Risk Analysis and Corrosion Prevention During Industrial Power Failure

Jia Yang

Jia studied a bachelor of Materials Science and Engineering in Nanyang Technological University. Jia is working outside of academia at present but may decide to return in the future. lijiayangsg@gmail.com

What was your thesis topic?

Modern civilisation depends on many different sectors functioning well and concurrently to run smoothly. This includes the energy sector, the transport sector, and the information technology sector. As such, the consequences could be catastrophic if these sectors were to fail due to some form of power outage or disaster. Possible causes include a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse from a nuclear bomb or a solar storm, a pandemic worse than COVID-19 causing people to be too fearful to work in critical industries, a cyber-attack, or an extreme natural disaster. Some work has been done on what could happen if such sectors are disabled, but virtually none on how to cope or to prepare for the loss. First, estimates of how long such a power outage will last were calculated. Next, scenarios where there is a power loss in industry for at least 5 to 25 years was explored. The consequences of such a scenario with regards to corrosion were considered. Possible strategies for what can be done to prepare for such scenarios were also explored. It was found that considering the design, removing corrosive components, and using coatings and packaging were the cheapest ways to reduce corrosion risks.

In what ways do you think your topic improves the world?

Cost estimations are important because it helps us prioritise interventions during a disaster. If we knew that industry would be expensive to protect, then perhaps we would choose not to do so, since there are better options to spend the money on, such as growing food or facilitating migration. This work can help to spark additional work into specific interventions for each country or each region, and provides an overview of what is possible to prevent corrosion.

What do you think the stronger and weaker parts of your thesis are?

One of the strengths of the work is that we managed to pin the costs of corrosion down to a few orders of magnitude (it’s in the billions). Another strength is that it’s very comprehensive and covers all six major types of corrosion prevention that’s possible with current technology. It was a useful first cut in deciding what corrosion prevention methods we should prioritise if we want to prevent corrosion in a disaster. There was also consideration of different kinds of industries and what each may need for corrosion prevention.

One weakness would be the lack of sensitivity analysis on how the costs were calculated, and how much uncertainties affect these numbers. I may want to include this in a future edition of the work. It also relies on figures from the internet that don’t have transparent calculations, and I may want to recalculate these myself.

In what ways have you changed your mind since writing it?

I may have focused more on just one industry instead of covering many industries; that way, I can go deeper and perform a more thorough analysis of it, which may be more useful in an actual disaster. Overviews are good but tend to be really theoretical in nature.

What recommendations would you make to others interested in taking a similar direction with their research?

I started off reading up more about corrosion – I ended up referring a lot to textbooks to my surprise, so textbooks can actually be a better place to start than reading literature reviews. It would be good to quickly decide on what specific direction you want the research to head in so that you can spend more time on analysing it. Talking to other researchers for ideas also really helps if you get stuck. Do reach out if you’re interested to discuss more and if you’d like to take a look at the actual thesis.

Please email Jia if you would like access to the full text.

Published 21/11/21