Overcoming The Challenges of Ageing Metal Infrastructure

16 May Overcoming The Challenges of Ageing Metal Infrastructure

Posted at 14:05h

Asset and infrastructure deterioration has always been a challenge for business. When assets fail and infrastructure shows its age, the results are usually costly to say the least, seeing companies face considerable regulatory fines, funding cuts, reputational damages, and disruptions to service.

While I could speak all day on the growing importance of tackling ageing infrastructure and what happens when maintenance goes unchecked, today I want to cover the specifics of how to overcome ageing metal infrastructure.

Picture the scene.

An engineer is talking you through the specifications of a new system designed to protect your assets. The sales pitch comes complete with grand claims that the coating or system will ensure your assets last ‘X’ amount of years longer, reinforced by a large amount of data, sales materials, and paperwork.

However, as is often the case, when you take a closer look at the small print, you find the marker of a disclaimer: the humble asterisk.

Following statements such as ‘when installed correctly’, ‘when maintained properly’ and ‘when serviced regularly’, these asterisk-laden caveats are sometimes neglected by those who crave a fix and forget solution.

And while overlooking these warnings has always been damaging to asset performance and protection, increasing environmental risks, tougher regulations, and growing customer demands are turning a laid-back approach to maintenance and installation into a deadly threat to asset health.

This is especially true of metallic assets.

The Three Tiers of Protection

If a metallic asset doesn’t have correctly installed protective measures in place, realistically you’d be lucky to see it reach 50% of its design life before (costly) remedial works are required.

Much of this is because, unlike non-metallic assets, corrosion is a constant, unforgiving enemy that leaves little room for the poor preparation of metalwork, abrasive environments, poor installation, human error, or moving parts.

We prevent this using various methods including the wrapping of pipelines, lining pipes with Adalline® polyurea coatings, Cathodic Protection services, and ongoing maintenance programmes.

To offer a more comprehensive corrosion protection solution, we combine these methods to offer what we call the Three Tiers of Protection.

When removed from the equation, each of these three tiers increases the risk of early asset

failure and the resulting costs of environmental damage, noncompliance, downtime, and repair.

In our experiences with a number of clients, this three pronged approach has repeatedly proven to be the most effective, reliable and cost-effective way to overcome the challenges of ageing metal infrastructure. I’ve briefly summarised each of the tiers below.

Cathodic Protection:

Consisting of Impressed Current Cathodic Protection (ICCP), Sacrificial Anode Systems, surge prevention and isolation flange kits, our services are designed to prevent leaks and corrosion on metallic assets that come into contact with sea, groundwater and rivers. Cathodic Protection provides a defensive shield for the often neglected locations where corrosion can occur and where coating alone can fall short due to ground movement, human error or the poor installation of assets.

Here’s an in-depth, technical explanation.

Coating, Wrapping, and Painting:

Other than Cathodic Protection, one of the best ways to lower the risk of corrosion and extend the life of ageing metal infrastructure is to create a barrier between the metallic structure and the electrolyte surrounding it (usually groundwater or soil).

This barrier can come in numerous forms, from Denso wrapping and Adalline® polyurea coatings, to a two part epoxy paint coating. Regardless of the type, it is imperative that manufacturers’ guidelines are followed correctly during preparation and application. While I won’t list every facet of the process for every coating and wrapping system, the general process is typically as follows:

1. Remove any old paint or debris

2. Conduct ultrasonic thickness testing

3. Ensure any isolation is intact and as designed for both pressure and zone

4. Prime the asset with the correct undercoat to the microns (in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions)

5. Apply the new wrapping, taking specific attention to the minimum application temperature

Maintenance and Inspection:

Finally we have the core foundation of all the tiers, maintenance and inspection.

As I outlined in my previous article, PPM and proactive inspection are critical to resilience and to mitigating and preventing corrosion on metallic assets and metal infrastructure.

While in the past you might have been able to get away with the compliance only approach or periodic inspections that account for little more than design specifications, times have changed.

As flooding, corrosion, contamination and other environmental risks and continue to grow in severity and frequency, thanks in part to climate change, any approach built on the “fit and forget” approach is sure to jeopardise key assets.

By taking time to comprehensively assess the condition of assets and the resilience measures in place to protect them, organisations can get a clear idea of what’s needed to significantly increase the lifespan of assets and the effectiveness of the resilience technologies they’ve invested in.

And by embracing a resilience mindset, organisations can actively strengthen their asset base and minimise the time, capital, and resources spent on avoidable replacement and repair.

Ultimately, this means stronger profit margins.

For more information on Adler & Allan’s comprehensive range of specialist Asset Resilience services, visit our dedicated website.


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