Making a corrosion strategy

by Tiffany Paczek
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Australian Corrosion Association chairman DEAN WALL says facility managers need practical management of corroded assets to prolong their service life.

The degradation of private and public assets and infrastructure continues to have a major economic impact on industry and the wider community. In Australia, the yearly cost of asset maintenance is estimated to be approximately $32 billion, with $8 billion attributed to avoidable corrosion damage, according to a report commissioned by NACE (formerly known as the National Association of Corrosion Engineers), the international body for professional corrosion engineers.

An infrastructure asset base should be designed to be safe and reliable, while maintaining acceptable levels of service for the duration of the expected life of the asset. This requires asset owners and managers to develop and implement optimised approaches often with limited budgets. The balance of all these factors is even more important if the service life of an asset needs to be extended.

Many governments and organisations that own and operate existing ageing infrastructure are increasingly requiring it to exceed the original design life. If appropriate asset management strategies are implemented, it is possible to restore an asset to near its original condition and maintain its functionality for the remaining service life and, possibly, even beyond.

As a consequence of restricted budgets, larger asset portfolios and increased pressure to extend asset life, many industries now recognise the importance of asset management processes for asset owners who need to balance risk, productivity and operation.

A significant part of any asset base will suffer from corrosion to some degree, so the designed durability and corrosion management form part of, and support, good asset management practices. The benefits of a well-developed asset-management plan include: a better understanding of the total asset base, an understanding of how assets with corrosion impact the operation and performance of the network, and making it clear when to intervene and address issues in order to avoid asset failure.

When any asset is affected by corrosion, the damage can threaten its longevity and serviceability, which in turn may have an impact upon both its own functionality as well as that of other related infrastructure.

Many years of experience at global consulting firm AECOM illustrate that a wide variety of asset management strategies can be effective in the design and operation of assets affected by corrosion. In new assets, for instance, considerations towards balancing development, construction and operational costs can yield optimal solutions for maintenance, safety, reliability and mitigation of corrosion risk during the required life of the asset.

At the Australasian Corrosion Association’s (ACA) Corrosion and Prevention 2017 conference and trade exhibition in Sydney, Sarah Furman, associate director in the Strategic Asset Management and Advanced Materials team at AECOM, presented a brief overview of managing assets with corrosion based on the company’s extensive experience. The ACA’s annual conference is just one of the many ways in which the organisation collaborates with industry and academia to research all aspects of corrosion mitigation in order to provide an extensive knowledge base that supports best practice in corrosion management, with a view to ensuring that impacts of corrosion are responsibly managed, the environment is protected, public safety is enhanced and economies are improved.

Understanding the relevance of corrosion’s impact on performance is critical for the development of an appropriate asset management strategy for existing assets. Corrosion issues can lead to a decrease in the levels of service provided by the assets and plans allow asset owners the opportunity to optimise the extent and timing of future intervention and potentially mitigate some of the associated costs.

The release of the international asset management standard, ISO 55001 (2014), and other supporting guidelines, such as the ‘International Infrastructure Management Manual’ (IIMM), provides consulting engineers and asset owners and managers with guidance on the strategic whole-of-life management of an asset base, along with a number of processes, techniques and approaches that can be adopted to achieve this goal.

According to Dr Frédéric Blin, who leads AECOM’s Strategic Asset Management and Advanced Materials team in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, the ISO 55000 series is an important standard, but its acceptance and use seems to vary across industry sectors and geographies. “More and more organisations are seeking to align themselves to the ISO 55000 series in Australia, but not necessarily be certified to meet it,” he says. “However, tram and train operators in the state of Victoria have to be certified to ISO 55001 standards.”

Dr Torill Pape, asset management and technical specialist for Bridge Assets at AECOM, adds: “In Australia, the ISO 55000 series is seen as a representation of good practice and a useful benchmark point for organisations.” ‘The suite of ISO 55000 documents outline the ‘what and why’ for asset management, which is complemented by guidelines stipulating how to achieve the stated requirements at a strategic, tactical and operational level, such as the ‘International Infrastructure Management Manual’ (IIMM).”

Discussions about the implementation and adoption of the standard have taken place at a variety of industry technical forums, such as the ACA conference.

A durability plan, coupled with an asset register, provides an additional and useful baseline against which to monitor the condition and performance of the assets over time and thereby tailor plans accordingly. It is a critical tool that supports an overarching asset management strategy. The plan should clearly outline likely corrosion-related risks and agreed mitigation approaches as early as possible in an asset’s life cycle – and ideally during the planning and design stage. In developing asset management strategies for existing, ageing structures, the maintenance requirements need to be optimised between short- and long-term strategies in order to minimise the disruption to operations, while providing a safe and reliable asset.

“While transport and public services rely on external advisory services such as consultants to supplement decision-making,” says Pape, “there is also a growing desire for a better in-house understanding of improved practices in asset management.”

“To enable and demonstrate robust decision-making, asset owners welcome support and guidance from their advisers,” Furman says.

Deterioration modelling is another useful tool to support decision-making and asset management processes. “This kind of simulation is usually numerical modelling that simulates conditions versus time,” adds Furman. “Modelling output can be used both in the design phase for projects yet to be built, as well as for existing structures.

“There is a lot of real world and site-specific data included in the models we create for deterioration modelling. The accuracy of the models depends on the reliability of the input data and good review protocols, and data-auditing processes are needed to ensure the reliability and accuracy of the data.”

Pape says, “Modelling is just one tool in a suite used by engineers to inform them about an asset’s performance and to identify and develop cost-effective and risk-informed management strategies.”

Decision-making processes are also improving with an increased focus on data analytics that supplement data collection and enable asset managers to develop informed maintenance and rehabilitation plans. “The technology landscape is rapidly changing as well,” says Blin. “It is now possible to gather and store huge amounts of data, which requires data analysts to provide organisations with the insights that support optimised decision-making.”

The ongoing impact of corrosion remains a major expense for government and industry, but organisations such as the ACA and AECOM are continuing to research ways to effectively and efficiently manage corrosion so that both the impact and cost can be reduced.

This article also appears in the February/March issue of Facility Management magazine.

Image © Australian Corrosion Association

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