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Durability of marine concrete structures

Durability of marine concrete structures – field investigations and modelling Rob B. Polder

TNO Building and Construction Research, Delft, The Netherlands
Mario R. de Rooij

TNO Building and Construction Research, Delft, The Netherlands,
Delft University of Technology, Delft, The Netherlands

This article presents a series of investigations on six concrete structures along the North Sea coast
in The Netherlands. They had ages between 18 and 41 years and most of them were made using
Blast Furnace Slag cement. Visual inspections showed corrosion damage in only one structure,
related to relatively low cover depths. All structures showed considerable chloride ingress with a
large scatter within the relatively small tested areas. The interpretation was based on the
DuraCrete model for chloride ingress. Curve fitting to chloride profiles produced chloride surface
contents and apparent diffusion coefficients. Comparison was made to previously published data
on chloride ingress and electrical resistivity of similar concretes. It was found that a single mean
value and standard deviation applied to all concrete up to 7 m above mean sea level for the
chloride surface content. Above 7 m, the local microclimate had a decisive influence, either
increasing or reducing the chloride surface content. Apparent chloride diffusion coefficients did
not depend on height above sea level. Their age dependency was expressed in a single value for
the exponential aging coefficient. A simplified environmental factor was adopted from literature.
A probabilistic model for corrosion initiation in Blast Furnace Slag Cement concrete in marine
environment was proposed, the DuMaCon version of the DuraCrete model. Its application is
explained for design of new structures and for assessment of existing structures. Issues for further
research are the critical chloride content and the target failure probability for corrosion initiation,
the effect of drying out on chloride transport in the marine splash zone and the nature and
influence of spatial variation of chloride ingress.
Key words: Concrete, marine environment, chloride, blast furnace slag cement, reinforcement corrosion,
service life, probabilistic model
1 Introduction
Durability of Concrete structures in marine environment has been an issue for many decades,
due to the perception of sea water as aggressive to concrete and reinforcement and the long
service life that is expected for marine infrastructure such as harbour and coastal defence
structures. In particular in the 1970s, a lot of work has been done due to increasing construction
for the oil and gas offshore industry, e.g., in Concrete in the Oceans [Leeming 1989]. In The
HERON, Vol. 50, No 3 (2005) 133
Netherlands, a collective research programme was carried out under supervision of CUR
committee B23, resulting in [CUR 100, 1981]. In that study, sixty structures of various ages were
visually inspected and five were investigated in more depth. Generally the durability was
found to be “good”; relatively little deterioration was observed. The most important threat to
durability was found to be corrosion of reinforcement due to chloride ingress, mainly in older
structures with relatively low concrete cover to the reinforcement [Wiebenga 1980]. In view of
the young age of the investigated structures relative to the slow rate of degradation, it was
recommended to carry out a similar study in about 15 years time.
In the 1990's, a group of European researchers developed a methodology for quantitative
service life design of concrete structures, entitled “DuraCrete”, which was based on the
approach proposed in the 1980's [Siemes et al. 1983]. Explanations of the principles and
examples of its application have been published [CEB 1997, Siemes et al. 1998]. DuraCrete's
final report includes models for predicting corrosion initiation due to chloride ingress and due
to carbonation as well as models for propagation of corrosion and subsequent cracking and
spalling [DuraCrete R17, 2000]. Using the DuraCrete methodology it is possible to quantify the
reliability of a structure with respect to predefined limit states that concern durability
[Vrouwenvelder & Schiessl 1999].
This new quantitative approach and the availability of new investigative techniques such as
electrochemical methods and concrete microscopy prompted CUR and TNO to start an
investigation into durability in marine environment in 2000 under the title “Durability of
Marine Concrete structures” (DuMaCon). Its objectives were to quantify the durability of
marine structures in The Netherlands and to provide degradation models and associated failure
probabilities for existing marine structures. This article describes the original DuraCrete model,
the fieldwork carried out to collect data, an overview of the results, some comparison to data
from other sources, subsequently proposed modifications to the DuraCrete model and
recommendations for its application.
2 DuraCrete model for corrosion initiation due to chloride ingress
2.1 Basic concept
The DuraCrete degradation model for chloride induced corrosion is based on the concept of
chloride transport into concrete by diffusion and initiation of reinforcement corrosion when a
critical chloride content is exceeded at the steel surface. Diffusion modelling of chloride ingress
into concrete was proposed in the 1970s [Collepardi et al. 1972] and further developed in the
following decades [e.g. Bamforth & Price, 1993, Maage et al. 1996]. After the critical “threshold”
chloride content has reached the steel and has broken down its normal passivation, the steel
starts to dissolve. Dissolved iron ions react to form corrosion products, at some point in time
causing expansive stresses and cracking of the concrete cover. Eventually, the loss of steel cross
section may become critical with respect to structural capacity [Vrouwenvelder & Schiessl
1999]. The two-stage concept of initiation and propagation of corrosion was developed by
[Bazant 1979 and Tuutti 1982]. In most service life design approaches, however, the initiation
period is considered dominant and the propagation period is neglected. For more information
on corrosion of steel in concrete the reader is referred to [Bertolini et al. 2004].
