26 May 2011
Natural corrosion causes the collapse of buildings, aeroplane crashes and refinery and factory explosions, directly costing the economy about R130-billion a year, research and development organisation Mintek says.
Supporting the company’s claim, a 2005 University of the Witwatersrand study puts the estimated direct cost of corrosion at R154-billion per year, higher even than Mintek’s figure.
International support for the claim comes from an Electric Power Research Institute of the US study, which shows that more than half of all unplanned power outages are due to corrosion.
Other studies in different countries indicate that between 25% and 30% of water supply is lost in the supply chain due to corrosion, according to Mintek.
However, several independent studies have also shown that 25% of the effects and costs of corrosion can be prevented by applying known corrosion technology.
Corrosion technology experts needed
Mintek says the problem is that South Africa’s higher education institutions do not churn out experts in corrosion technology, and the current pool of experts is shrinking.
Mintek is attempting to address this problem together with the Corrosion Institute of Southern Africa.
“Mintek helps industry reduce the adverse impacts of corrosion by performing failure investigations, aiding in material selection, and providing advice,” said Deon Slabbert, co-ordinator of the Mintek Metals Technology Centre.
“The centre also performs failure investigations in order to identify root causes [of corrosion]. This is not only important for litigation, but also to prevent costly failures and downtime in future,” he added.