Terri-Jane Yuzda


Freelance Columnist

The Corrosion Low-down

Member Patrick Teevens, P.Eng., Tells PM That Pipeline Corrosion Needs Attention

During a visit to Calgary last October, Prime Minister Paul Martin got the low-down on the impact and dangers of corrosion. The PM listened politely, acknowledged his lack of awareness and familiarity of the subject and pledged he’d investigate.

The source of the prime minister’s introduction to corrosion was Patrick Teevens, CD, P.Eng. As Mr. Teevens sees it, he was simply doing his duty when he buttonholed the new Liberal prime minister during a tour of his Calgary office building at the Alastair Ross Technology Centre.

Indeed, the NACE International, certified specialist in corrosion engineering and the president of Broadsword Corrosion Engineering Ltd. approaches the subject, with a high level of professionalism and uncompromising sense of duty to the public well-being.

"As long as we all do our jobs properly, nothing happens," says Mr. Teevens.

Corrosive Behaviour
This pipe ruptured because of CO2

Things Happen
But things do happen, virtually every day. His company can help, both before problems occur and afterwards. Broadsword gauges pipeline conditions and designs corrosion abatement strategies on behalf of energy industry clients.

More than 300,000 kilometres of pipeline criss-cross the province and many more are on the way, pending approvals of the Mackenzie Valley natural gas pipeline. That puts Mr. Teevens and his company in the catbird seat of a growth industry.

On average, Alberta pipelines fail, with varying degrees of severity, 700 to 800 times a year. Statistics indicate that more than half these failures result from internal corrosion.

Mr. Teevens describes the frequency of failures as a "concern," taking considerable care not to sprinkle his conversation with any alarmist terms such as "crisis."

On the contrary, he praises Alberta oil and gas production and transmission companies for improving their standards of vigilance and maintenance in recent years. He also applauds the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board for reasonably strict enforcement of its pipeline maintenance guidelines.

"In fact, the EUB is probably one of the more progressive regulatory agencies in North America, especially in terms of keeping statistics on provincial pipelines," he says.

Nevertheless, corrosion remains a significant – and expensive – problem for the industry at large.

And it doesn't stop with oil and gas. In fact, oil and gas upstream production operations account for a small fraction of the total cost of corrosion to the overall economy.

U.S. Report is Telling
The U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Highways Administration, has reported that corrosion costs American industry a minimum of $276 billion US (2001 dollars) a year, equivalent to about three per cent of the country’s GDP, Mr. Teevens points out.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military says that corrosion of infrastructure and equipment costs the government an estimated $20 billion US annually, while adversely affecting operational readiness.

On the bright side, researchers also believe that proactive, best-practice engineering procedures can do much to mitigate this awesome expense.

"The authors of the U.S. report feel that 40 per cent of the corrosion problem is preventable," says Mr. Teevens, who's convinced that corrosion detection and prevention techniques can also save Canadian petroleum production and transmission companies a bundle.

However, he worries some companies may be unwittingly placing themselves at risk by not availing themselves of NACE International certified people to maintain and operate their corrosion mitigation programs for their pipelines. Well-trained, base-competency, certified corrosion engineers and technologists can serve their employers by properly maintaining and monitoring pipelines.

Stricter Standards Needed
Mr. Teevens says there's a pressing and emerging need for stricter corrosion base-competency standards, right across Canada.

"The big question is, who are the people managing these pipelines in our country?” he says. "In the U.S., the decision-makers must be educated and trained to certain standards."

Meanwhile, software developers across North America are running a high-stakes sweepstakes to be first to come up with an intelligent, internal corrosion prediction tool that will predict corrosion behaviour within multiphase pipelines.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Teeven’s company, Broadsword, has entered its own dark horse in this race. It's called enpICDA™, a coined term that describes a technically advanced, engineering predictive model for the internal corrosion direct assessment of flowing pipeline systems. It's been on the market since last year.

"From a chemical engineering perspective, enpICDA looks at fluid hydrodynamics, heat transfer and mass transfer (mass transport) of key specific contributing or dominant ions involved in the corrosion process, to and from the inside pipeline wall," explains Mr. Teevens.

By relying on enpICDA and other strategies, Broadsword builds corrosion management plans that allow clients to comply with EUB guidelines. Business is brisk, although Mr. Teevens says some companies are “painfully” slow to recognize that a proactive response to pipeline corrosion can actually save them cash, paying huge financial and corporate image dividends in the long run. That’s something hard to portray, he says, when “long-term” visions of corporations are actually short-term.

"By maintaining pipeline integrity, we eliminate lost production and costly down time," Mr. Teevens concludes. "And we keep people safe."

Home | Past PEGGs | PEGG Search | Contact Us