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Advances in Engineering Software 30 (1999) 663671

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A solution technique for cathodic protection with dynamic boundary


conditions by the boundary element method
J.A.F. Santiago*, J.C.F. Telles
COPPE / Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Programa de Engenharia Civil, Caixa Postal: 68506, 21945-970 Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil
Received 3 March 1997; accepted 2 August 1998

Abstract
This article is concerned with the application of the Boundary Element Method to cathodic protection problems of submerged structures
using polarization curves depending upon time and formation potential. These curves have been adjusted from potentiostatic data obtained
from in-situ experiments, yielding a nonlinear functional representation. The solution technique adopts stepwise linearized polarization
curves and is employed for sufficiently small time steps. The influence of varying formation potential is introduced into the analysis under
two alternative hypotheses here designated fictitious time and fictitious potential. q 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd and Civil-Comp Ltd. All
rights reserved.
Keywords: Boundary elements; Cathodic protection; Dynamic polarization curves; Potential

1. Introduction
The physical, chemical and biological phenomena, taking
place on a cathodic surface in seawater is quite complex,
being presently subject to study in many research centres
around the world. The parameters which have major influence in this phenomenon are potential, electric current, time,
temperature, pressure, seawater chemistry, relative water
velocity close to the cathodic surface and surface conditions
[1].
For offshore structures, the behavior of cathodic surfaces
is modeled by a time dependent polarization curve, different
at each surface point, which describes the nonlinear relation
between potential and current density.
Dynamic polarization curves are influenced by scale
deposition, which is strongly influenced by the current
potential history on the surface. This history may be quite
complex, being impossible to cover all of the existing situations by experiments. However, information about the
polarization curve can be retrieved from potentiostatic
polarization data (or galvanostatic polarization data),
obtained from experiments in which a potential (or current
density) is maintained constant in time. These curves can be
used with adequate time marching schemes to simulate the
time history of the varying potential and current density
during the life of the cathodic protection system.

* Corresponding author.

In this work the Boundary Element Method is used in


conjunction with two different time marching schemes to
analyze cathodic protection systems of offshore structures
[24]. These are, fictitious potential and fictitious time
procedures and they are used with polarization curves determined from potentiostatic data obtained from in-situ experiments. The solution routine adopted employs a new step by
step linearization technique which reduces considerably the
burden associated to the nonlinear polarization curve as
boundary conditions.
2. Mathematical model
Considering that the cathodic protection technique is
developed within a homogeneous region V, surrounded by
a boundary G and with electric conductivity k, the problem
is governed by the Laplace equation:

72 f 0

subject to appropriate boundary conditions of the form:


a:1

f f

a:2

i 

on G1 ;
on G2 ;

i vf 1 d

i Fff f; t

0965-9978/99/$ - see front matter q 1999 Elsevier Science Ltd and Civil-Comp Ltd. All rights reserved.
PII: S0965-997 8(98)00121-5

on G3 ;
on G4 ;

664

J.A.F. Santiago, J.C.F. Telles / Advances in Engineering Software 30 (1999) 663671

3. Numerical analysis
In order to solve numerically Eq. (4), the boundary G is
discretized into a number of boundary elements whose
geometry, current density and potential are approximated
as functions of the nodal values. The following algebraic
system is obtained [5]:
Hf Gi:

When the boundary conditions are of type (a) of Eq. (2), Eq.
(6) can be reorganized and written as Eq. (7) whose solution
gives the vector of unknowns y
Ay f:
Fig. 1. Polarization curve.

where G is equal to G1 < G2 < G3 < G4 ; fX and i(X) are


potential and current density, respectively, v and d are
known constants and Ff f is a nonlinear function which
depends on the formation potential f f and describes a
nonlinear relation between (i, f ) at time t.
In addition, from Ohms law
iX k

2fX
2nX

X[G

in which k is the conductivity of the electrolyte and n is the


outward normal to the boundary G.
The starting equation to represent the electrical field
problem using boundary elements [5] is
cjfj

Z
G

f*j; XiXd GX 2

Z
G

i*j; XfXd GX;


4

where f *(j ,X) and i*(j ,X) are the fundamental potential
and current density, in which the electric conductivity is
already incorporated. The coefficient c(j ) depends on the
boundary geometry at the source point j .
The application of Eq. (4) to external problems in infinite
regions (e.g., seawater) requires a careful examination of the
behavior of the functions involved over the boundary at
infinity [6]. In this case, a term f 0 representing a constant
potential at infinity should be added to the right side of Eq.
(4), with the contour representing only the internal boundaries of the region. The inclusion of the unknown potential
f 0 makes it possible to impose a self-equilibrated current
density between the anodes and cathodes of the problem.
This is automatically obtained by satisfying the condition,
Z
G

iXdGX 0

X[G

which ensures that there is no loss of current to infinity. A


generalization of this procedure, which ensures exact equilibrium of current density even for finite domains, can be
found in Telles and De Paula [7].

