The discovery that ground waters of Egypt's Western Desert are highly corrosive is lost in antiquity. Inhabitants of the oases have been aware of the troublesome property for many decades and early investigators mention it in their reports concerning the area. Introduction of modern well-drilling techniques and replacements of native wood casing with steel during the 20th century increased corrosion problems and, in what is called the New Valley Project, led to an intense search for causes and corrective treatments. This revealed that extreme corrosiveness results from combined effects of relatively acidic waters with significant concentrations of destructive sulfide ion; unfavorable ratios of sulfate and chloride to less aggressive ions; mineral equilibria and electrode potential which hinder formation of protective films; relative high chemical reaction rates because of abnormal temperatures, and high surface velocities related to well design.
There is general agreement among investigators that conventional corrosion control methods such as coating metal surfaces, chemical treatment of the water, and electrolytic protection with impressed current and sacrificial electrodes are ineffective or impracticable for wells in the Western Desert's New Valley. Thus, control must be sought through the use of materials more resistant to corrosion than plain carbon steel wherever well screens and casings are necessary. Of the alternatives considered, stainless steel appears to. be the most promising where high strength and long-term services are required and the alloy's relatively high cost is acceptable. Epoxy resin-bonded fiberglass and wood appear to be practicable, relatively inexpensive alternatives for installations which do. not exceed their strength limitations. Other materials such as high strength aluminum and Monel Metal have shown sufficient promise to. merit their consideration in particular locations and uses. The limited experience with pumping in these desert wells leaves uncertainties concerning the durability of conventional pump designs.
Egypt's New Valley Project provides an excellent opportunity for continuing study of the corrosion problems that concern ground-water developers in many parts of the world.
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USGS Numbered Series
The corrosive well waters of Egypt's western desert