Seeking out corrosion - before it is too late
Priority AxisTechnological and Social Innovation
Lead partnerAntwerp Maritime Academy (AMA)
Project budget5 449 829 €
ERDF amount3 269 898 €
An often underestimated threat to our economy is steel corrosion, in any kind of industry where water meets steel: the maritime sector, ports, water purification plants, energy production, offshore renewable energy production. The costs pertaining to corrosion are immense: a DNV-GL report sets all-round corrosion costs at more than 500 billion EUR for the European region alone, generally +/- 3.8% of the European GDP. However consultation with industry indicates there is no general approach to determining where and when corrosion is taking place so that preventative and remedial works can be targeted. Solutions are generic, and there is no overall awareness of possible cost reductions: 25-30% of the corrosion-related costs are superfluous – the baseline for the project. The missing step to achieve this is a comprehensive, quick and easy method to measure the local situation in a range of installations and an increased general awareness that costs can be reduced even further.
This project aims to provide companies with an independent means to assess the corrosion risks in their installations, to increase their awareness and to have them take appropriate preventive actions. To this end, we created a simple, rapid, in situ sensor system able to monitor a range of environmental markers over time to determine the risk of corrosion of steel submerged in water, as well as a statistical method to mine these data for an overall corrosion risk estimate – in short, the SOCORRO system, set at TRL 4.
In this project, we will implement and demonstrate this whole set-up in several industrial case studies (wind turbines at sea, water desalination/sanitation, ship’s hulls and ballast tanks, harbour sheet piles, process water) and show the economic opportunities. In addition, we will augment the statistical analysis with an intuitive, practical dashboard tool to present the outflow of information and to convey that risk to the end users. This will raise the TRL to 6 or 7.
The project will provide 11 different industrial demonstration cases at different early adopters, acting as partners or members of the advisory board, to assess and optimise the industrial applicability of the SOCORRO system, as well as an overall economic / feasibility study of these demonstration cases. With the demonstrators operating in different industrial surroundings, the project will gather varied sector-specific results for an overall feasibility study and business case.
As such, the use of the system may yield many benefits: slowed down corrosion rate and extended life cycle of metal constructions; increased cost control and safety in maritime installations (ships, offshore platforms, ports), more reliable infrastructure and higher economic gains for the production of renewable energy (offshore windmills, wave energy plants, …), more efficient water sanitation treatment and production, and a more integrated water management.
Cross border approach
With the North Sea as the central hub of the 2 Seas region, both geographically and economically, corrosion is a much-underestimated problem for the whole region. Arguably, climate variations are not very large in the 2Seas region. Nevertheless, experience has taught us that even so, corrosiveness (and hence, corrosion) in different ports, installations, or aboard ships shows enough variation (see eg doi: 10.3940/rina.ijme.2017.a3.41, fig. 3). The range of environmental conditions and industrial applications which are available within the cross border area allow for thorough testing of the SOCORRO methodology and application, to demonstrate its usefulness. Hence also the need for a large consortium (with a range of expert knowledge) from different economic sectors from all over the region, and for demonstrations and subsequent dissemination to be organised per region (to allow for national differences, regulations and traditions).
Corroding steel costs us money, all over the world, and especially in industries and constructions dealing with water.: 3.9% of all the economic value we create in a year rusts away while we are standing by, and in the maritime industry (ships and ports) we are faced with a daunting 19% of its value. By offering companies to think about the ways they measure and manage corrosion, the SOCORRO projects wants to lower these costs while still maintaining the highest levels of protection of these installations and constructions.
In the first part of the project, we are working on creating a data algorithm to predict the risk that a piece of steel, submerged in industrial water or seawater, will start to corrode. we do this by measuring a number of physical and chemical characteristics of the water (like oxygen content, acidity or temperature) and by analysing the amount of bacterial slime layers on the steel. The corona crisis has made it difficult to organise proper test tanks in our labs (not in the least because we were not able to have frequent short meetings with all the involved scientists and engineers), but the first results are looking promising by now.
In the second phase of the project, we will apply our method in a series of different industrial surroundings, from a ballast tank in a ship and a water sanitation system on a farm to the longest Pleasure Peer in the world, in Southend-on-Sea. We are at the moment creating the devices which will be installed in the spring and the summer of 2021 on all these industrial locations. This will make it possible to achieve the largest comparison of corrosion risks and rates across industrial sectors ever, helping us to understand why some steel structures corrode faster than others, and to deal with the corrosion problem in an informed way, on the basis of measurements and economic forecasts.
Within SOCORRO, we've developed a method using AI to calculate a corrosion threat or risk based on measured environmental parameters. We currently focus on uniform corrosion of submerged, unprotected steel.