Engineering professor receives U.S. Department of Transportation grant to evaluate metal corrosion prevention method 

Dr. Qindan Huang, associate professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering in the Opus College of Engineering, has received a grant worth $735,723 from the U.S. Department of Transportation to evaluate the cathodic protection method on pipeline metals, which shields steel from corrosion by attaching an active base metal which corrodes in its place by providing the electrons lost in the corrosive oxidization process. 

Huang and her research team will evaluate the effectiveness of cathodic protection through a novel reliability-based approach by uniquely integrating valuable pipeline integrity information to reliably model corrosion growth, assess the probability of failure, and develop reliability-based cathodic protection and corrosion management. 

“Corrosion is a time-dependent threat and is a cause of significant transmission and gathering pipeline incidents in the United States. The first line of defense against external corrosion has been pipeline coating that can fail due to age and deterioration,” Huang said. “Cathodic protection is the second line of defense and has become a widely accepted approach in the pipeline industry. However, managing cathodic protection systems is challenging due to uncontrollable environmental factors and possible current interferences. In this research, we will leverage the extensive survey and inspection data with our novel approach to systematically evaluate the effectiveness of cathodic protection through assessing external corrosion probability of failure, risk, life-cycle cost and benefits under various scenarios.” 

The specific technical objectives of the research project will be to: 

  • Probabilistically model the growth of external corrosion defects on steel pipeline explicitly incorporating explanatory variables in the model formulation 
  • Experimentally study the stray current impact on external corrosion 
  • Quantify and propagate prevailing uncertainty in the survey and inspection data and modeling error through reliability analysis
  • Evaluate the impact of various explanatory variables on cathodic protection effectiveness and pipeline integrity 
  • Provide reliability-based tools for decision-making under uncertainty regarding augmentation and monitoring strategies using life-cycle analysis and value of information concepts 

“Dr. Huang and her collaborators are tackling an important challenge for the longevity of our infrastructure and the safety of our environment,” said Dr. Kristina Ropella, Opus Dean of the Opus College of Engineering. “I am grateful for her leadership and vision as a Marquette researcher committed to Be The Difference for our communities.” 

Huang’s co-principal investigator on the project is Dr. Qixin Zhou, associate professor of chemical, biomolecular, and corrosion engineering at the University of Akron. 

This award is funded by the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. The PHMSA’s mission is to protect people and the environment by advancing the safe transportation of energy and other hazardous materials that are essential to our daily lives. To do this, the agency establishes national policy, sets and enforces standards, educates, and conducts research to prevent incidents. They also prepare the public and first responders to reduce consequences if an incident does occur.