2.2 The DuraCrete model
The DuraCrete model involves a limit state formulation for chloride induced corrosion
initiation which can be simplified by stating that failure (that is, corrosion initiation) occurs
when C > Ccrit, with C the chloride content at the reinforcement surface and Ccrit the critical
(threshold) content. The critical chloride content is a complex function of concrete properties, in
particular of the physics and chemistry (pH, water, oxygen, presence of voids) at the
steel/concrete interface. Nowadays it is realised that there is no single general value for it, but
rather a gradual increase of the probability of corrosion with increasing chloride content [Vassie
1984, Gaal 2004]. For real structures (as opposed to laboratory specimens) a value of 0.5%
chloride ion by mass of cement is considered to be the best mean value for Portland cement
concrete. No well-established value for Blast Furnace Slag cement is available. Further
treatment of this subject is outside the scope of this article.
According to the DuraCrete model for chloride transport, the chloride content at the steel C(x.t)
is a time dependent function described by:
With Cs chloride surface content (% by mass of concrete or cement); Ci initial chloride content
(%); x depth of the steel (m); D0 diffusion coefficient (m2/s) at t0 (s, usually 28 days); K
environmental coefficient (-); nCl ageing exponent (-); erf errror function, stemming from solving
Fick’s second law of diffusion.
2.3 Application of the model
The DuraCrete model can be applied in the design stage of new structures by inserting into
equation (1) values for the design cover depth, the expected surface content (based on
experience, e.g. from DuraCrete tables) and experimentally determined chloride diffusion
coefficients of trial concrete mixes, to calculate the point in time when C(x,t) reaches Ccrit, whose

value also is taken from experience or tables. The input values for cover depth and chloride
diffusion coefficient are varied until the calculation indicates that corrosion initiation is
postponed until the end of the desired service life period. In a later stage, concrete producers
must prove that their product can meet the required diffusion coefficient. However, this type of
calculation is deterministic and consequently produces the mean time-to-corrosion initiation.
The DuraCrete service life design method includes taking into account the scatter and
distribution type of the input variables and the required reliability (or probability of failure) of
the result. Generally, the accepted probability of failure at the end of the service life will be a
few percent. Taking into account the stochastic character of the variables, full probabilistic and
semi-probabilistic calculations are possible, either using statistical parameters for all variables
or by using (partial) safety factors. Various DuraCrete reports provide all such information. In
this paper, we will not go into detail of these probabilistic calculations.
In the past few years, (semi-)probabilistic calculations have been made taking into account that
exceeding the limit state “corrosion initiation” is a serviceability limit state (SLS), with an
associated target failure probability of a few percent (reliability index β=1.8). This approach has
been used for the service life design of the Westerschelde Tunnel [Siemes et al. 1998, Gehlen
2000], the Groene Hart Tunnel and other structures in the High Speed railway Line (HSL) in
The Netherlands.
DuraCrete explicitly states that the same methodology can be used for assessment of existing
structures [DuraCrete R17, 2000]. Application of the model to practical cases, however, is
relatively new. For existing structures some of the input parameters are different. For example,
one of the input parameters for the model is the measured value of the diffusion coefficient of
28-days old concrete. It is not possible to measure this value on concrete that is already 20 years
old. On the other hand, the chloride surface content and the cover depth and their statistical
distribution can be established experimentally; hence their values can be assessed
experimentally and do not have to be assumed like in the design stage.
The DuMaCon study aimed to collect data on existing marine structures, carry out model
calculations and to validate and/or modify the model.
3 Field investigations
3.1 Structures
Six structures were selected for field investigations that were thought representative for a larger
group of structures. Criteria were age, cement type, production (cast in situ or prefabricated),
availability and interest of the owner in the study. Some characteristics of the structures are
described in Table 1. On each of these structures, one to six test areas were investigated in detail.
Table 1: Characteristics of the investigated structures
All structures are located on the coast or the estuaries and harbours of the Southwestern part of
The Netherlands. Historical records were studied in preparation of the inspections. The amount
of information available regarding the composition and production of concrete was quite low.
In most cases, relevant information such as cement content, water-to-cement ratio and curing
was not well documented.
