Developing the Tools to Combat Corrosion

Corrosion, at its base level, is the gradual destruction of a materials property by chemical reaction with its environment. It’s a natural process that occurs commonly in metals but can occur in other materials as well, and, like death and taxes, corrosion is inevitable. This process of electrochemical oxidation of the metal in reaction to an oxidant, such as oxygen and moisture, causes the metal to become weakened and can lead to premature and sudden failure.

As well as corrosion caused by environmental factors, bacterial corrosion, also frequently referred to as microbially influenced corrosion or MIC,  can also occur on metals, this is a form of biodeteriation caused by micro-organisms. Bacterial corrosion is largely responsible for the degradation of man-made structures, especially pipelines and storage tanks, these sulphate-reducing bacteria (SRB) get their energy by reducing elemental sulphur to hydrogen sulphide. They use a form of anaerobic respiration, “breathing” sulphate rather than oxygen.  Sulphate-reducing bacteria can be traced all the way back to 3.5 billion years ago and are considered to be among the oldest forms of micro-organisms, contributing to the sulphur cycle soon after life emerged on Earth.

It is estimated that in North America and the UK, billions of dollars’ worth of damage to pipelines is caused by MIC, making the costs of corrosion great.  NACE International, one of the world’s leading authorities on corrosion control, estimates that corrosion costs an industrial economy 3.1% of its GDP. This means that the cost for corrosion runs into the billions if not trillions. The offshore industry in the North Sea spends between £150,000 and £250,000 on bolts and fasteners alone, some corroding before an installation has even been commissioned, and some even within weeks and months of fixing.

According to the Pipeline and Gas Journal, in America the annual cost associated with the damage caused by corrosion is greater than the combined annual cost of natural disasters, including hurricanes, storms, floods, fires and earthquakes, with similar studies and findings from the UK, Germany and Japan.

Abfad Limited, based in the North East of England, UK, are working hard to develop new and effective methods to combat and monitor corrosion, making sure their clients assets are protected and safe, saving them money and a lot of aggravation down the line.

Specialist Coating Protection and Tank Lining Systems

Providing specialist solvent free coatings and corrosion protection to the petroleum storage industry, Abfad are well known for protecting storage tanks from the problems associated with corrosion. They do this by applying specialist solvent free resins to fully encapsulate the internal steel of the storage tank with 1000+ microns of product applied, providing a corrosion resistant barrier, greatly extending the life of tanks and saving their clients long term solutions with increased profits and reduced maintenance of their assets.

They also install a solvent free double skin lining system, Fuelvac®, which has been developed and perfected by the company over the past ten years. This double skin lining system prevents corrosion, whilst acting almost as a second tank, providing a safety net if there is ever a breach, so stored product will be safely contained. Fuelvac® is a fully monitored system, containing an interstice between the two layers of protective solvent free resin, through which a vacuum is pulled and held. This vacuum also increases the corrosion resistance of the system, and alerts the client if a breach occurs, either internally or externally, as any breach would cause a drop in the vacuum which in turn would cause the system to alarm.

A System to Protect Against Highly Corrosive Acid

Abfad put the resilience of their Fuelvac® system to the test last year when Simon Storage (now Inter Terminals) approached them about using the system on an above ground tank where they wanted to store over 2 million litres of Hydrochloric Acid. The Fuelvac® system would need to be installed across the entire floor area and 12.5 metres up the side walls, something which we believe had never before been achieved by a double skin lining system. Along with the system covering almost the entirety of the tank, it was also requested to be split into overlapping zones to ensure the whole tank was fully monitored and, should any breach happen, provide easier locating due to the total magnitude of surface area of the tank.

Both Abfad, Simon Storage (InterTerminals) and the resin manufacturer tested the chosen coating for the project for a period of approximately one to two years to ensure it would withstand the harsh corrosive environment of the Hydrochloric Acid. Abfad specialise in using solvent free coatings as these tend to offer greater long term protection, and because they don’t contain any solvents they don’t break down over time as seen with solvented coatings. Solvent free coatings are also friendlier to applicators, personnel, the public, and the environment as they have zero or minimal VOC’s (volatile organic compounds). These resins are hot spray applied using a specialist plural component heated spray pump and sprayed to the required thickness, which is normally between 1000 to 2000 microns (1mm – 2mm).

The project was a complete success with the tank coming into service and storing the product in August 2014. With no problems reported and all zones monitored within specifications both Abfad and Simon Storage (InterTerminals) were delighted with the outcome of the project.

