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2013

[CATHODIC PROTECTION : AN INTRODUCTION]

1. What's Corrosion?
Corrosion is an electrochemical process in which a current leaves a structure at
the anode site, passes through an electrolyte, and re-enters the structure at the
cathode site. For example, one small section of a pipeline may be anodic
(positively charged) because it is in a soil with low resistivity compared to the
rest of the line. Current would leave the pipeline at that anode site, pass through
the soil, and re-enter the pipeline at a cathode (negatively charged) site. Current
flows because of a potential difference between the anode and cathode. That is, the
anode potential is more negative than the cathode potential, and this difference is
the driving force for the corrosion current. The total system (anode, cathode,
electrolyte, and metallic connection between anode and cathode) is termed a
corrosion cell.

2. How common is that?


Corrosion is actually very common. It can happen to most of structures that exist
in an electrolytic medium.
From Sea lines to Pipelines to tanks, ships, and any other metals, corrosion can
occur leaving significant damage that maybe, in some cases, irreparable!!!

3. How corrosion works?!


Corrosion happens following the Electrochemical Series. The same thing that mainly
happens in a galvanic Cell. The cathode, A.K.A. the pipeline or the tank, gets
corroded in the presence of elements or compounds of elements that're more active
according to the Electrochemical Series, A.K.A. the anode. Sometimes the Cathode
and Anode exist on the same pipeline resulting in a Galvanic Corrosion.

4. Galvanic Corrosion?
The Anode and Cathode are on the same surface of the pipe. The soil, or medium, is
the electrolyte. A closed electric circuit exists in an ionic current flowing
between Cathode and Anode in the soil, then electronic current between cathode and
anode inside the metal.

5. So what? Why should I care?!


Actually, the main reason I should care for that is because I'm paying for it.
Recent studies showed how much it needs to repair annual corrosion damages. NACE,
CC Technologies, & FHWA jointly produced a report in 2001 detailing the costs of
corrosion $276 billion USD annually, 3.1% of US GDP (1998).
Corrosion has Indirect Costs too represented in:
- Catastrophe: (Public safety, property damage, environmental contamination.)
- Natural Resources: (Waste production, increased energy consumption.)
- Public Outcry: (Traffic, inconvenience.)

6. Possible Solutions?
Plan A: Coating. Especially with Zinc-rich coatings. It's a possible solution. But
its disadvantages are that it's not a sufficient way of protection against
corrosion. Moreover, scratches at installation, periodic repainting, and hardships
of repainting of some structures, all of that makes it really hard to rely on
Coating alone.
Plan B: Cathodic Protection.

7. What's Cathodic Protection?


Cathodic Protection is a method to reduce corrosion by minimizing the difference in
potential between anode and cathode. This is achieved by applying a current to the
structure to be protected using some method that'll later be explained. When enough
current is applied, the whole structure will be at one potential; thus, anode and
cathode sites will not exist. Cathodic Protection is commonly used on many types of
structures, such as pipelines, underground storage tanks, locks, and ship hulls.
So, Cathodic Protection makes the structure's potential more negative which
promotes cathodic reactions (increase icathode) and slows anodic reactions
(decrease ianode). Of course, Cathodic Protection acts as a supporting protection
to coated structures. So, all we gotta do is to supply the structure with a current
that is equal to (icathode - ianode).
Then, let's make a GALVANIC CELL.
1. Cathode (the structure to be protected).
2. Anode (to supply protective current).
3. Electrolyte (soil or water).
There're two methods of applying Cathodic Protection. But before that, let's talk
about Corrosive Medium.

8. Corrosive Medium:
Soil consists of solid particles and pores filled with moisture and air. Soils with
a high proportion of sand have very limited storage capacity for water, whereas
clays are excellent in retaining water. Soils with high moisture content, high
electrical conductivity, high acidity, and high dissolved salts will be most
corrosive.
For water, it's a matter of mineral content. The more the minerals, the less the
resistivity, the more the corrosivity.

9. Then, how much current is to be applied?


Little current will lead to no effective change; corrosion will occur in a slower
rate. High current will lead to disbonding of coating and Hydrogen embrittlement.
Experience showed that we should keep the pipeline potential less than protection
potential. Here's a table that exactly shows the levels of potential.
And as far as the concern of current, it'll be as the other table states.
Bear in mind that the initial CP current is applied just under-construction to
prepare the surrounding environment for the protection system.

