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Erwin Gamboa Reports on Sabbatical Study Leave.
The purpose of this trip was to visit a range of corrosion laboratories and pipeline making/testing facilities in North America and Europe, with a particular focus on Stress Corrosion Cracking (SCC). These laboratories and facilities were split between various Universities and private companies.
Most of these destinations were chosen based on people I had met at previous international pipeline and/or corrosion conferences, including contacts I had obtained from Energy Pipelines CRC activities.
Details of places and institutions visited;
-Battelle laboratories in Columbus, Ohio (US) is a commercial research company which did a lot of work in integrity assessment of SCC in gas pipelines in the 1980’s. I had a few corrosion contacts there from various conferences. Battelle has a small range of corrosion laboratory apparatus and surface analysis techniques. However, they concentrate mostly on development of ideas and patents rather than fundamental research. A lot of the SCC work that they carried out ended in the early 1990’s as the company had moved onto other projects, specifically sulphide cracking and relative materials performance. One point of interest is that they have a legacy of many pipe testing facilities, including water bath burst tests, artificial flaw testing, NDT testing and the such. These are used for independent external testing of materials performance.
-Ohio State University (Columbus campus) is considered to be the birthplace of modern corrosion engineering, especially at the Fontana Corrosion Centre within it. OSU tends to concentrate on fundamental corrosion research, and interestingly they have very similar problems to other Universities around the world, in that a lot of knowledge is built up in the form of students and/or postdoctoral fellows, who then leave a few years later. They concentrate on surface coatings performance, with some work of pipeline corrosion due to carbon dioxide.
-Centre for Renewable Energy Systems in Columbus, Ohio is a possible research partner for some of the Energy Pipelines CRC work that we’re currently doing. We discussed the possibility of us sending our postgraduate student to them for a few weeks to help each other with crack interaction modelling. They are looking mainly at the fracture mechanics, whereas we are also looking at the electrochemistry of crack interaction. We had spoken previously by telephone, so it was very beneficial to be able to discuss with them in person the various projects currently running.
-DNV-GL (Columbus campus) is a company that provides classification and technical assurance to the maritime, oil and gas and energy industries. They have published some work on integrity assessment issues with gas pipelines, so I visited their testing facilities. They concentrate currently more on slow strain rate testing of possible pipe materials, concentrating on hydrogen sulphide corrosion and sulphide cracking. At DNV I gave a talk during their “lunch and learn” session to around 40 of their employees, and the talk generated a lot of interest in our research and our newly developed X-ray tomography techniques. There was a fair bit of knowledge transfer both ways, both in our research activities at UoA and their previous work and available data. They are keen for possible collaboration projects through the Energy Pipelines CRC.-DNV-GL (Houston campus) houses the welding research laboratories, especially welding of gas pipelines. Here also were housed many experts in the area of In Line Inspection of pipelines, which is an area we (UoA) are currently looking at researching into for the Energy Pipelines CRC, to complement the research we are currently doing on SCC.
-PRCI Flawed Pipe Repository (Houston) is a large facility where the North American pipeline industry houses ~700 samples of real pipelines with known flaws in order to use them for research and for technique commissioning. They have extensive historical records of each pipe, and they are very happy to make samples available for our research. This would be of great value to confirm research findings and to expand their applicability to a global scale.
-TransCanada Ltd is a large pipeline construction, operation and testing company based in Calgary (Canada). We have been collaborating with them since around 2009 with various research projects, and I had a chance to meet many people in the offices that held various areas of expertise that I hadn’t met in Australia. Of great benefit was that I was able to obtain specific samples from them for our current research, and permission to test them. This alone made the trip worthwhile. We are now currently analysing these samples at UoA.
-General Electric (Oil and Gas division, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK) is a company that operates ILI tools for various pipe operators and have supplied data in the past that we’ve used for research. They were interested in the tomography work we’ve been doing, and I learnt further about ILI capabilities that I can use for future research for the Energy Pipelines CRC.
-The University of Manchester (UK) was the largest program of corrosion research that I encountered during this trip. They have a large number of staff, students and technicians working in a large number of areas. They do research into SCC but not of gas pipelines; they concentrate on SCC of spent nuclear fuel cell containers. Some of their previous work on tomography complements quite well with our recent work, and some of their techniques will be very useful for our research and teaching (creating teaching aids).
-Universidad Complutense is one of the oldest Universities in Spain, located in Madrid. Their corrosion group is nestled within Chemical Engineering, and a lot of their SCC research has been in the area of process engineering rather than pipeline corrosion. One of the managers there is also interested in collaboration in the area of clean fuels and solar energy (which we are currently doing in the School of Mechanical Engineering).
-CENIM in Madrid is the equivalent of CSIRO (materials and metallurgy) here in Australia. I gave a talk on the Energy Pipelines CRC and UoA activities and toured their corrosion testing facilities. They currently concentrate on atmospheric corrosion, although have capacity for a lot of other corrosion research areas. I had met one of their researchers a few times before, and there is a lot of interest in collaboration as Spain is planning the construction of gas pipelines into Madrid to supply it with gas. The day I visited them was the day that King Juan Carlos I abdicated, so there was a lot of discussions on this in the corridors.
-GDF Suez is the main national gas transmission and distribution company in France, with headquarters in Paris. They concentrate on remote sensing of pipelines, which is another area that I have been exploring with the Energy Pipelines CRC for future projects. They are actively encouraged to collaborate internationally, so there are possibilities in this area. They also carry out full scale testing of pipelines and were very interested in our previous research for APIA and Energy Pipelines CRC.
-The University of Birmingham (UK) tends to concentrate their corrosion research into pitting and cracking extending for pitting (mostly SCC initiation). They have done some work on tomography of SCC, but in aluminium instead of steels. We found some common areas for corrosion collaboration as the tomography for the two different material densities could benefit both parties.
-The University of Southampton (UK) is heavily involved with wear, and a little bit of erosion-corrosion. Although extremely interesting (especially for biomaterials), we did not find many areas in common for collaboration.
-SZMF (Duisburg, Germany) is a research company that services the largest of Germany’s steel and pipeline manufacturers. They have carried out research in SCC of gas pipelines, but they were very interested in our current results as they show more detail than their work did a few years ago. They are very keen to collaborate with us, especially with a project currently under proposal regarding manufacturing methods affecting SCC resistance in pipes. Their small and medium scale facilities replicate very well their full scale activities.
-Rosen (Lingen, Germany) operates and analyses ILI tools for the pipeline industry. They were very helpful in providing technical support and knowledge on the limits of their capabilities, to help shape upcoming project proposals at UoA. They have provided in the past a lot of data that we have used in other Energy Pipelines CRC projects.
Salient points of the Study Leave
The main points that I found were that I saw that UoA has world class facilities, capabilities and knowledge to be able to carry out world class research in a niche area within corrosion. After a period of activity (1970’s to 1990’s), interest in fundamental SCC research died down even though the problem was not resolved. Industry has since then concentrated on managing the problem. Work being done at UoA is novel, new and shows promise to the international stage.
The second point is that no matter which institution I visited, they all expressed that they had a similar problem; expertise is being haemorrhaged due to retiring experts without knowledge being passed on. They are (in general) instituting measures to try to transfer the remaining knowledge before it is lost (through mentoring, internal wikis, etc). The third and last point is to see that all industries expressed difficulty in competing with Asian companies in terms of price for their products, although delivered quality tended to be consistently high for both Europe and North America.