Coast-to-coast corrosion protection for critical infrastructure

Coast-to-coast corrosion protection for critical infrastructure

More than 620,000 bridges and tunnels, over 4.19 million miles of roads, and the world’s largest rail transport system stretch across the United States and connect us over land and water. While our nation’s transportation network is expected to provide safe and reliable connectivity, billions of dollars in rail upgrades are needed and an estimated one in three bridges and 40 percent of roads require repair or replacement.

A leading cause of bridge failure and structural damage is corrosion, the gradual destruction of materials by a reaction with their environment. Dust, salt, acids, chemicals, moisture, high temperatures and humidity, and other conditions can all accelerate corrosion.

Corrosion is especially severe in coastal regions. Research published in Resilient Cities and Structures found increased temperatures and humidity from climate change can accelerate infrastructure deterioration in coastal areas. Among respondents 10% of counties have experienced losses due to corrosion rate changes for concrete and steel bridges and 10% report losses greater than $20 million.

Critical maintenance to mitigate more costly damage

The impact of corrosion translates to material damage, as well as lost time and labor costs. According to a study commissioned by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, the direct effects of corrosion cost U.S. industry and government a reported $276 billion annually. This includes expenses like repairing a structurally deficient bridge or treating drinking water in a municipal water pipeline. Not calculated are indirect costs of corrosion such as labor related to corrosion management activities or the loss of revenue from supply chain disruption.  

Infrastructure investments around the country are aimed at addressing bridge, rail and road improvements, with many areas prioritizing maintenance of major interstates and fracture-critical bridges to help prevent more costly rebuilds and repairs, extended closures and safety issues.

Combating corrosion

Materials matter in minimizing corrosion and maintenance. Corroded components and electrical contacts can create high resistance and unreliable connections, resulting in poor power quality or system outages and failure. To help ensure long-term reliability of electrical systems in harsh and corrosive environments, ABB’s Ocal® PVC-coated conduit and fittings are designed to provide a complete corrosion-protection package and extend electrical system life years beyond that of standard rigid conduit. ABB produces more than 1,560 miles of Ocal conduit annually at the company’s Jonesboro, Arkansas facility.

With railways playing an important role in the sustainable movement of people and things, preventing electrical system downtime is essential. To help safeguard electrical systems from prolonged exposure to intense weather conditions and the impact of corrosion, ABB developed a range of finishes and solutions for rail and rolling stock that include Adaptaflex® Flexible non-metallic Conduit Systems, PMA® nylon cable protection systems and Ty-Rap® stainless steel cable ties.

ABB’s cable tray systems and electrical solutions support and shield electrical wiring in tunnels and help prevent moisture buildup and damage to cable insulation. The fully adaptable system is less susceptible to fire loss, too, and allows cable to enter or exit at any point for easy inspection, maintenance and configuration as new technology is integrated. Hundreds of airports use ABB’s Amerace® airfield lighting for watertight illumination on approach, runway and taxiway.

While corrosion is a natural and inevitable process, it can be managed and mitigated with proper-rated materials, finishes and solutions. From electrical raceway in bridges and tunnels to corrosion-resistant components that power roadways, railways and runways, ABB engineers electrification solutions to connect and protect in the most challenging conditions.

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