How digital tools can support your cathodic protection

A cathodic protection system provides great value for maintaining the condition of infrastructure. We explained in our previous post that cathodic protection in pipelines can extend their lifetime to more than 100 years!

Also, given the challenges of aging assets, lack of technical personnel, and decarbonizing energy infrastructure it is becoming more and more important to keep cathodic protection in good condition.

In this post, we would like to explain how digital tools can help maintain your cathodic protection.

1. Manual inspections of cathodic protection

To monitor the functioning of a cathodic protection system it is important to carry out regular inspections. In many cases, this is carried out manually. For instance, by using a mobile phone or a tablet it is possible to greatly increase the efficiency of the process. When looking for a solution, the following features should be taken into account:

Important features:

  • Insert measurements easily
    • Initially, it is important to be able to insert your measurements in quickly and go to the next measurements point
  • Have a geographical overview of your measurement locations
    • By having a geographic overview you can improve the analysis that you can carry out on your cathodic protection.
  • Ability to design own forms for measurements
    • You would want to be able to name it just like you are used to (DC-on, On-potential, M.E.P, etc)
    • You would want to be able to use the unit just like you are used to (mV or V)
  • Import historic measurements
    • The value of the digital solution is much bigger if you can make use of all your historic measurements as well
  • Group your measurement locations
    • You probably divided inspection work among your team. You would want to assign them a specific group that they should complete
  • Assign a periodic inspection for each asset
    • For an asset, you can assign a specific time frame in which an inspection should be carried out (for example: check all drains every month, check all rectifiers each quarter)
  • Assign different user rights
    • You would want to give access to multiple people. Some to insert measurements, others to analyze, and others to monitor progress. This way, you can make sure that somebody does not change something by mistake
  • Keep track of issues
    • The benefit of having all inspections digitally is that you can keep track of issues in one place. Ideally, you should be able to comment on each issue
  • Exporting reports
    • A prerequisite would be able to export values just the way you want it.

If the above features are included in your digital cathodic protection tool, then you will greatly improve your manual inspection process!

cathodic protection
Figure 1: Example of a digital application for manual CP inspections

2. Remote measurements

A second step to support your processes is to apply remote monitoring to all or a selection of your locations. When looking for remote monitoring hardware it is important to make sure the following features are present:

  • Be able to measure what you want
    • Not just measure on-potential DC but also off-potential, AC, and current or the IR-free of a coupon
  • Allow for commands
    • Check that you can alter the frequency of the measurement remotely or carry out specific survey functions (e.g. a 24-hour measurement)
  • Carry out remote software updates
    • Make sure the devices allow for an over-the-air-update of the firmware so that software can always be updated.
  • Encrypt the payload
    • Make sure that there is end-to-end encryption. Even though CP data may not be personal data it is important to be sure that your data is securely transported
  • Allow for an audit trail
    • Generally, the software should be able to track all actions that were carried out. In that way, you can see who switched the rectifier, who did a survey analysis.
  • Check the communication protocol
    • Obviously, the telecommunication landscape is constantly changing, with the switch now to 5G. Make sure that the communication protocol that the device has will be supported during the whole operational phase
  • Make sure installation is easy
    • Check that installation is easy and not too time-consuming

Based on the above checklist you should be able to select the right remote monitoring solution for your cathodic protection. It is ideal to combine both the software for your manual measurements with remote monitoring so that you have one database for all your measurements and issues.

3. Advanced analysis of cathodic protection

Now the last step to really up your CP-game is to use the data, not just to maintain your cathodic protection but to manage the risks. For this, you can use pipeline integrity management software (PIMS) which works for cathodic protection. When selecting the right tool make sure to take the following elements into account:

  • Can deal with an electrical cathodic protection system
    • Many PIMS solutions focus on the pipeline structure, whereas for cathodic protection it is important to focus on the electrical system (sometimes an electrical system can encompass multiple pipelines, or a pipeline can consist of multiple electrical systems)
  • Soil types should be included
    • The rate of corrosion is dependent on soil types, the software should include as a layer the soil type and take that into account when determining corrosion rates.
  • Calculate specific risks
    • Potential DC / AC interference should also be able to be calculated taking into account overhead lines or other neighboring CP systems
cathodic protection

Figure 3: A CP focused pipeline integrity management software

When having your advanced analysis tool for cathodic protection in place combined with continuous remote monitoring and supported by manual measurements, then you will be best-in-class to manage your cathodic protection.

Conclusion

Finally, the challenge to maintain cathodic protection will become bigger and bigger as assets get older and the people to carry out the work become harder to find. In addition, using digital tools to support your cathodic protection is essential to meet the requirements of regulators, stay within budget, and maximize the value of your assets.

If you are interested to hear more about our views on how to digitalize cathodic protection please contact us.

About Withthegrid

Withthegrid provides an IoT asset monitoring application for infrastructure. You can connect all your IoT devices to analyze time-series data, detect anomalies, and track issues assigned to your personnel.

We have also developed an application specifically for cathodic protection. It includes the ability to connect remote monitoring devices, insert manual measurements and make advanced analyses of your data.