User-Friendly Software that More Accurately Predicts Corrosive Wear on Pipes

Technology #10252

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Researchers
Mark E. Orazem
Douglas P. Riemer
Managed By
Richard Croley
Assistant Director 352-392-8929

Invention

The University of Florida is seeking companies interested in commercializing a computer program that precisely calculates how much protection is needed to prevent extensive corrosion in metal pipes. Around the world, buried pipelines transport natural gas and liquid petroleum products at low cost. Monitoring and maintaining the 2.4 million miles of natural gas pipes in the U.S. alone costs about $7 billion a year. A pipeline accident occurs about every other day in this country, and an explosion or other serious incident that results in hospitalization or death occurs at least once every 10 days. Failure to accurately predict the extent of corrosion in metal pipes can lead to unnecessary interventions that cost thousands of dollars or, worse still, leaks that could cause deadly explosions. In an effort to prevent wasted money and leaks, engineers use several different computer programs and formulas to determine where to apply cathodic protection ¬– placing a sacrificial metal alongside the pipeline and introducing low-level electrical charges at strategic locations. Electricity makes the sacrificial metal deteriorate, releasing electrons that travel to the pipe, which absorbs the electrons, preventing corrosion. The process works well. The only problem is that existing mathematical models provide inaccurate estimates of corrosion, which results in under-protection or over-protection along portions of the line. Researchers at the University of Florida have designed a more efficient computer program that uses several different criteria to individually assess the needs of each pipeline system. The technology will provide more precise calculations for the amount of needed protection, saving lives and avoiding unnecessary interventions.

Application

Computer software that will save money and increase safety by providing more accurate estimates of corrosive wear in metal-based pipelines

Advantages

  • Provides more precise estimates of corrosion, providing a competitive advantage over existing software
  • Allows for strategic use of cathodic protection, saving time and money
  • Accounts for a greater number variables, minimizing leaks that cause dangerous explosions
  • Compatible with any metal pipeline system, ensuring a large potential market
  • Features a user-friendly design, eliminating a barrier to widespread use

Technology

Cathodic protection of metal pipes is extremely effective when used properly, but it is often difficult to determine when and where it should be used. University of Florida researchers have developed computer software that evaluates factors known to affect corrosion rates. The software precisely determines cathodic protection requirements in complex pipeline systems after assessing a wide range of variables.The program accounts for interactions among multiple pipelines, variability in initial coating quality, and interactions caused by the use of independent cathodic protection. It has been tested successfully against existing estimation equations and is already being implemented in the design of new pipelines in Asia.