Attacking corrosion

Feb. 2, 2014
Web-based Liquid Products Database nears reality for NTTC, Battelle

BY the middle of this year, the National Tank Truck Carriers (NTTC) will launch the Liquid Products Database (LPD)—a new cargo tank corrosion-prevention initiative sponsored by NTTC and developed by Battelle.

The LPD is a searchable, web-based product that will put cargo tank corrosion information at the fingertips of tank fleet managers.

“The Liquid Products Database is a journey, not a destination,” said John Cannon, vice-president of engineering for The Walker Group. “With carrier participation, it will get better and more effective.”

The initiative has been driven by the persistent and damaging issue of corrosion and pitting of tanks, which was addressed during the National Tank Truck Carriers Tank Truck Week October 28-30, 2013 in Houston, Texas. The latest on the database was reviewed in the “Corrosion Action Plan” presentation given by Cannon, Barry Hindin and Doug Pape of Battelle, and Craig Casey of Tankstar USA.

Cannon said calcium chloride is not classified as a hazardous material, but it’s hazardous to a stainless steel tank.

“Regularly, throughout each year, we get many calls about corrosion episodes,” Cannon said. “Dozens of presentations have been given about corrosion in hindsight. We thought it would be more important to work on prevention.”

And that’s because corrosion costs upwards of $1 billion annually in the industry, according to NACE International and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). There are hard costs per tank truck carrier in excess of $300,000 a year, and Cannon said several stainless-steel fleets have told him their corrosion costs are between $500,000 and $700,000—and that doesn’t include soft costs per carrier in excess of $200,000.

“A pitted tank will never be ‘like new,’ ” he said. “Even if a shop welds up 500 or 1000 pits, each and every one of the locations is more susceptible to future corrosion. We as an industry must focus on prevention.”

Casey said the pitting issue is a large, complex problem, but collaboration in the industry can make a difference.

“I think we can make a dent in it if we work together because there is a tremendous amount of knowledge out there,” he said. “We just have to harness that. We put together a steering team with representatives from eight carriers. We’re getting more and more data all the time.

“I think there are a lot of big carriers that deal with corrosion and pitting every day of the week, but also a lot of carriers not as large that have the same types of problems we do. Where I work, we have a three-man committee that works on vetting materials before they’re hauled in tanks. Other carriers may not have that. We go over and over and do the same work multiple times.

“It’s important that the Liquid Products Database involves everybody—large carriers and small carriers. It’s important that we maximize our potential. We have started a list of suspect chemicals. We ask questions of chemical haulers and have gotten responses back. There are chemicals we’ve had prior problems with or have concerns about. We can stack them up and see which ones we have the most concerns about.”

He said a neutral, independent party, Battelle, has been engaged to collect, maintain, and research the data.

“We need a combined front and a highly credible, authoritative resource to point to when vetting a product,” he said. “We need input from every single carrier. The more input we get, the more we can say we have strong evidence that these chemicals are causing us trouble and will take money out of the bottom line.

“Think about the countless hours we all spend researching chemicals and their potential risk for pitting. All of us, over and over, covering the very same ground. What a waste. We need to educate ourselves and each other in the potential for pits. We need a forum: a reasonably priced, very accessible forum, to communicate the risk to even the smallest carrier—those carriers that may have little or no experience with a given product.

“Let’s face it: Typically, once you have bitten into a problem piece of business, it can take months to spit it out. That then leaves the shipper looking for the next inexperienced carrier to take the next bite. It takes a long time once you’ve made the mistake. Sometimes shippers change their chemistry.

“The really sad, frustrating part to me is that we have somehow become accustomed to pits. But they’re a problem. I deal with pits and pitting issues nearly every day. Today’s pits are tomorrow’s pits, because, if there were 500 pits in that trailer that you had fixed, how many pits were too small to fix? Are we going to eradicate pits? No. Can we work together and, in time, cut the problem in half? Absolutely. There’s a lot of money to be had by everybody. It doesn’t matter whether you haul tomato juice or sulfuric acid.”

The effort to establish an LPD started with meetings of 60 industry stakeholders. In June 2012, they prioritized how they could tackle corrosion prevention. The #1 suggestion was that what goes into a tank needed to be vetted much better. At an April 2013 NTTC meeting in Austin, Texas, the concept of an LPD drew a lot of support. In August 2013 at the NTTC summer meeting in Alberta, Canada, the board of directors moved forward with NTTC sponsorship.

Through the course of deliberations, an LPD emerged as the best way to reduce the cost of corrosion to carriers. A steering committee was formed to identify the biggest issues and suggest best remedies.

Cannon said Battelle fit the bill to be the database host because it is a neutral party, has technical competence and laboratory availability, and is a non-profit enterprise.

Pape said corrosion data is being compiled from existing sources: handbooks that have corrosion rates for different compounds and carriers’ experience.

The website will be optimized for mobile devices, and apps for Android and iPhone devices probably will be available in a couple of years.

Products will be identified as “haul,” “haul with an asterisk (meaning, “as long as you have a nice new tank with a pristine passivation layer inside), or “use lined/special tank.” Visitors will be able to ask the search engine for the name of a manufacturer or shipper, and a product. Each product will contain the following checklist:

•  No problems reported.

•  OK to haul if ... passivation is good; it’s washed promptly; nitrogen blanket; the daytime temp below 60 degrees F.

•  Not recommended for stainless.

Visitors will be able to scroll down and see fellow carriers’ comments, such as:

•  “Note the chlorides in the decomposition products.”

•  “Must wash within 24 hours. Otherwise might risk pitting attack.”

Said Pape, “The thought is that for the first year, we’ll take a baby step—something everybody can agree on and say, ‘Yes this is working and will be more useful as we add more features.’ ”

He said future efforts will include:

•  Providing information on cleaning. “Not just say, ‘Well, you need to clean within 24 hours.’ What are cleaning processes or procedures?”

•  Expanding the database to fiberglass-reinforced plastic tanks and lining materials. “So it’s not just one or two kinds of stainless.”

•  Links to placards. “If this is a hazardous material, what placard do you need when carrying this product?”

He said the first year will be free for all NTTC members. At the end of the year, they will need to subscribe. There is an initial payment required for non-NTTC members and an annual fee assessed to fund continuing research. All subscribers are expected to share data.

Hindin, asked if there are any nondisclosure limitations from product manufacturers, and said they’ve found some data sources that are not copyrighted and there is some data where the copyright has expired.

“We talked to the legal department and got the go-ahead to use that,” he said. “There is other data that may be proprietary or copyrighted, but we can get permission to use. We’ll start initially with non-copyrighted data. There are several thousand entries for that, so we’ll be busy for a while, and there will be enough information to be helpful.”

Said Cannon, “Regarding proprietary blends, if a shipper doesn’t want to disclose the contents, it’s under the shippers’ responsibility as described in 49 CFR 173.22. They’re responsible for indicating what type of tank is appropriate. So if they don’t want to disclose what’s in their product, they can go on the record and say, ‘We’ll take responsibility for your tank.’ I don’t think too many shippers will do that. ”     ♦