The Pier at Scheveningen is a bridge type structure, with a promenade deck composed of
precast cross beams and precast slabs, supported by precast piles (not investigated), with some
parts of the deck cast in situ. Marine exposure due to waves splashing occurs on the underside
of the deck, which is between 5 and 11 m above mean sea level; the top surface of the deck is
protected by a (later) building and was not investigated. Two test areas were located on slabs,
two on beams and two on the cast in situ deck. A schematic is shown in Figure 1.
Structure Year of construction Cement type Production
Pier Scheveningen 1960 Portland cement, Precast
Blast furnace slag Cast in situ
Discharge sluice 1960 Blast furnace slag Cast in situ
Haringvliet cement
Quay wall 1968 Blast furnace slag Cast in situ
Calandkanaal cement
Quay wall 1973 Blast furnace slag Cast in situ
Hartelhaven cement
Quay wall 1982 Blast furnace slag Cast in situ
Europahaven cement
Eastern Scheldt 1980-1984 Blast furnace slag Precast in field plant,
Storm Surge Barrier cement cast in situ
Figure 1 Schematic of Pier Scheveningen; circles indicate test areas on underside of deck; top surface of
deck is protected
The Haringvliet “spuisluizen” is a river discharge complex, composed of cast in situ piers and
precast bridge elements (not investigated). The piers reach from sea level up to + 14 m height.
All test areas were (vertically) facing the North Sea, one located just above sea level, two at + 9
m and one on +14 m above sea level. A schematic of their location is shown in Figure 2.The
three quay walls are located in Rotterdam harbour. They are box girder type structures
supported by precast piles. In each quay wall, one test area was located on the vertical wall
facing the seaside at the high tide level (+ 1 m).
Figure 2 Schematic of a pier of Haringvliet spuisluizen (discharge complex)
The Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier was designed in the 1970s to protect the low-lying
hinterland against flooding. The main structure consists of 65 piers that were cast in a dock
nearby, horizontally connected by threshold beams on the sea bed and upper beams extending
from sea level to about + 8 m. Beams were cast in a plant nearby as elements of about 20 m
length, two of which were cast together on site to form one span. Steel sliding doors are
lowered between the piers to close the estuary in times of high flood risk; in the raised position
they allow salt-water movement under normal conditions. Bridge elements are spanning the
tops of the piers, which were precast in halves like the beams. The main structure was designed
for a service life of 200 years using then existing service life prediction models [Hageman 1982];
the bridge superstructure was designed for 50 years. On this structure, see Figure 3, three test
areas were located on one pier: test area 1 on the Eastward facing lower part of a bridge
element (at + 9 m), relatively sheltered by an overhanging part of the driveway, test area 3 on
an upper beam (facing West), at about + 4 m and test area 4 on one pier (facing South), just
North Sea side
mean sea level
test area low +1 m
test area middle +9 m
test area high +14 138
above sea level. Test area 2 was situated on a bridge element composed of lightweight concrete.
Furthermore, additional information was obtained from cores taken in the pier below water
level and from a large number of cores taken from bridge elements in other spans across the
complete barrier. In addition, cores were taken from quay wall Noordland built near the barrier
in 1984, from which previously cores were taken and analysed for chloride ingress in 1992
[Polder et al. 1995].
Figure 3 Side view of Eastern Scheldt Storm Surge Barrier Pier with test areas indicated; NB test area 2
is in lightweight concrete in another span than the other three test areas
3.2 Test areas and methods
Each test area had dimensions of about one by one metre. In that area, all reinforcement was
located using a scanning cover depth meter and the concrete surface was inspected visually.
Steel potentials were measured using a silver-silver chloride reference electrode. Concrete
resistivity was measured using a four-point (Wenner type) probe [Polder 2000]. Carbonation
depths were measured by spraying phenolphthalein in freshly made holes. Cores were taken
for chloride profile analysis (six cores of φ50 mm per test area), for polarizing and fluorescence
microscopy [Polder & Larbi 1995] (three of φ50 mm) and for other tests (six of φ 100 mm),
including strength testing. Cores for chloride analysis were cut in the laboratory by diamond
sawing in slices of about 10 mm thickness, which were dried, crushed and dissolved in hot
nitric acid. Chloride was determined in the liquid using Volhard's titration. Chloride was
expressed as percentage of cement mass assuming that all acid soluble mass was hardened
cement paste (including 18% hydration water). This is justified, as virtually all aggregate was
siliceous. The resulting chloride profiles are fitted to obtain an effective diffusion coefficient,
using a commonly used least squares procedure based on the solution of Fick’s second law of
test area 3
(upper beam)
test area 4
threshold beam
+9.4 m
test area 1 & 2
mean sea level
North Sea sliding door
Eastern Scheldt
with Cs chloride surface content (%); Ci initial chloride content (%) ; x depth (m); Dt effective
diffusion coefficient (m2/s) at the time t of inspection (s). In most cases the first data point was
ignored in the fitting procedure, especially when it was considerably lower than the second
data point. The initial chloride content of the concrete was assumed to be 0.01% chloride by
mass of cement, except for Haringvliet, where it appeared to be about 0.1%. Reasoning back
with builders from the structure resulted in the assumption that storage of concrete aggregates
and sand near the building location would be the most likely cause of this elevated initial
chloride content in the concrete of Haringvliet.