If the boundary conditions are of type (b), the final system


still has the form of Eq. (7). For instance, if all nodes have
this boundary condition, one can write in matrix form
i Vf 1 d;

where V is a diagonal square matrix. If the current density


given by Eq. (8) is substituted into Eq. (6) and the resulting
system of equations is reorganized, matrix A and vector f
presented in the Eq. (7) can be rewritten as follows:
A H 2 GV;

9a

f Gd:

9b

For boundary conditions of type (c) the resulting nonlinear


system of equations can be solved by a tangent Newton
Raphson Method, which can be formulated considering only
the first order terms in a Taylor series expansion, i.e.:
ik ik21 1 Jk21 fk ;
where
Jk21

2i
2f

10

k21

is a Tangent or Jacobian matrix.


The mathematical model adopted to represent the
dynamic polarization curves has been the one by Nisancioglu [8]. In this representation, the evolution of the curves
with respect to time start with an initial inverse S shape
and ends with the approximate straight line indicated in Fig.
1. All the parameters needed to define this model have been
obtained from potentiostatic experiments in seawater,
carried out in Angra dos Reis, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil [9].
A solution method to deal with the nonlinear boundary
condition (c) has already been devised and tested in other
references of the present authors [2,3]. In doing so, two
alternative hypotheses had to be followed to simulate the
variation of the formation potential f f, based on curves
derived from constant f f experiments. These hypotheses
are designated fictitious time and fictitious potential. The
former follows the formation potential and current density
adopting a fictitious time curve as a reference, whereas the
latter keeps track of the time and current density and

J.A.F. Santiago, J.C.F. Telles / Advances in Engineering Software 30 (1999) 663671

665

all nodal points, can be introduced in Eq. (12)


ikj Ffkfj fk21
1 Dfj ; tjk21 1 Dt
j
1
ik21
j
1

2Ffkfj

2Ffkfj
2t

2f

fk21
; tjk21 fkj 2 fk21

j
j

fk21
; tjk21 Dt:
j

14

Eq. (14), in matrix form, can be written as


ik ik21 1 Ak21 Dfk 1 bk21 Dt;

where vector b contains the derivatives of i with respect to t

Fig. 2. Polarization curve for t o.

modifies the formation potential to fit the potentiostatic


curve. A key factor in both procedure is that they adopt
Eq. (4) in the solution routine, requiring a certain number
of iterations to obtain the solution after each time step. The
present article discusses an alternative solution procedure
based on the series expansion of the nonlinear polarization
curve also with respect to time:

2Fff
fs ; ts t 2 ts :
2t

bk21 ) bk21
j

2Ffkfj
2t

fk21
; tjk21
j

16

in which the diagonal matrix A and vector Df k are of the


form
Ak21 ) ak21
mj

2Ffkfj
2fm

fk21
; tjk21 ;
j

Dfk fk 2 fk21 :

2Fff
fs ; ts f 2 fs
i Fff f; t Fff fs ; ts 1
2f
1

15

17
18

Eq. (6) can now be written for the solution step k as


11

Hence, an approximate linear relationship for both time and


potential is produced, removing the need for iterations after
each time step. This new solution technique is also dependent on the two previous hypotheses (fictitious time or
potential) and is subject to time step size limiting considerations.

Hfk Gik :

19

Assuming that all nodal points have dynamic polarization


curves as boundary conditions, substitution of Eq. (15) in
Eq. (19), yields
Hfk Gik21 1 Ak21 Dfk 1 bk21 Dt:

20

Introducing Eq. (18) in Eq. (20) and reorganizing,


H 2 GAk21 fk Gik21 2 Ak21 fk21 1 bk21 Dt:

21

Alternatively, Eq. (21) can be written in terms of Df as


4. Solution technique

H 2 GAk21 Dfk Gik21 2 Hfk21 1 Gbk21 Dt:

In order to obtain the current density corresponding to a


general solution step k, Eq. (11) can be written as a series
expansion around the k 2 1 step solution, for a nodal point i,
in the following form
1
ikj ik21
j
1

