Dr. Hanan Farhat from Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute believes corrosion costs could be halved if industries adopt a proactive corrosion management approach
In less than one year since its opening, the Corrosion Center at Qatar Environment & Energy Research Institute is estimated to have saved Qatar’s oil and gas industry millions of US dollars. But this doesn’t feel so big when you look at Qatar’s annual cost of corrosion – estimated at a whopping US $8 billion (National Association of Corrosion Engineering, NACE IMPACT study, 2016), which is approximately five percent of its annual gross domestic product.
Corrosion costs in Qatar are very high. A major contributor towards these costs is the underestimation of corrosion phenomena and their impact on businesses – the business interruptions caused due to equipment failure can add up
“Corrosion costs in Qatar are very high,” said Dr. Hanan Farhat, Senior Research Director of the Corrosion Center at Qatar Environment & Energy Research Institute (QEERI), part of Qatar Foundation’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU). “A major contributor towards these costs is the underestimation of corrosion phenomena and their impact on businesses – the business interruptions caused due to equipment failure can add up.
“Downtime in plant is very expensive; quite literally, every minute of downtime is essentially thousands of dollars lost in revenue.”
Many of us might not understand what corrosion is but we have all suffered from it, often in the form of a rusting bicycle or garden furniture.
“Corrosion in metals is the result of electro-chemical interactions between a metal and its operating environment,” says Dr. Farhat. “The long and the short of it is that corrosion results in the weakening of metals, to the point where they are no longer mechanically or structurally fit for purpose.”
Corrosion is inevitable; it can be slowed down, but it cannot be entirely prevented. It is the biggest threat to asset integrity for all infrastructures – urban and industrial – and especially the oil and gas sector. Imagine the wide-ranging consequences of structural failure in a pipeline carrying gas or crude oil.
“Beyond their severe impact on business and plant operations, corrosion accidents can result in pollution to our environment, injury, and casualty to those working around corroded equipment,” said Dr. Farhat.
Materials that are made to last 15-20 years can fail in a matter of months in the gulf region. This is all the more reason for us to be as proactive as we possibly can to prevent expensive failures
Corrosion is a silent killer, but if managed well, it can be an enabler of sustainability. Timely corrosion control can increase the lifespan of parts and prevent leaks and spills, both of which have a negative effect on the environment.
“The major challenge we face in tackling corrosion is that not only one factor contributes to asset corrosion. If you don’t take into consideration, the whole picture and factors that impact corrosion, you may never be able to predict it and prevent it.”
The environmental conditions in the Gulf region are highly corrosive. High salt content, high humidity and high temperatures all accelerate corrosion. “Materials that are made to last 15-20 years can fail in a matter of months in the gulf region. This is all the more reason for us to be as proactive as we possibly can to prevent expensive failures.”
QEERI’s Corrosion Center is the country’s first national-level center focused on solving its corrosion challenges. Its stands alongside the research institute’s Energy, Water, and Environment and Sustainability Centers, Earth Sciences Program, and Natural and Environmental Hazards Observatory, in developing solutions related to energy and water security, and the environment, for Qatar.
The QEERI Corrosion Center provides unique skills to operations in Qatar that are available and accessible, and during the COVID-19 pandemic we need such expertise to be localized in order to ensure the continuity and integrity of operations within the local energy sector
“We are heavily engaged in research activities with the oil and gas industry and international partners,” said Dr. Farhat. “We also provide technical services and consultation, mainly in root-cause failure analysis, corrosion risk assessment, fitness to service evaluation, pipeline integrity management, coating evaluation, corrosion inhibitor evaluation, and criticality ranking of equipment.”
Speaking on the relationship with industry when it comes to corrosion research, Dr. Farhat said: “When it comes to research in Qatar, we can sometimes see a serious and concerning disconnect between industry and research – both need to step up and be better aligned. Industry needs to show a bit more trust and research needs to make sure it is actually representative of the conditions and problems the industry is facing.”
Having worked in research, industry and academia, Dr. Farhat feels there is now a more collaborative spirit among the various players in Qatar to solve challenges related to corrosion, with QEERI at the forefront of providing the services industry needs. There is not one project at the corrosion center, she says, that is not based on industry demand. “Every project we do at the corrosion center has to have an industry demand and a stakeholder that will directly benefit from it.
“If we work together, we will be able to diagnose it early before it gets to the point where temporary shutdown is required, and save a lot of money.”
Yousef Al-Jaber, Vice President of Innovation & Change Management, Total E&P Qatar, said: “The QEERI Corrosion Center has provided a unique opportunity for the energy sector to work with world-class researchers on topics that are crucial for our operations.
“In the field of corrosion, the understanding of the local ecosystem is key to finding the most suitable solutions; it is difficult to rely on international experts who don’t understand the ecosystem in Qatar. The QEERI Corrosion Center provides unique skills to operations in Qatar that are available and accessible, and during the COVID-19 pandemic we need such expertise to be localized in order to ensure the continuity and integrity of operations within the local energy sector.”
Dr, Marc Vermeersch, QEERI’s Executive Director, said: “Sustainability is at the core of QEERI's mission, and through our Corrosion Center and its partnerships and collaborations with national and international stakeholders, we aim to provide tangible solutions that can save the industry investments in terms of money, efforts, and time.
“Working together to tackle the challenges that Qatar is facing enables us to move quicker in the right direction: achieving sustainability in Qatar.”