4 Analysis of data
4.1 Summary of results
The results are summarized here; for more details reference is made to [Rooij & Polder, 2005].
Visual inspection generally showed no major defects, mainly some marine growth on and light
erosion of the concrete surface; mechanical damage was present in a few of the quay walls.
Corrosion related damage (rust staining, cracking, spalling) was observed in part of the precast
slabs and in a part of the cast in situ concrete of Pier Scheveningen. In both areas, old repairs
were present where corrosion and cracking had reappeared. It appeared that about 25% of the
precast slabs had minimum cover depths of 20 to 25 mm, which was where corrosion related
damage had occurred; slabs without visible corrosion had 30 to 35 mm cover depth. The cast in
situ deck with about 35 mm cover depth also showed extensive corrosion damage (cracking,
spalling and ineffective repairs). None of the other structures showed visual signs of corrosion.
Carbonation depths were low in all cases, typically about 2 mm with occasional values of 5
mm. Concrete compressive strengths ranged from 50 to 75 MPa for blast furnace slag cement
concrete and were about 120 MPa for Portland cement concrete (precast beams Pier
Scheveningen). Polarizing and fluorescence microscopy (PFM) showed that all concrete was
made well and quite homogeneous, with good mixing of raw materials, compaction and curing.
All samples had been made with Blast Furnace Slag cement with a high percentage of slag
(>65%), except for precast concrete of Pier Scheveningen, which was made using Ordinary
Portland cement. The apparent water-to-cement ratios inferred from comparison of the
capillary porosity to samples from our reference collection were low, generally 0.45 or less. In
some cases, historical documentation suggested that a w/c of 0.55 had been used. It appears
that hydration, in particular of slag particles, of concrete exposed to marine environment over
prolonged time is able to cause a substantial reduction of the capillary porosity.

In some concrete, the records suggested that ground trass had been used. Microscopically this
could not be established [Nijland et al. 2005].
4.2 Cover depths
Cover depths observed in the test areas are summarized in Table 2 by their mean and standard
deviation. It appears that cover depths of structures made in the 1960s show a large variation:
Haringvliet has very high (mean) values up to 90 mm, while Pier Scheveningen had low values
of about 25 mm. At Scheveningen, extended measurements of precast slabs (over a much larger
surface than the two test areas) showed that cover depths had a bimodal distribution with
peaks at 25 mm and 35 mm. The original design value was probably 35 mm, the lower values
are related to deviations in the production process. The cover depths of the Rotterdam quay
walls suggest an increase over the years from about 40 mm (Caland, 1968) to 55 mm (Hartel,
1973 and Europa, 1982). The specifications required 40 mm for Hartel and 50 mm for Europa
(Caland unknown).
Table 2 Summary of cover depths for test areas (m mean and s standard deviation)
Structure Test area Cover depth (mm)
m s
Pier Scheveningen Precast slab (+ 7 m) 26 * 9 *
Pier Scheveningen Cross beam (+5 m) 42.4 5.0
Pier Scheveningen In situ (+ 5 m) 36.5 1.7
Haringvliet Pier 11, low (+ 1 m) 71.1 4.9
Haringvliet Pier 11, middle (+9m) 79.5 4.1
Haringvliet Pier 11, high (+14m) 90.1 5.1
Calandkanaal Quay wall (+1 m) 42.2 4.0
Hartelhaven Quay wall (+1 m) 54.6 6.6
Europahaven Quay wall (+1 m) 56.2 3.9
Eastern Scheldt Barrier Pier Hammen 8 (+1m) 57.5 6.0
Eastern Scheldt Barrier Upper beam (+4m) 69.1 2.5
Eastern Scheldt Barrier Bridge element (+9m) 41.1 1.4
* Note: Test area in low end of bimodal distribution; see text.
4.3 Chloride profiles
As an example, Figure 4 presents the measured chloride profiles (mean of six; mean plus and
mean minus standard deviation), the best fitting diffusion profile using equation (2), neglecting
the first data point, and the DuraCrete prediction from equation (1) for the test area on the
upper beam of the Eastern Scheldt Barrier (age c. 18 years). For input parameters for the
DuraCrete prediction see Table 3. The Figure shows that in the zone 0 – 10 mm strong
differences exist between measured, fitted and predicted chloride profiles; however, beyond 10
mm depth they are all quite close. The 'best fit' curve coincides with the mean measured curve
from 15 mm (10 – 20 mm) on. The DuraCrete prediction is a bit lower than the mean measured
curve, close to the 'mean minus standard deviation' curve. Actually in this example the scatter
is relatively low; in most cases, much larger scatter was present. Mean and standard deviations
for diffusion coefficients and chloride surface contents from the best fitting curves for the test
areas (using equation (2)) are presented in Table 4. Means of profiles from quay wall Noordland
have been added.
