The danger of hungry microorganismsCorrosion influenced by microorganisms (e.g. bacteria) is known to cause fast, unpredicted and serious damage to ships and offshore infrastructures. It has been connected to sinking ships and oil spills. With risk assessment, diagnosis, detection and monitoring, TNO is helping the industry to prevent disasters and save on maintenance costs.
Five thousand oil barrels leaked from an oil pipeline into Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, in March 2006 – the largest oil spill ever on Alaska’s North slope. Investigators discovered that a sediment at the bottom of the pipeline created a breeding ground for acidic bacteria, that were gradually eating the pipe. Microorganisms can seriously accelerate the electrochemical process that leads to corrosion. According to TNO-scientist Felipe Leon Morales, this is a highly unpredictable process. ‘Under the influence of microorganisms, corrosion processes can happen in a matter of months, compared to the years it would normally take takes for abiotic corrosion to endanger infrastructure. Due to its unpredictability, it is often difficult to include microbial corrosion in corrosion risk analyses and more often than not, it is not included in the design phase. The impact can be enormous. An estimated 20% of all corrosion damages are caused by micro-organisms, leading to costs as high as 2-5% of GDP
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