10. Ways of Cathodic Protection:


10.1. Galvanic Protection (Sacrifical Anode):
A more active metal than steel can act as Sacrifical Anode. But the execution is a
bit tricky.
The Galvanic Series indicate that Mg, Zn, and Al are more active than steel. So, a
number of anodes are electrically connected to the steel structure to be protected
to provide the needed current. The amount of output current needed is increased by
increasing the number of anodes.
10.1.1. Anodes:
Anodes are packaged in porous bags prefilled with backfill materials such as Clay
to:
- ensure absorption of moisture from soil, and reduce anode resistance
of anode/electrolyte.
- distribute the anodic reaction all over the anode.
- Increase the life of the anode.

10.1.2. Steps of Galvanic Protection Execution (Design):


1. Select protection criterion. For buried steel, standards gives protection
potential = -850mV vs. Cu/CuSO4
2. Measure resistivity of environment. Soil ranges from (500-20,000 ohm.cm),whereas
Sea water ranges from (10-50 ohm.cm).
3. Estimate cathodic current requirement which depends on the environment and the
surface area to be protected using this table.
4. Select a suitable sacrifical anode and calculate theoretical capacity.
5. EDriving = Eanode - Eprotection + Epolar
where Epolar is usually taken as 0.1v.
6. Estimate the number of anodes based on ground-bed resistance:

10.1.3. Advantages of Sacrifical Anodes method:


- No external power source needed.
- Ease of installation, low maintenance, low cost.
- Provides uniform distribution of current.

10.1.4. Disadvantages of Sacrifical Anodes method:


- Limited current and power output.
- High resistivity environments or large structures require a large number of
anodes.
- Periodic replacement of anodes.

10.2. Impressed Current Cathodic Protection (ICCP) method:


An external power source is used to supply needed current. This way, we're not
obliged to use anodes with certain characteristics that fall at a certain position
on the Electrochemical series.
In this method, a Transformer is needed to convert HV AC voltage to a reduced DC
voltage. Then a Rectifier is used to convert the reduced DC voltage into pulsating
DC. A Junction Box is then used as a distributor to distribute current to anode
ground bed.

10.2.1. Anodes:
A range of materials have been used as non-consumable anodes for impressed-current
systems. The sort of properties required by these anodes are:
1. good electrical conduction,
2. low rate of corrosion,
3. good mechanical properties, able to stand the stresses which they may be
subjected to during installation and in service,
4. readily fabricated into a variety of shapes,
5. low cost,
6. able to withstand high current densities at their surfaces without forming
resistive barrier oxide layers, etc.
Again. It's not necessary to use more active anodes than the structure to be
protected. Anodes are used with a carbonaceous backfill to:
- increase effective size of the anode.
- lower the anode-to-ground resistance.
- extend the life of the anode.
There're to types of anodes:
- Inert (or non-consumable), like Platinized anodes (a few micrometers-thick
coating of Platinum on Titanium or Niobium), graphite.
- Consumable anodes (scrap steel, high-Si Cr cast iron).

10.2.2. Steps of ICCP Execution (Design):


1. Measure soil resistivity along the pipeline, the lowest effective soil
resistivity points are the most favorable anode bed locations.
2. Estimating the current requirements, the applied current is high and I*R
potential drop cannot be neglected.
3. Make sure the current is uniformly distributed, and no interference with other
systems like a nearby subway, for example.
4. Number of required anodes = Design life in years * Anode consumption rate in
kg/A-yr * total current required in amperes / Weight of a single anode in kg.
5. The selection of power source depends on:
- the amount of current required to protect the structure (I).
- the voltage required to force the current through the anode ground-bed
resistence (R).

10.2.3. Applications:
ICCP is preferably used when high current is required or the electrolyte's
resistivity is high. As it provides better protection, ICCP is used on Piplelines,
Tanks, and well-casing.

10.2.4. Advantages of ICCP method:


- Higher current and power outputs.
- Adjustable protection levels (controlled current).
- Large areas of protection.
- Low number of anodes.
- Can be used to protect poorly coated structures.

10.2.5. Disadvantages of ICCP method:


- Complex equipment and installation costs.
- Higher maintenance costs.
- Possible interference problems with foreign structures.
- Risk of incorrect polarity connection. (a real nightmare)