Corrosion at its base level is the gradual destruction of materials by chemical reaction with their environment. This is a natural process and is what we all recognise as rusting in metals. It can occur in other materials too. Ceramics and plastics, for instance, can corrode. In metal, rusting is what we tend to associate it with.

Rusting is the process of electrochemical oxidation of the metal in reaction to an oxidant, such as oxygen or water. It causes the metal to become weakened and lead to premature and sudden failure.

The cost of corrosion is great

NACE International is one of the world’s leading authorities on corrosion control. They estimate that corrosion costs an industrial economy 3.1% of its GDP. This means the cost of corrosion runs into the billions if not trillions.

The offshore industry in the North Sea spends between £150,000 and 250,000 on bolts and fasteners alone. Some corroding before an installation is even commissioned. Some within weeks and months of fixing.

According to the Pipeline and Gas Journal, in America, the annual cost associated with the damage caused by corrosion is greater than the combined annual cost of natural disasters, including hurricanes, storms, floods, fires and earthquakes. With similar studies and findings from the UK, Germany and Japan.

Inhibiting corrosion

Corrosion is inevitable, but there are ways to slow it and inhibit it.

Applying specialist coatings and wrapping systems is one of the more common methods to protect the steel.

Effective corrosion control can extend the useful lifespan of any metal structure.

A combination of oxygen, unprotected metal, and an electrolyte (water) create the perfect environment for corrosion to occur. Remove one of these factors and corrosion is successfully inhibited. This is what these corrosion prevention systems, to varying extents, strive to do.

Pipeline corrosion

Unprotected pipelines are incredibly susceptible to corrosion. Whether underground, submerged underwater or exposed to the environment. All are vulnerable.

Corrosion in pipelines is perilous. It can damage the structural integrity of the pipeline. Making it dangerous for transporting hazardous goods, such as oil and gas.

Some pipelines deteriorate slow. Others have exhausted their useful life after only a year of operation.

Some pipelines have even lost 70% to 90% of their mass due to corrosion. In fact, one report on a pipeline running from Canada to America reported by online news sites. It states the pipeline suffered major corrosion only two years into its operation. Being up to 95% worn in some spots.

Many considerations come into play when looking at how corrosion will impact pipeline lifespan. Including quality of construction, the product transported, the environment it’s operated in, the quality of the maintenance program for the pipeline, and whether it’s coated or similar protection applied. All these factors have an impact on the life of the pipeline.

Pipeline repair due to corrosion can run into the millions and in some cases billions. Operators need to consider quality preventative strategies rather than locate and repair mentality.

Costs for corrosion will continue to rise and pipelines will continue to deteriorate. With no prevention measures in place costs for repairing a corroded pipeline will continue to escalate. Whilst this locate and destroy method might save money in the short term, long term costs will increase as problems worsen.

How can we control pipeline corrosion?

Pipeline corrosion can generally be controlled and inhibited in several ways.

Cathodic Protection is one technique to control the corrosion of a metal surface. The surface becomes a cathode of an electrochemical cell by use of a direct electrical current.

The choice of material for the pipeline can play an important part in controlling the spread of corrosion. Materials such as stainless steel, special alloys and plastics are more resistant to corrosion.

Corrosion inhibitors are chemical compounds. When added to a certain environment, typically a liquid or a gas, the rate of corrosion decreases.

Specialist coatings and wrapping tapes are the primary tools for protecting against corrosion. They form a corrosion resistant barrier between the pipe surface and the environment.

No matter which method, or combination of methods, used it’s only with an effective maintenance program corrosion related problems are controlled.

The cost of installing, monitoring and maintaining proper pipeline corrosion protection, is far outweighed by the increased risks of pipeline failure.

Taking what we’ve learned from storage tank corrosion

A new method of pipeline corrosion protection provides the answer to prevention and monitoring of corrosion.

We’re well known for protecting storage tanks from the problems associated with corrosion. We apply specialist solvent-free resins which encapsulate the internal steel of the tank. Providing a corrosion resistant barrier. Extending the life of the tank and saving the client a lot of money in the long term.

We also install our own solvent-free double skin lining system, Fuelvac®.

Our double skin system prevents corrosion and acts as a second skin inside the tank. Providing a safety net if there is ever a breach, either externally or internally. Any stored product will be safely contained.

Fuelvac® is a fully monitored system. It contains an interstice between two layers of protective solvent-free resin. Through this, a vacuum is pulled.

This vacuum increases the corrosion resistance of the system and alerts the client if a breach occurs. Any breach would cause a drop in the vacuum which in turn would cause the system to alarm.

A new approach to eliminating pipeline corrosion

We’ve been very successful with corrosion management in storage tanks over the years. Now, we’ve taken the step to adapt this knowledge and experience into protecting of pipelines. We’ve created PIPEVAC®.

Based on our Fuelvac® technology, PIPEVAC® eliminates the conditions for corrosion to occur. We create a vacuum around the pipe substrate. Enabling the prevention of external corrosion to the pipeline.

If we look again at the conditions which must exist for corrosion to occur. Removing one element from the equation prevents the conditions for corrosion. PIPEVAC® removes two of these elements from the equation. The unique vacuum system prevents moisture and oxygen from attacking the pipeline substrate. Erasing any of the conditions for corrosion to take hold.

Leak detection on pipelines

Utilising a vacuum around the pipe enables leak detection monitoring of the pipeline. Notifying and locating any problems with corrosion or damage to the outside of the pipeline.

The leak detection feature of PIPEVAC® can be a useful tool in aiding maintenance and inspection programs. If there is a breach of the vacuum, the monitoring system alarms. Notifying the client there is a problem and which section of the pipeline the problem occurs in.

PIPEVAC® is a versatile system. Installation can be on both above and below ground pipelines. These can be in the factory on new pipework, or in the field onto pipelines that are currently in-service.

We see the PIPEVAC® system as a new approach to pipeline protection. Employing vacuum technology to prevent corrosion from impacting on the pipe. Avoiding any damage to pipeline integrity from corrosion. Whilst at the same time allowing complete monitoring of the pipeline.

The cost of corrosion is high and continuing to rise. It’s important to ensure the highest level of protection for pipeline infrastructure. Taking a proactive approach to protecting and preventing corrosion should be a priority. Leave the reactive find and fix method in the past.