Economic Analysis of Corrosion

  Classification of different types of corrosion costs (Source: FCN/K. Kemmerich, FCN Diploma Thesis)

Corrosion is a widely underestimated or even ignored economic burden. According to estimates of national and international organizations, such as the World Corrosion Organization WCO, corrosion damages in developed countries have been estimated at about 3.1 to 3.5% of GDP. The annual global costs of corrosion have been estimated to amount approximately €1.3 to 1.4 billion.

In this research project, we investigate the special characteristics of the market for corrosion protection, the microand macroeconomic perspective to corrosion, and methods to assess the cost of corrosion. Furthermore, we compile estimates for the current global damage cost of corrosion by countries and sectors, enabling a comparative cost analysis. Next, we address the causes of corrosion costs, pointing out the paramount importance of know-how about he materials used with regard to durability and susceptability to corrosion, in order to dynamically plan and calculate the cost of replacement and corrosion protection measures. A further aspect are costs that are directly caused by materials damaged by corrosion. In this context, severely high damages may arise – e.g. through production failures, collapse of bridges, environmental disasters of uncalculable extent (e.g. burst of oil pipelines). The cost of such corroscion damages are sometimes so high that they exceed the value of the materials used several times.

We perform concrete economic calculations in the form of case studies for the construction of bridges. To this end, we first of all compare prices and characteristics of steel types used in the construction of bridges and then compute their return on investment regarding the kind of construction and lifetime. Finally, we perform a sensitivity analysis for decision-making in the case of indifference regarding new construction or maintenance of a bridge.

Aside from the economic perspective on damages from corrosion, environmental and health considerations also play an increasing role. Coating materials and high amounts of toxic wastes that arise from exchanging corroded parts, place a high burden on the environment. Especially in aggressive environments, such as coastal areas, the typical amount of 3.5% of GDP can be considerably exceeded.

Overall, corrosion causes significant macroeconomic damages that, apart from economic and environmental impacts, also have safety implications. Prevention of corrosion damage is also a technical, cost-saving and resource-saving task in a national economy and worldwide.