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The University and BP launch multimillion pound collaborative research project

17 Jul 2017

New research aims to combat corrosion in demanding environments

A new multimillion pound collaborative research project led by BP and the University of Manchester could help to dramatically reduce the impact that surface degradation processes such as corrosion and wear have on industry worldwide.

Corrosion and wear processes have very significant societal, economic and safety implications for industry. From tools and machinery to oil pipes, platforms and refineries, many industrial assets are susceptible to these surface degradation problems. This is especially true when they’re exposed to demanding environments that the oil and gas sector encounters.

According to NACE International, the worldwide corrosion authority, it is estimated that the global annual costs related to corrosion alone are greater than $2Tr. Despite this large economic impact, the fundamental processes of corrosion are poorly understood and industry relies on field experience for its management.

Professor Philip Withers, the University of Manchester’s Regius Professor of Materials and the Principal Investigator on the project, said: “Although there have been impressive strides in the empirical understanding of corrosion, many of the underpinning assumptions and industrial practices date back decades.”

But this could all change with a new collaborative research project, ‘Preventing Surface Degradation in Demanding Environments’, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). The project brings together world class researchers from BP, the University of Manchester, Imperial College London and the University of Cambridge, who already work together on corrosion research through the BP International Centre for Advanced Materials (BP-ICAM), plus additional expertise from the Universities of Edinburgh and Leeds.

The collaborative team have received £5m of joint funding from the EPSRC and BP to investigate the processes that cause surface degradation and to develop new strategies to mitigate them.

Professor Withers added: “By harnessing the latest advances in computer modelling, atomic level in-situ experimental techniques and in-operando imaging and characterisation; this programme will focus on understanding corrosion scales and localised corrosion. Simply put, we aim to decipher the fundamental mechanisms that cause corrosion so that we can combat it more effectively in the future.”

The funding award is part of the EPSRC’s ‘Prosperity Partnerships’ scheme which aims to support existing, strategic, research-based collaborations between business and universities. The Prosperity Partnerships initiative is part of the Government’s wider Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund which, overall, has supported ten successful partnerships involving 17 universities and over 30 industrial partners.

Dr Angelo Amorelli, BP’s Technology Vice President of Group Research said: “BP has identified surface degradation as a high priority area for future research, so we are delighted to have been awarded funding by the EPSRC to address the problems of corrosion and wear in one large collaborative project. We hope to extend the safe operational lifetimes of current materials and develop new materials which will ultimately be of great benefit to multiple industrial sectors.”