Table 3 Input parameters DuraCrete prediction for upper beam of Eastern Scheldt barrier (see Figure 4)
Chloride ingress was found to be subject to considerable scatter. Taking into account the small
size of the test areas (c. 1 x 1 m2, suggesting homogenous exposure) and the good material
homogeneity as observed by microscopy, no clear explanations are available. Possibly
variations of the microstructure or in the microclimate are overlooked. For the moment,
chloride ingress must be considered a stochastic process (as is corrosion initiation, for that
matter [see e.g. Vassie 1984]). In addition, the spatial variability on macro scale (across a
complete structure) is not well understood [Li, 2004].
Parameter Source Value
Environmental zone Splash zone
Cement type Inspection Blast furnace slag cement
Water cement ratio Inspection 0.45
Curing Assumption 1 day
A factor [DuraCrete R17, 2000] 6.77
kc factor [DuraCrete R17, 2000] 2.40
ke factor [DuraCrete R9, 2000] 0.77
D0, RCM TNO Database 4.5 *10-12 m2/s
Age at inspection Inspection 16 year
n exponent [DuraCrete R17, 2000] 0.60
Figure 4 Chloride profiles from the test area on the upper beam of the Eastern Scheldt Barrier
(after 16 years); mean of six measured profiles, mean plus and mean minus standard deviation;
best fit with equation (2) and prediction according to the DuraCrete model with equation (1)
4.4 Further analysis
Most of the observed chloride surface contents are in the usual range of 2 to 5%. Literature data
on similar concrete compositions provide surface contents in this range for marine splash zone
exposure [Bamforth and Chapman-Andrews 1994] and for submerged exposure in the
laboratory [Polder 1996]. In the present set of data, Haringvliet middle & high surface contents
are much lower, which suggests that those two test areas do not belong to the splash zone
group (see below). Interestingly, the surface content for Noordland changed from 1.8% after 8
years to 2.2% after 18 years. Apparently the surface content had not yet stabilised after 8 years.
The value after 18 years is assumed to be the mature, steady value.
The effective diffusion coefficients in Table 4 can be compared to those obtained by profile
fitting from specimens submerged in the North Sea at 5 or 100 m depth for 16 years [Polder &
Larbi 1995]. Slightly depending on the age at first contact with seawater, OPC concrete with
w/c 0.40 showed Dt values of 1 to 3 * 10-12 m2/s and BFSC concrete with w/c 0.42 of about 0.3 *
10-12 m2/s. It appears that the present diffusion coefficients for OPC concrete are much lower
(0.1 to 0.3 * 10-12 m2/s) and for BFSC similar to slightly lower (0.1 to 0.3 * 10-12 m2/s) values than
the results from submerged exposure. Neglecting minor differences of w/c and age, this
suggests that Portland cement concrete in the splash zone has a much lower effective diffusion
coefficient than in submerged exposure. An attempt is made to explain this.
upper beam + 4 m
0 10 20 30 40 50 60
depth (mm)
chloride (% cement)
mean + SD
mean - SD
best fit
Table 4 Mean and standard deviations for surface chloride contents and effective diffusion coefficients
from the best fitting curves; all structures 16 – 40 years old, except where noted; all results are based on
six profiles, except Noordland (four for 8 years, three for 18 years age)
In both the present fieldwork and the study on submerged specimens, the electrical resistivity
of the concrete was measured using a four-point surface probe according to Wenner [Polder
2000]. Submerged OPC concrete specimens had resistivities from 100 to 200 Ωm [Polder & Larbi
1995], precast OPC field concrete at Scheveningen had resistivities measured on site of 300 to
500 Ωm. Concrete resistivity is very sensitive to moisture content [Polder 2000]. The increased
resistivity suggests that OPC concrete in the splash zone in this investigation has dried out
considerably, thus explaining the lower effective diffusion coefficients as compared to
submerged OPC concrete. After 16 years submersion, BFSC concrete had resistivities of 400 to
1000 Ωm. The present results from the splash zone were either 300 to 600 Ωm (Pier
Scheveningen, Haringvliet low, Eastern Scheldt Barrier) or between 1300 and 3300 Ωm
Structure Test area Surface content Diffusion
(% chloride coefficient
by mass of cement) (10-12 m2/s)
μ σ μ σ
Pier Scheveningen Precast slab (+ 7 m) 3.5 1.3 0.14 0.03
Pier Scheveningen Cross beam (+5 m) 2.6 1.0 0.28 0.14
Pier Scheveningen In situ (+ 5 m) 3.2 1.3 0.33 0.14
Haringvliet Pier 11, low (+ 1 m) 2.8 2.0 0.12 0.04
Haringvliet Pier 11, middle (+9m) 0.4 0.0 0.14 0.05
Haringvliet Pier 11, high (+14m) 0.7 0.2 0.10 0.02
Calandkanaal Quay wall (+1 m) 3.9 1.9 0.19 0.02
Hartelhaven Quay wall (+1 m) 2.9 0.3 0.12 0.01
Europahaven Quay wall (+1 m) 3.9 1.3 0.12 0.01
SVKO Pier Hammen 8 (+1m) 2.2 0.6 0.24 0.07
SVKO Upper beam (+4m) 4.1 0.3 0.27 0.06
SVKO Bridge element (+9m) 5.3 1.5 0.28 0.12
Noordland Quay wall (+1 m),
8 years 1.8 0.3 0.84 0.1
Noordland Quay wall (+1 m),
18 years 2.2 0.1 0.36 0.0
(Calandkanaal, Haringvliet middle and high); Hartelhaven resistivity was as high as 6300 Ωm.
