New smart coatings detect, mitigate corrosion in one step.

Author:Lalgudi, Ram

An insidious and often invisible enemy is eating away at the bottom line of the oil and gas industry.

Corrosion erodes profit margins, and increases the risk of costly equipment failures or environmental disasters. The oil and gas industry spends $7 billion annually on direct corrosion control and repair on liquid oil and gas transmission pipelines alone. Another $ 1.4 billion a year goes toward protecting or restoring production and exploration infrastructure and equipment.

Indirect costs, which can include business interruption, environmental cleanup and legal expenses, can easily double the financial impact of corrosion.

Scientists at Battelle are fighting back against corrosion with a new dual-action microbead that can both detect and mitigate corrosion as soon as it starts. The Smart Corrosion Detector[TM] bead exposes corrosion before it is visible to the naked eye, automatically releases self-healing chemicals to fill the corrosion cracks at the microscopic level.

With 185,000 miles of liquid petroleum pipelines, nearly 320,000 miles of gas transmission pipelines, and more than 2 million miles of gas distribution pipelines in the United States alone, the possibility of more effective corrosion control and detection is huge for the industry.

Microbeads allow for faster and more accurate inspection of pipelines, and extend the service life of equipment by slowing or stopping corrosion when it starts.

The smartbeads look like a fine white powder and can be mixed into paints and coatings. Using a special light, the beads glow in the presence of corrosion, so inspectors can easily see early stage corrosion, even if it isn't showing through the paint. This early visual indicator allows companies to investigate and correct the source of the corrosion.

These beads go farther, however: they mitigate corrosion as it happens. When corrosion is detected, the smart beads crack open, releasing a proprietary chemical that heals microscopic cracks caused by rust and corrosion.

Corrosion, including rust, occurs naturally, beginning small--with invisible changes to the physical structure of a material (usually a metal). These changes can be caused by a chemical reaction when metals are exposed to water, acids, gases or even chemicals produced by microbes (called microbially induced corrosion (MIC).

These small changes add up to big effects over time. Corrosion weakens the physical structure of the material, and eventually leads to failure of the affected component....

To continue reading