific understanding and management of buried assets’ integrity. For example, we have a Ph.D. thesis modeling the soil’s resistivity and pH in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Still, such studies are few and usually restricted to relatively small areas because of practical limitations. Fortunately, researchers have started to approach the problems of corrosion by soils using new technologies. To positively highlight this, a recent paper talks about estimating the corrosion growth rate for the underground pipelines, using tools like data analytics, neural networks, geospatial positioning, and, in conclusion, integrating machine learning and geographical information systems (GIS). Undeniably, taking advantage of these new tools and others (e.g., nanotechnology, sensorics, robotics, biomimetic, and augmented reality) will pave the route to find solutions as monitoring techniques, self-made maintenance, self-repairing materials, and so on.

Remember: Protection of materials and equipment is a profitable business!

Prof. Carlos Arroyave, Ph.D. Editor.

Materials Biz News

Barriers are opportunities

Concerns about sustainability led to campaigns like the “coalition of European organizations pushing for system change around repair.” According to this organization, e-waste is the fastest growing waste stream globally, 53 million tons per year, and only 15-20% is recycled. Under such kind of pressure, and in agreement with the EU Circular Economy guidelines, last October the European Parliament’s Internal Market and Consumer Protection (IMCO) Committee approved a rule obligating companies that sell appliances and gadgets to ensure those apparatus can be repaired for up to 10 years under the "right to repair," law. In the same way, some USA states have introduced some rights to repair bills in their legislatures. Also, Sweden has decided to lower the value-added tax on repairs and spare parts. According to some of the leading 3D printing manufacturers, it is a golden opportunity for companies in the sector that offer digital inventories and distribute manufacturing facilities.

Sharing experience on innovation

By definition, innovation means success. To know about the innovative experience of successful enterprises pays, just as a benchmarking exercise or a learning opportunity. For this reason, it is good to know that Huawei has launched the White Paper “Respecting and Protecting Intellectual Property: The Foundation of Innovation.” In this document, the company presents a history of spending 30 years devoted to investing over 10% of its annual revenue on R&D and converting a small unknown enterprise into a global one. Innovation that the company says is supported by respecting and protecting intellectual property. That means a compromise with patenting and taking part in the international licensing business, selling and buying highlighted knowledge.

-Learn More-
No more hidden or hard to reach places at any time

Dronehub is an enterprise aimed to support companies with extensive infrastructure to reduce monitoring costs, get real-time aerial data, and exclude the human factor by drones. RCS Engineering is a provider of telecommunication software solutions related to security. Both European companies have decided to integrate their technologies, seeking an improved security level and a lower cost of protecting industrial facilities. Sensors working 24/7 will monitor, inspect, measure, and alert any irregularities concerning security (burglary and so), risk, or adverse events, such as fire, without human intervention.

-Read More-


An excellent opportunity for South American innovative corrosionists

The Pitanga Venture Capital Fund, based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, has announced a new round of investment in startup projects recognized as radical innovations. Investors are looking for a budding business with a vast and easy-to-reach international market.

Engineering epoxy resins

Position: Chemical Engineer

Seeker: Siemens - Energy

Location: Troisdorf, Germany

The basic profile of the candidate:

● Education: Master’s Degree in Chemical Engineering.

● Experience: Several years of professional experience in developing and applying epoxy resin in electrical applications.

● Technical skills: Special knowledge in polymer chemistry and duroplasts, analysis methods (DSC, TGA, DMTA, rheometry, etc.), and evaluation of material properties of epoxy resin in conjunction with the electrical properties.

Job description: Enhancement of the R&D team, especially in the core competence of epoxy resin processing. Focus on chemical engineering, development and process enablement, adjustment of formulations including technical documentation for the application in the manufacturing process, support of production with the implementation of new processes and equipment, analysis and evaluation of new/alternative resources, and quality control of material parameters.

Leading engineering education

Position: Dean of the School of Power and Mechanical Engineering and Dean of the School of Electrical Engineering

Seeker: Wuhan University

Location: Wuhan, China

The basic profile of the candidate:

● Education: Doctoral Degree

● Experience: Candidates should be professors from famous research institutions or have equivalent positions.

● Technical skills: International academic perspective and schooling ideas contributing to the disciplinary development with outstanding achievements internationally recognized.

● Bonus: Familiar with the rules and situation of higher education in China.

Job description: Objectives include advanced managerial leadership, the improvement of the research, teaching, and internationalization of the school, among other duties.

Protective paints for e-cars

Position: Paint and Coatings Materials Engineer

Seeker: Tesla

Location: Grünheide, Brandenburg Berlin, Germany

The basic profile of the candidate:

● Education: Polymer or Materials Engineering degree

● Experience: 5 to 10 years + experience working in a manufacturing facility.

● Technical skills: Thorough knowledge of coating processes and their relationships to material properties.

● Bonus: Advanced degrees or equivalent experience preferred and experience at a paint manufacturer or automotive OEM paint shop.

Job description: Support on-going material application processes for pre-treatment, electrodeposition, and topcoat. Work with the manufacturing teams to ensure processes are robust and optimized. Provide technical support to the quality teams concerning potential material non-compliances. Support process validation for all new processes or materials. Develop new material strategies for lower-cost manufacturing with improved quality. Advise the broader Materials Engineering Team on how we can make better materials for manufacturing.

Networking & Knowledge Exchange

Going even deeper into the pits. Virtual

Following the free CorroZoom webinar series, his organizer Prof. Jerry Frankel, Director of the Fontana Corrosion Center at the Ohio State University, USA, will be presenting the following talk about “A Framework for Pitting Corrosion Based on Pit Growth Stability.” Some of the points to consider, picked up from the abstract, are a unified framework for pitting, including the concept of maximum pit dissolution capacity, repassivation, and salt film formation conditions. As a result, new elements for determining the critical pitting temperature, pitting and repassivation potentials, and the influence of alloying elements.

Date: Friday, April 9th, 2021.

Time: 08:00 EST, USA & Canada (GMT - 4).

Exploring new electrochemical opportunities. Virutal

GAMRY is a company based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, and presence in more than 50 countries. This firm will host a lecture on “Electrochemistry with Model Thin Film Polymer Electrolytes” presented by Dr. Chris Arges, Assistant Professor in Chemical Engineering at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge, USA. The two main subjects discussed are the re-emergence of high-temperature polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cells for vehicular applications and applications of the ionic activity coefficients in thin-film polymer electrolytes interfaced with liquid aqueous electrolytes using advanced metrology and classical molecular dynamics simulations.

Date: Thursday, April 29th, 2021.

Time: 11:00 EST, USA & Canada (GMT - 4).

Recent innovations in welding. Podcast

On-demand. A new episode of the "Talk innovation" podcast of the European Patent Office deals with inventions patented or submitted for patenting during the last years. In this opportunity, the invited speaker was Sonsoles Hernanz Albi, Aeronautical Engineer, a specialist in Future Trends and Technologies, and a patent examiner at EPO. She presents a holistic overview of the international panorama about the subject, including how virtual reality helps train welders and how welding enables new products to be created using solid-state metal joining.


Photo by JJ Ying on Unsplash