The impact of corrosion on heavy equipment

Nov. 17, 2023
A comprehensive corrosion control policy is crucial to attain and sustain the requisite levels of quality, safety, and reliability within the maintenance organization.

Cranes and heavy equipment are indispensable in industries such as construction, mining, rigging, and hydrocarbon sectors. Consequently, property owners and contractors are required to adhere to high maintenance standards, in accordance with OSHA guidelines, to ensure a safe working environment for all employees. 

Corrosion is defined as the gradual deterioration of metal components due to environmental factors like high temperature, humidity, and chemical exposure, and presents a significant challenge to cranes and heavy industrial equipment. This corrosion severely compromises equipment functionality, and can result in substantial economic losses, environmental pollution, and even loss of life. A comprehensive corrosion control policy is crucial to attain and sustain the requisite levels of quality, safety, and reliability within the maintenance organization.

Effects of corrosion on cranes and heavy equipment

The neglect of corrosion control measures in industrial settings has led to tragic outcomes, including numerous injuries and fatalities. For instance, on March 15, 2009, a 50-ton hydraulic crane accident at a construction site in New York City resulted in the death of seven individuals. The hydraulic crane, while hoisting a heavy load, suddenly collapsed. Investigations revealed that the crane's right lifting cylinder had been inadequately maintained, and corrosion had weakened the lifting cylinders. 

Various national studies conducted in several countries over the past 50 years have consistently estimated the costs of corrosion to be around 3-4% of each nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Considering a global GDP figure of 3.4% (as of 2013), the estimated worldwide cost of corrosion is a staggering US $2.5 trillion. Results from other studies conducted from 1949 to 1994, including by NACE International, are summarized in Table 1.

Maintenance solutions for corrosion control

Maintenance solutions aimed at controlling corrosion are a crucial aspect of industrial operations. By adopting effective corrosion control practices, it is estimated that significant savings, ranging from 15-35% of corrosion-related expenses, could be realized. This translates to annual global savings of approximately US $375 to $875 billion. 

These solutions encompass a variety of strategies, from protective coatings to predictive maintenance, all aimed at mitigating the destructive effects of corrosion. Implementing effective maintenance solutions not only protects valuable assets but also minimizes economic losses, environmental impacts, and potential safety hazards. Best industry practices for maintenance solutions against corrosion extend across two areas: standards-based guidance, and advanced technology application.

International standards. International standards are instrumental in guiding corrosion control and maintenance solutions for heavy industrial equipment, providing a universally recognized framework that emphasizes consistency, quality, and safety in practice. Below are some of the standards pertinent to corrosion control for cranes and industrial equipment:

  • ISO 12944: This standard outlines guidelines for protective coatings, covering aspects such as types of coatings, application methodologies, and inspection criteria. By adhering to these standards, a standardized approach to combating corrosion across various industrial settings is ensured, including those settings involving cranes and industrial equipment.
  • ISO 8502: This standard addresses the preparation of steel substrates before the application of paints and related products. It includes tests for assessing surface cleanliness and evaluating dust on steel surfaces prepared for painting. This standard also is applicable to cranes and heavy equipment constructed with steel structures.

Advanced maintenance methods and technologies. Several advanced methods and innovative maintenance approaches are available to help plant teams enhance corrosion control. Predictive maintenance, facilitated by condition-based monitoring, leverages the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and predictive analytics to forecast corrosion rates and refine maintenance schedules (see Figure 1).

Also, through the integration of sensors and cutting-edge technologies, condition-based monitoring programs continuously assess the health of equipment, collect and process data, and accurately detect any anomalies. Advanced cathodic protection systems, such as impressed current cathodic protection (ICCP), offer more precise control over corrosion inhibition. This proactive strategy not only minimizes downtime but also optimizes maintenance efforts, ensuring that resources are deployed precisely when needed to combat corrosion effectively.

Furthermore, a corrosion management system (CMS) should be integrated into the corporate management system. This integration extends from specific corrosion procedures to overarching organizational policies and strategies, encompassing all levels of the management system. By articulating traditional corrosion practices within the language and context of organizational policies, maintenance teams can ensure commitment to the corrosion management system across all organizational levels. This approach aids in managing corrosion processes throughout all stages of asset integrity management, as depicted in Figure 2.

Corrosion control measures

Providing methods and solutions on how to measure and improve the quality of maintenance is a key consideration for any maintenance organization. While corrosion control presents significant challenges and risks, proper maintenance processes and procedures can mitigate the detrimental effects. Corrosion control aims at ensuring the efficient operation and upkeep of physical assets, be it a maintenance facility, a commercial building, or a fleet of vehicles. By adhering to maintenance guidelines and referencing international standards, any maintenance organization can enhance the safety, reliability, and longevity of its cranes and heavy equipment. 

About the Author

Abdullah Alghaithan

Abdullah Alghaithan, CMRP, is an OSS Engineer IV with the Saudi Aramco Mobility & Logistics Services Department. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering and is professionally accredited by the Saudi Council of Engineers. Alghaithan focuses on solving technical problems and developing safety plans in manufacturing environments, as well as coordinating with contractors, engineers, and agencies to identify opportunities for sustainability improvements and enhanced component design.

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