All quoted values are mean values, around which always considerable scatter was found
(coefficients of variation were typically 10 to 30%). This suggests that the BFSC concrete in the
former group of three test areas is rather wet, while the second group (three test areas) of
concrete has dried out to some extent. Hartelhaven concrete was apparently quite dry when
This tentative analysis suggests that drying out of Portland cement concrete, in the higher
marine splash zone, may slow down chloride transport considerably as compared to transport
in water saturated (submerged) concrete. Eventually, effective diffusion in Portland cement
concrete may be about as slow as in (wet) Blast Furnace Slag cement concrete. Experiments on
saturated concrete in the laboratory and from natural submersion tests until now have
indicated that chloride diffusion in slag cement is much slower than in Portland cement based
materials [Page et al. 1981].
The influence of drying out on chloride transport in concrete has been investigated under
equilibrium non-saturated conditions [Vera et al. 2004] and under simulated wetting and
drying cycles with salt solution [Polder & Visser 2004]. Drying out, increased concrete
resistivity and reduced transport rates were found to be related [Polder & Peelen 2002]. The
effects of drying out of concrete on chloride transport, in particular in the splash zone, however,
require more study.
5 Comparison to the DuraCrete model
The effective diffusion coefficients derived from the best fitting curves showed a timedependency,
qualitatively similar to that described in the literature [Maage et al. 1996].
Following the DuraCrete model, this time-dependency is described by:
with Dt the effective diffusion coefficient at the time of inspection (m2/s), Ktot a composite
coefficient for the influence of cement type, environment and curing (-), D0 the diffusion
coefficient at reference time t0 of 28 days (m2/s), determined by Rapid Chloride Migration
(RCM) testing and nCl an aging exponent (0< nCl <1).
From the comparison of the field results to predictions from the DuraCrete model using
equation (1), two deviations were proposed from the DuraCrete model and its input
parameters. One deviation regards the environmental coefficient. The original calculation
t tot t

⎝ ⎜⎜

⎠ ⎟⎟
includes the cement type, the environment and the length of the curing period. With all cement
being of one type (excepting Portland cement parts of Pier Scheveningen), the environment
being rather homogeneous (marine tidal and splash zones) and the curing essentially unknown,
a better way of calculating this coefficient was looked for. In the follow up on DuraCrete and
using its database, Gehlen has proposed an environmental coefficient for concrete in marine
environment based only on temperature [Gehlen 2000]. His main consideration is that in the
tidal and splash zones, the influence of the length of the active curing period is relatively small
because the concrete is kept wet due to its natural exposure. Acknowledging that proper curing
after concrete casting should not be neglected, we have accepted Gehlen's formulation of the
environmental coefficient, calculated by:
with be a regression parameter of about 4800 (K), Tref the reference temperature (293 K) and Te
the annual mean air temperature (K). For a prevailing annual mean temperature of about 10°C,
this parameter takes a mean value of 0.56 and a standard deviation 0.045 as given by [Gehlen
2000]. This simplification is attractive compared to the much more complicated formulation of
the original DuraCrete environmental constant. It is emphasised, however, that this
simplification is only allowed in marine conditions (for submerged, tidal and splash zones; and
not to the atmospheric zone). The influence of the cement type is accounted for in another
parameter, the ageing exponent nCl.
The second deviation for DuraCrete concerns the time dependency of the diffusion coefficient.