2Ffkfj

2Ffkfj
2t

2f

fk21
; tjk21 fkj 2 fk21

j
j

fk21
; tjk21 tjk 2 tjk21 ;
j

12

where,
ikj Ffkfj fkj ; tjk ;

13a

Ffkfj fk21
; tjk21 :
ik21
j
j

13b

The sufficiently small time step Dt tjk 2 tjk21 identical to

22

The methods presented later are designed to represent, in a


discrete form, the time and space behavior of cathodic
protection systems subjected to time varying current density
and potential. The solution is approximated and the smaller
the time-step, the better the respective hypothesis representation. Dynamic polarization curves obtained from potentiostatic data are required in order to apply the algorithms
discussed.
In the initial stage compute initial current and potential
distribution by solving the Laplace equation (Eq. (1))
through the Boundary Element Method, subjected to the
boundary conditions presented in Eq. (2), for t 0.
It must be observed that the polarization curve used in
this stage is the same for the whole cathodic surface (see
Fig. 2).
The current density and potential obtained in this stage,
for a boundary element j, are denoted by i0j and f0j
respectively.

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J.A.F. Santiago, J.C.F. Telles / Advances in Engineering Software 30 (1999) 663671

Fig. 3. Fictitious time method.

After that, the potential computed for each surface node is


considered to be constant in the subsequent stage, playing
therefore the rule of a formation potential. In this work the
time interval selected for a stage is the same for all nodal
points.
In what follows, the solution routines for this stepwise
linearized polarization curve technique are illustrated for the
two time varying dynamic hypotheses; i. e. fictitious potential and fictitious time.
Step
1
2
3

FICTITIOUS TIME METHOD (FTM)


Nt Total time of Analysis=Dt
uT {1; 1; 1; 1; ; 1}
H and G are standard Boundary Element matrices
generated at this point.

4
5
6
7
8
9

Initial stage (k 0)
Initialization of vectors
t0 0
i0 0
f 0 fc u, fc is the corrosion potential of the
material in seawater
n0
nn11
Compute matrix


 n21 ; tj0
An21 ) an21
mj 2F 0 =2fm f j
fj

10
11

 n21
1n Gn21 2 Hf
n
n21
D H 2 GA

J.A.F. Santiago, J.C.F. Telles / Advances in Engineering Software 30 (1999) 663671

Fig. 4. Fictitious potential method.

12
13
14
15
16
17

18
19

 n 1n to
Solve system of linear equations Dn Df
n

obtain Df
 n Df
n 1 f
 n21
f
n
n21
n21  n
 
1 A Df
Repeat steps 814, until Df n ) 0
n
f0 f
0
n
i 
Compute parameters (tO2 ; tH2 ; and f ) dependent
on the formation potential
t0O tO2 f0
t0H tH2 f0

20

21
22
23
24
25
26
27

f 0 f f0
Subsequent stages
Initial Time ) t^k21 , Final Time ) tk
^t0 0
Do k 1 until Nt
Update vectors
fkf fk21
k21
tk ^t
1 Dtu
k
t0 tk21
0
tkH tk21
H
f k f k21

667

668

J.A.F. Santiago, J.C.F. Telles / Advances in Engineering Software 30 (1999) 663671

35
36
37
38

39

tk0 tO2 fk
tkH tH2 fk
f k f fk
Find fictitious time t^kj as a nonlinear solution to
ikj Ffkj fkj ; t^kj for a fixed pair fkj ; ikj and a
formation potential fkj
End Do

Step
13

Fig. 5. Circular tank.

28

Compute matrix
Ak21 ) ak21
mj

29

33
34

2fm

fk21
; tjk21
j

Compute vector

bk21 ) bk21
j

30
31
32

2Ffk fj

2Ffkfj
2t

fk21
; tjk21
j

f k Gik21 2 Hfk21 1 Gbk21 Dt


Dk H 2 GAk21
Solve system of linear equations Dk Dfk f k to
obtain Dfk
fk Dfk 1 fk21
ik ik21 1 Ak21 Dfk 1 bk21 Dt
Compute parameters (tO2,tH2 and f) dependent on
the formation potential

FICTITIOUS POTENTIAL METHOD (FPM)


