Saturday, October 31, 2015

Rust - The Longest War

In Rust - The Longest War, Jonathan Waldman provides a meandering coverage of rust by presenting a series of character portraits describing people who's lives are connected to rust in some way.

David Moffit was the superintendant on Liberty Island for many years.  In the early 1980s he promoted a campaign to restore the Statue of Liberty before the accummulated damage was irreparable.  That resulted in a nation-wide effort to draw public donations to help fund a much-needed restoration.  This section of the book includes plenty of interesting bits about the statue's decay, including the decayed shellac originally employed to prevent galvanic corrosion.

The lengthy section on the aluminum can industry includes a short history of the Ball brothers and was interesting, but only a small fraction is related to rust.  This section was brought down by an unnecessarily long tangent about BPA in the anti-corrosion epoxy coating used in aluminum cans.  I can see why they wanted to kick Waldman out of "Can School."  Thumbnail lesson: if you're pregnant, then don't consume anything that is packaged in aluminum cans while in the US.

The author tags along with photographer Alyssha Eve Csuk, trespassing at a shuttered Bethlehem Steel factory to capture the beauty of rust.

Waldman also spends a lot of pages covering Daniel Dunmire, Director, Office of Corrosion Policy and Oversight for the US DoD (they have a facebook page).  Dunmire is the point-man for the war on rust in the US military, where it takes a significant toll on the many DoD systems.  I found this short presentation by Dunmire that gives a nice overview of the effects of corrosion on DoD systems and the DoD program to combat corrosion.  The table below is taken from that PDF file.


Dunmire, a big time Trekkie, hired LeVar Burton to host a series of documentaries on corrosion to promote the war against rust and help reduce the annual costs associated with fighting it.  Here's a link to one of them on Youtube.  

Pipeline pigging on the Alyeska pipeline in Alaska is also covered in great detail.  Pigging is used not only for scraping the inside of the pipeline, but pigs with ultrasonic instruments are sent through to measure pipeline thickness and spot corrosion effects.  You'd think that the inside of an oil pipeline wouldn't rust.  After all, it's well oiled.  But apparently it does.  I found this PDF factsheet that outlines pigging on the Trans-Alaska pipeline.

I did learn this interesting little tidbit from the book: if the rate that oil enters the pipeline on the north slope drops too much, then the flow slows and the contents cool.  If the pipeline contents get too cold, then it will stop flowing and become a giant "popsicle."  This is one factor that incentivizes the entire state of Alaska to promote more drilling on the north slope, in order to continue the pipeline's operation for as long as possible.

In the end, the book was not what I expected.  Not what I wanted.  I would have liked a lot more information about rust and less character exposition.  Fine.  It's not my book.  Rust offers great detail about how corrosion influences a few industries, but if you want to learn about rust, then read Wikipedia.  

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