Monday, November 19, 2012

Wells of a Different Nature

When we speak of wells, most people immediately think of a water well, be it a windmill, an irrigation well or a domestic well.  But there are other types of wells in use through the ingenuity of man.

Many people don't realize that along many buried pipelines there are a series of wells that are used to keep the buried pipes from rusting/corroding/deteriorating.  In the industry these are generally referred to "cathodic protection wells" although there are other names for them.  They are installed to minimize electrolytic corrosion of metallic objects (pipelines, tanks, etc.) that are in contact with the ground.  The natural corrosion process at work without this protection is by electrochemical reaction of the metal object with the environment - soil, air and water.

Basically a set of anodes are dropped down the well, set in with granular coke or some other electrically conductive material and connected to the underground pipeline or tank.  With a negative charge running to the item needing protection, the anodes become the target of the corrosive electrochemical activity.  They erode away instead of the pipeline or tank.  It's a slow process and most are designed to last about 20 years before the anodes need to be replaced or new cathodic wells need to be completed and hooked up.

These anodes can be in the groundwater or not.  Typically in eastern Kansas they are in the groundwater table.  In all cases in Kansas cathodic protection wells are required for all pipelines installed after 1971 (except for a few specific cases), and must be constructed to protect the usable groundwater - whether they're in the usable groundwater directly or just penetrating through it to deeper formations.

In any event, just to alert you that not all wells are for the purpose of securing groundwater.  For more information, search for "cathodic protection wells", or for Kansas information, contact the Kansas Corporation Commission who regulates these kinds of wells.

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