Three groups of diffusion coefficients were analysed: data from our test areas (Table 4); data
from additional chloride profiles for concrete in marine environment after 8 to 16 years
including those from Noordland and specimens submerged in the North Sea [Polder & Larbi
1995]; and from RCM testing of laboratory specimens up to three years age. These latter were
multiplied by KG as given above to transform them into effective diffusion coefficients. As
presented in Figure 5, these three groups of data showed a satisfactory fit to a straight line in a
plot of log D versus log t, with a (negative) slope of about 0.48 (standard deviation 0.07). For
the combined datasets, an exponent of 0.48 best described the time dependency of the apparent
chloride diffusion coefficient.
Consequently, a deviation was proposed regarding the value of the aging exponent. DuraCrete
gives values for this exponent for Blast Furnace Slag cement concrete of 0.6 to 0.8. Most
probably these relatively high values are based on data obtained from binders composed of
Portland cement and slag that were added separately during concrete mixing [Bamforth &
Chapman-Andrews 1994]. Such composite Portland-slag mixes may have different
characteristics from Dutch slag cement, for which slag is intermixed with clinker during cement
K b
G e T T
ref e
= −




exp 1 1
production and whose properties are carefully monitored. According to experience with Dutch
Blast Furnace Slag cement, this exponent should be lower. As mentioned above, the best fit to
our extended dataset was obtained using a mean aging exponent of 0.48. It is interesting to note
that Gehlen found a similar value of 0.45 for slag cement from literature data for profiles taken
after up to 60 years [Gehlen 2000]. Taking into account the modified environmental coefficient
and aging exponent, the (RCM) chloride diffusion coefficient at 28 days of the investigated
concretes was inferred to be about 5.0 * 10-12 m2/s. This value agrees well with laboratory test
data for modern CEM III/B concrete with a w/c of about 0.5.
Figure 5 Compilation of diffusion coefficients from field work in this study, additional exposure data and
laboratory data with best fitting straight line; note log – log scale
In our dataset the chloride surface content showed relatively little variation over the
investigated structures, provided the height above sea level was no more than 7 meters and the
age at which the profiles were taken was at least 10 years. The variation present in the surface
contents can be incorporated by using a mean value of 2.9% chloride by mass of cement and a
standard deviation of 0.8%. This is a deviation from the DuraCrete input, which is based on a
surface content that depends on the water-to-cement ratio (w/c) and the exposure conditions.
The variation of w/c in the structures investigated here is relatively low (approximately
between 0.55 and 0.45), while the DuraCrete model intends to be more generally applicable
(including higher and lower w/c's). The surface content presented here applies to the splash
zone, in modern terminology environmental class XS3 according to EN 206-1.
For heights above + 7 m, two different patterns were present in the data. For the bridge
elements of the Eastern Scheldt Barrier (at +9 m), high values of about 5% were found (Table 4).
y = 1.07x -0.48
R2 = 0.86
0.01 0.1 1 10 100
time (year)
D_t (10^-12 m^2/s )
field data
K_g * D_rcm
additional data
power fit all data
This can be explained by considering that here the concrete is relatively sheltered from rain by
the bridge deck above the test area (see Figure 3), so most of the chloride deposited on the
concrete surface by splash and wave action is accumulated without being washed away. On the
other hand, for the middle and high parts of the Haringvliet pier (+ 9 and +14 m), surface
contents of 1% or lower were found. In these parts the concrete is fully exposed to rain and at a
relatively high distance from seawater splash and waves, so the balance between accumulation
and washout is the other way around than in the Eastern Scheldt Barrier.
The model with the proposed modifications is termed the DuMaCon version of the DuraCrete
model. It must be stressed that this model and its modified input parameters apply only to
concrete made with Dutch slag cement with at least 65% of slag, in modern terminology CEM
III/B LH HS, exposed to marine environment (exposure classes XS3, XS2).
Another issue to be considered is the critical chloride content. This is the value above which it
is assumed that the reinforcement will start to corrode. Many values have been published in the
literature. Nowadays it is well accepted that there is no single value; rather a range of values
describes an increasing probability of corrosion (initiation). Practical observations have shown
that about 0.5% chloride by mass of cement is a good estimate of the value at which the
probability of corrosion is about 50%. However, these observations concern Portland cement
concrete. There is insufficient practical evidence for specifying a reliable value for the critical
chloride content for Blast furnace Slag cement concrete in practice. Consequently, in our study
we have used the value for OPC concrete (μ 0.5%, σ 0.15%).
6 Conclusions: application of the DuMaCon model
From extensive fieldwork and additional data on Dutch concrete in marine exposure, a
modification of the DuraCrete model for chloride transport in slag cement concrete in marine
environment was derived. Modifications include a fixed chloride surface content, a new value
for the ageing exponent and a different way of calculating the environmental coefficient.
Statistical parameters have been specified.