See 13 of FTM
Initial stage (k 0)
420 See 420 of FTM
Subsequent stages
Initial time ) k 2 1Dtu, Final time ) kDtu
21
f^ 0 f0
22
Do k 1 until Nt
Update vectors
23
fkf fk21
24
tk kDtu
2537 See 2537 of FTM
38
Find fictitious potential f^ kj as a nonlinear solution to ikj Ff^ k f^ kj ; tjk for a fixed pair f^ kj ; ikj and
j
a formation potential f^ kj
39
End Do
These methods are illustrated in Figs. 3 and 4, where the
notations employed are:
im

fkfj
fkj
ikj
f^ kj
t^kj
ikcj

minimum current density required to guarantee


polarization
formation potential (Kept constant within the time
intervals) for boundary element j and stage k
potential for boundary element j and stage k
current density for boundary element j and stage k
fictitious potential for boundary element j at stage k
fictitious time for element j at stage k
current density of element corresponding to
potential kept constant for k

.
5. Application
The application presented was the simplest possible so as
to better illustrate the behavior of the time dependent variables. More elaborate engineering applications will be
carried out in future works.
5.1. Cylindrical tank

Fig. 6. Boundary element discretization.

This example simulates a cylindrical tank with infinite


axis. Therefore the analysis is two-dimensional as shown
in Fig. 5. Internal and external radii are equal to 100 cm
and 500 cm, respectively, and the conductivity of the electrolyte is taken to be 0.04 V 21 cm 21.

J.A.F. Santiago, J.C.F. Telles / Advances in Engineering Software 30 (1999) 663671

669

Fig. 7. External wall solutions.

The boundary conditions and element discretization are


shown in Fig. 6. The internal wall is anodic with an
impressed current density equal to 20.30 mA/cm 2. The
external wall is cathodic with known dynamic polarization
curves. Notwithstanding the initial potential, the current
density prescribed was enough to start cathodic polarization.
A series of test analyses was carried out in order to assess
the sensitivity of the solution with respect to the selected Dt
size.
Fig. 7a depicts the fictitious time against true time for two
time-step values and Figs. 7bd present the time dependent
cathodic potential for different Dt # 5 days.
After 700 days, the resulting potential steadily
approached 21.33 V. This was observed for every Dt
selected in both methods. In addition, they all predicted an
initial potential drop (directly dependent on the Dt adopted)
in the solution. But soon after, the calculated cathodic
potential follows closely the respective (fictitious time or

potential) values computed with the full nonlinear solution


routine [2,3].
Fig. 8 shows the CPU time for this technique and the full
nonlinear solution technique.

6. Conclusions
In this article the fictitious time and fictitious potential
hypothesis were used in order to simulate actual dynamic
polarization curves in cathodic protection systems of
offshore structures. Physical characteristics of the seawater
were represented by dynamic polarization curves for
constant polarization potential fitted from potentiostatic
in-situ experiments.
The new solution techniques presented stem from a linearization of the cathodic polarization curve, with respect to
time, in much the same way as originally done for the

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J.A.F. Santiago, J.C.F. Telles / Advances in Engineering Software 30 (1999) 663671

Fig. 7 (continued).

nonlinear potential relationship [2]. This produces a stepwise linear boundary condition with respect to both, time
and potential.
The solution techniques studied indicate no special

numerical difficulties and provided the time step is kept


within limits, lead to the same results as their full nonlinear
solution [2,10] counterparts, requiring less CPU time as
presented Fig. 8.
The application carried out illustrates the difference in
time response of the two hypotheses, for simple problems,
especially during intermediate time of analysis, converging
to approximately the same long-term final potential distribution.
These differences are expected and consistent with the
respective hypotheses of FTM and FPM. Further comparisons with experimental results should ultimately define the
most appropriate procedure to simulate time varying formation potential effects in dynamic polarization curves.

Acknowledgements
Fig. 8. The CPU time for alternative techniques.

The authors would like to thank Dr. L. Sathler and his

J.A.F. Santiago, J.C.F. Telles / Advances in Engineering Software 30 (1999) 663671

research team for providing the potentiostatic data, and also


CENPES/PETROBRAS for providing financial support to
the research project Numerical Simulation of Cathodic
Protection Systems of Pipelines and Offshore Structures,
which originated the present work.

[5]
[6]

[7]

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cathodic protection systems with dynamic polarization curves. International Journal for Numerical Methods in Engineering 1997;8:7678.
[3] Santiago JAF. Static and dynamic simulation of cathodic protection
systems with boundary element method (in Portuguese). D. Sc.
Thesis, Rio de Janeiro, RJ: COPPE/UFRJ, 1991.
[4] Mansur WJ, Telles JCF, Santiago JAF. PROCAT system: recent
advances and future developments in numerical simulation of
cathodic protection problems boundary element techniques.

[8]

[9]

[10]

671

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