Five considerations for eliminating corrosion in the Arctic

The Arctic is a harsh environment, but there is growing global interest in the region’s oil and gas resources. Operators will therefore have to ensure that assets deployed in the Arctic can sufficiently handle the region’s extreme conditions.

Optimising the operation of assets and infrastructure for oil and gas developments within the Arctic region creates a very specific set of challenges. Key among these is how to effectively combat asset corrosion and ice build-up on constructions.  

There are many aspects relating to corrosion prevention that oil and gas asset owners or lead EPC contractors should consider regarding designing new constructions and effective maintenance programs. Selecting the correct coating systems at the design stage will eliminate or reduce the need for maintenance, ensuring non-stop operation of the asset.  

We have listed the five most important aspects that have to be considered below.

  1. Stress fracture properties

    The steel used in the asset and coatings systems deployed will have different thermal expansion coefficient, so an effective coating system that can compensate for these differences is essential.  This issue is enhanced in the Arctic due to the wide variation in temperatures experienced. The chosen coating system must be both sufficiently flexible to account for expansion or contraction, yet strong enough to avoid cracking.

  2. Ice accumulation

    Ice build-up or icing of ships and offshore structures can have a significant impact on an asset. Ice falling from a refinery pipeline, for example, can create a significant HSE issue. It can also add considerable weight to the asset and indirectly enable increased corrosion due to mechanical wear of the coating system.

  3. Temperature

    Arctic is a region prone to extremely low and varying temperatures. However, there is not one type of Arctic weather. 

    Rising and varying temperatures – both in the atmosphere and of the asset - can create the perfect conditions for corrosion establishment. Thawing permafrost may also give rise to the exposure of buried pipelines that again can cause corrosion and asset integrity challenges.

  4. Asset integrity/structural impact

    Corrosion will attack the weakest point in any asset. For example, anything that affects pipeline integrity, such as a defect caused by a sudden impact in ultra cold conditions when steel and coatings can be more brittle, can often be the starting point for corrosive activity. Other hot spots for corrosion can be kinks joints, bends and corners – the more difficult locations to protect adequately. 

    Many oil and gas facilities are manufactured in modules in warmer climates and assembled on site in the Arctic, and all parts should therefore be fully inspected for transit damage before construction. It’s also important to remember that coatings applied by the manufacturers at the construction point may not be robust enough to withstand Arctic conditions. So, a thorough coating of the assembled asset with an appropriate system as part of a regular maintenance programme is strongly recommended. 

  5. Corrosion under insulation (CUI)

    This is one of the most consistent problems facing the global oil and gas industry, but it’s a particular issues in the Arctic because of the need for the widespread insulation of pipe. CUI is difficult to detect but can be averted by administering an appropriate coating system to the insulated area as part of ongoing maintenance.

    The Arctic is a vast area made up of many different regions and, although they share some features, it is important to bear in mind their differences and environmental conditions for human activities. 

    However, the Arctic climate is changing. We are experiencing more precipitation, wind, sand stronger UV radiation and a greater variation in temperatures than ever before. To address and better understand these new challenges, Jotun became the first company to establish an onsite Arctic test station at Svalbard, just 650 miles from the North Pole, two years ago, where the company tests its coating systems in real life conditions.
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