Abfad Limited believe this is the first tank which stores Hydrochloric Acid to be fully double skin lined in the UK if not the World. This has also enabled Simon Storage (InterTerminals) to store hydrochloric acid safely in the North East for the first time.

Preventing and Monitoring Corrosion on Pipelines

Due to Abfad’s success, over many years, with corrosion management in storage tanks, they took the step to adapt this hard earned knowledge to protecting and monitoring pipelines from corrosion, with the development of PIPEVAC®.

Unprotected pipelines are incredibly susceptible to corrosion, these could be buried in the ground, submerged underwater or exposed to the environment, all are vulnerable. Corrosion in pipelines is incredibly perilous, corrosion can damage the structural integrity of the pipeline, making it dangerous for transporting potentially hazardous goods, such as oil and gas.

Some pipelines may deteriorate slowly, while others may have exhausted their useful life after only a year of operation, some pipelines have even been found to have lost 70% to 90% of their mass due to corrosion.

PIPEVAC® is based on Abfad’s Fuelvac® technology and employs a vacuum around the external pipe substrate which eliminates the conditions in which corrosion can occur preventing any attack on the external of the pipeline. Utilising a vacuum around the pipeline in this way enables leak detection monitoring to be integrated as part of the system, meaning that any problems with internal corrosion or damage to the outside of the pipeline can be easily notified and located. This leak detection feature of PIPEVAC® can be a useful tool in aiding maintenance and inspection programs, as a problem occurs along the pipeline and the incorporated vacuum is breached, the monitoring system alarms, notifying the client there is a problem and which section of pipeline the problem occurs in.

Adding to the versatility of the system is the fact that it can be installed on both above and below ground pipelines, either in the factory on new pipe work, or in the field onto pipelines that are currently in-service. The unique nature of the material used in the application process means that PIPEVAC® can be installed onto in-service pipelines in areas of hydrocarbon risk without heat or naked flame, providing a robust vacuum leak detection system for protection and monitoring of pipelines under most service conditions.

Abfad Limited’s Project Director Chris Haritou had this to say on Abfad’s corrosion combating tools “With the costs of corrosion so high, and continuing to rise, it’s important that operators ensure the highest level of protection for their assets. Both Fuelvac® and PIPEVAC® offer a new approach to corrosion protection and prevention, employing vacuum technology to prevent corrosion from impacting on the metal substrates, avoid damage to steel integrity from corrosion, whilst at the same time allowing complete monitoring of client’s assets”.

Rope Access and Abfad’s Magnet System

Abfad have been established since 1996, offering industrial rope access solutions to a variety of industries, such as power generation, oil and gas, renewables, offshore, shipyards and many more. Abfad provide rope access service teams for power station shutdown maintenance to many Power Stations and CHP plants across the UK, largely for E.ON where Abfad has consistently and continuously won and renewed contracts since 1998 to present date.

With their specialist coating experience Abfad took the lead in protecting offshore wind farms from the harsh and damaging conditions in the North Sea by providing refurbishment and maintenance on the UK’s first commercial wind farm at Scroby Sands in Great Yarmouth. Here they used there rope access skills and coating experience to blast away severe corrosion and apply a new protective coating to the Monopile sections of the wind turbines in challenging conditions. This was largely made possible by the use of Abfad’s own Magnet System, which was developed and patented by the company for use as a positioning aid in conjunction with rope access trade services, allowing the rope access technicians to securely lock and anchor themselves into place on any ferrous structure to counteract the forces which would push them away, such as when blasting or spraying, allowing the technician to perform the required work with confidence and precision.  Magnets have been used to safely perform plating and welding, grinding and cutting activities.

With a vast portfolio of rope access projects under their belt, including high level welding and coating work during construction of Wembley Stadium, Abfad have the knowledge and experience to provide the solution to any problem on any development.

Emergency Rescue and Safety Cover Services

Alongside this Abfad provide highly trained and equipped rope rescue teams to provide Emergency Rescue and Safety Cover for other personnel Working at Height or within Confined Spaces.

Working at Height or Confined Spaces work is incredibly dangerous and there should be suitable arrangements in place to ensure that worker rescue and retrieval is possible and a rapid response to incidents is achievable. Rope rescue teams we believe are one of the safest methods of providing this, as rescue attempts by untrained individuals will only serve to increase the risk to the injured party and put more people in jeopardy, nearly two thirds of all deaths occurring within confined spaces are attributed to an urgent rescue attempt by untrained and unprepared people.

More information on Abfad Limited and its services can be found at or call on +44 (0)191 543 7166 and Abfad’s friendly staff can discuss your problem and answer any questions you might have.

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