Did a space storm contribute to Auckland’s fuel crisis? 

Posted: October 29, 2017 by oldbrew in Electro-magnetism, Geomagnetism, solar system dynamics
Tags: ,

Pipeline corrosion


The technical term for the alleged problem seems to be
stray current corrosion. However in the reported incident the pipeline itself may or may not have been partly to blame, as it was ‘finally damaged by a digger’
.

Scientists say the sun may be corroding New Zealand’s pipelines, and might have played a role in Auckland’s recent fuel crisis – but not in the way we might think,
says the NZ Herald.

Geomagnetic storms are a temporary disturbance of the magnetosphere, which surrounds our planet and is formed by the interaction of the solar wind and Earth’s magnetic field.

When giant explosions on the sun – or solar flares – send energy, light and high-speed particles into space, the solar wind shock waves typically strike Earth’s magnetic field 24 to 36 hours later.

Coronal mass ejections – eruptions of gas and magnetised material from the sun – similarly have the potential to wreak havoc on satellites and Earth-bound technologies, disrupting radio transmissions and causing transformer blowouts and blackouts.

“We’re vulnerable to these as we’ve become more and more technologically dependent,” said Otago University’s Professor Craig Rodger.

“It can affect not only our power network, but also things like satellite communications.”

Now, Rodger and fellow physicist Dr Malcolm Ingham, of Victoria University, say infrastructure in the firing line might not just be above us, but below our feet as well.

Because of the process of electromagnetic induction, currents induced in the Earth can also affect pipelines – and some areas, including Auckland and Northland, are more vulnerable.

The researchers are mid-way through a Government-funded research project focused on reducing the damage to electrical networks from these currents.

“If there’s a break in the pipeline’s cladding, currents that travel from the pipe to the ground can cause corrosion of the pipe,” Ingham said.

To stop that happening, pipelines had power sources along them to keep the voltage of the pipe negative relative to the voltage of the ground.

However, more than 20 years ago, researchers showed that the currents induced by geomagnetic activity could cause the voltage of the ground to vary so much that at times the pipe voltage became positive relative to the ground.

“This means that if you’ve got a hole in a pipeline cladding, variations in the geomagnetic field will cause corrosion over time, leading to containment failure and leakage.”

New Zealand’s geography influenced the location and size of electrical currents in the ground.

Induced currents were typically larger in directions perpendicular to the coastline, making Auckland and Northland especially vulnerable to variations, because of the narrow make-up of the land.

Ingham even suggested last month’s damaged fuel pipeline in Northland was probably an example of how pipelines could be affected by geomagnetic storms if the pipe cladding is damaged.

Full report: Did a space storm contribute to Auckland’s fuel crisis? – NZ Herald

Comments
  1. Curious George says:

    Never accept a responsibility for anything. Blame space storms …

  2. oldbrew says:

    However, more than 20 years ago, researchers showed that the currents induced by geomagnetic activity could cause the voltage of the ground to vary so much that at times the pipe voltage became positive relative to the ground.

    Space weather in action – ‘the voltage of the ground’.

    Wikipedia: Earth’s magnetic field, also known as the geomagnetic field, is the magnetic field that extends from the Earth’s interior out into space, where it meets the solar wind, a stream of charged particles emanating from the Sun.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth%27s_magnetic_field

  3. John MacDonald says:

    This whole conflation seems silly. If the higher voltages have been known for 20 years, then surely the pipeline designers know that and have designed the anti-corrosion systems to compensate. If older lines were not suitably protected then companies should now be doing wall thickness surveys as well as upgrading the corrossion systems.

  4. Poly says:

    Incompetent idiots who could not even look after their only cross country pipeline. There are so many pipeline monitoring tools and methods that would have detected this; Intelligent monitoring pigs, cathodic current leakage surveys, air survey of pipeline route, periodic pressure testing and so on. To blame the sun is pathetic.

  5. JB says:

    We hear repeatedly in the news on every front of technology: management fails to fully implement good maintenance procedures. From Three Mile Island reactors to BP deep sea well heads to space shuttle systems.One of Covey’s bad habits of the fire mentality.

  6. BoyfromTottenham says:

    My understanding (iirc) re the cause of the great NZ power outage was drought – the soil in which the underground HV cables were buried became too dry to conduct away the heat caused by the current, resulting in many localised points in the cables overheating, often leading to short circuits with devastating results. I understand about the corrosion, but why would the researchers focus on this but ignore the obvious alternative?

  7. oldbrew says:

    Fixed the NZ Herald link. In the last bit of the report (not shown in our blog post) it says:

    New Zealand’s geography influenced the location and size of electrical currents in the ground.

    Induced currents were typically larger in directions perpendicular to the coastline, making Auckland and Northland especially vulnerable to variations, because of the narrow make-up of the land.

    Whether NZ is unique in having pipelines in such types of locations is open to question, but it’s possible.

    The NZ Herald shows the damage the digger did to the pipeline.

  8. oldmanK says:

    What is shown in the picture is likely ‘scab pitting’. The scab is itself a galvanic cell. It powers itself. No amount of protection will help; only the removal of the scab to bare metal stops the process.

  9. oldmanK says:

    Our friends from ‘War of the Worlds’ often have a hand in this business too.

    http://efcweb.org/efcweb_media/mechanisms.pdf

  10. oldbrew says:

    Note the picture in this post is not the NZ pipe. See NZ Herald link above for the digger damage.

  11. Jim says:

    Just because something was known 20 years ago, does not mean it is mainstream now. Engine wrong design does not work like that. It had to work for the Romans, or fall to the axe of cost cutting.

  12. Power Grab says:

    Is it possible that the companies have let go (retired) the wise old generation who knew all the ins and outs, and are hiring only newbies on whose diplomas the ink is barely dry because they can pay them less? Perhaps things have been so stable for so long that the newbies have no clue about things like scab pitting and the hazards of dry ground’s preventing electrical grounding from working as expected?

    If those newbies had had any experience controlling herds of cattle with electric fencing, they might be more likely to know about the dry ground problem.

    I’m just suggesting this is part of the problem because it seems that today’s sheltered young people have little real-world experience and just assume that anything electrical is bullet-proof.

  13. Doonhamer says:

    Hey. A new source of free intermittent renewable energy.
    NZ could become the Saudi Arabia (© Alex Salmond) of induced electricity.
    All it needs are some spruiker pseudo scientists, a bunch of gullible politicians and a few research grants.