This DuMaCon version of the DuraCrete model can be used for service life assessment of
concrete structures in marine environment made of CEM III/B, in several ways. Firstly it can be
used as a service life design model for new structures. The chloride diffusion coefficient can be
tested (using the Rapid Chloride Migration test) on a trial mix and the surface content, the
aging exponent and the environmental coefficient can be taken from the DuMaCon model. With
that input, the chloride ingress can be predicted and the cover to the reinforcement can be
chosen such that corrosion initiation is postponed until (at least) the end of the desired service
life. Alternatively, the cover depth is chosen and a maximum value for the diffusion coefficient
is calculated. Given that the standard deviations and distribution types of all parameters are
known (either from DuraCrete or from the present study), full probabilistic analysis is possible,
allowing to calculate failure probabilities (see below).
Secondly, the DuMaCon version can be used as a service life REdesign model for assessment of
existing structures. Two options exist: the “desk option” and the “inspection option”. For the
desk option, one only needs to estimate the diffusion coefficient at young age (for example from
a database) and to predict chloride ingress as for a new structure using the DuMaCon input
parameters. The cover depth can be taken from design documents, assuming a standard
deviation of about 10 mm [DuraCrete R17, 2000]. However, it is better to measure the actual
cover depth but that cannot be done from behind a desk. From the cover depth the point in
time when initiation most likely will occur can be calculated. Knowing the structure’s present
age, one can estimate how far it is from corrosion initiation. For the inspection option, one needs
to inspect the most critical areas of the structure, measure cover depths, take cores and perform
chloride profile analysis. Chloride surface contents and effective diffusion coefficients are found
by fitting equation (2) to the profiles. The surface content can be regarded a constant and the
effective diffusion coefficient will decrease by the aging exponent given above. Again, the point
in time when corrosion initiation occurs can be calculated. The inspection option for REdesign
requires more work (and costs) than the desk option, however, it is more accurate because it is
based on the real cover depth and the response of the structure to its actual environment.
Again, using mean values, standard deviations and distribution types of all parameters,
probabilistic calculations can be made to produce failure probabilities or reliability indices.
7 Recommendations and outlook
As described above, chloride ingress into concrete in marine environment was found to be
subject to considerable scatter, both on micro and macro scales of observation. In practical
terms, this suggests that relatively large numbers of samples should be taken to get reliable
results. Six cores in a small area and analysed at six depths, as applied in this study, probably is
a good minimum number to start with. In more general terms, all variations should be taken
into account and full probabilistic analysis is required. Not until a lot more experience has been
obtained, partial safety factors can be derived and semi-probabilistic analyses can be made with
A further issue that warrants attention is the limit state and the failure probability that should
be associated with it. In the approach presented, corrosion initiation is the undesired event
whose occurrence is predicted (and which should be delayed for a prescribed period).
However, corrosion initiation it is not the end of the service life. It is a serviceability limit state,
not an ultimate limit state. Depending on the type of structure, some level of corrosion can be
tolerated. Knowing when in the future corrosion initiation will occur provides the opportunity
to start thinking about maintenance well in time. If chloride has not yet penetrated very close to
the reinforcement, preventative maintenance may be the best option, e.g. applying coatings or
hydrophobic treatment [Polder et al. 2001]. Even if corrosion is expected relatively soon, it is
useful to have some years to prepare for selecting protection options, e.g. conventional repair or
cathodic protection [Polder 1998].
It is clear that the failure probability associated with the limit state “corrosion initiation” should
be less than 50%. Considering the scatter in chloride ingress (implying the presence of weak
spots), at the point in time when there is 50% chance of reinforcement corroding, a part of the
reinforcement will already corrode and significant damage may already have occurred. As
repair is costly, economic considerations should be made of the acceptable failure probability. In
the examples mentioned of service life design for large tunnels, a failure probability was
required of about 3% (reliability index β=1.8) [Siemes et al. 1998]. For more ordinary structures,
this may be too strict. A level of 10% (β=1.3) was proposed in Norway [Fluge 2001]. In any case,
the event of corrosion initiation should be considered a maintenance limit state and further work
is required to elaborate its associated failure probability.
The authors wish to thank the Members of CUR research committee B82; the sponsors of this
project Port of Rotterdam, Rijkswaterstaat Dienstkring Haringvliet and Dienstkring
Stormvloedkering, Royal Haskoning, Gemeente Den Haag, BAM Civiel/DeltaMarine
Consultants, Van Hattum en Blankevoort, Ballast Nedam, ENCI, VOBN, Leggedoor Beton- en
Vochtweringstechniek; the Ministry of Economic Affairs for financial support though TNO
cofinancieringsregeling contract, and to acknowledge fruitful collaboration with
our partners in the European Research project CHLORTEST and in particular Dr. Anders
Lindvall of Chalmers University, Sweden.
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