Pipeline Corrosion Prevention Mitigates Devastating Failures

Corrosion is one of the biggest problems contributing to leaks and ruptures of pipelines. Corrosion is the natural process where materials made from metal electrochemically react with the environment and deteriorate.  Without proper engineering and preventative maintenance, this deterioration from the natural process of corrosion will result in an increasing frequency of pipeline incidents.  The good news is that with proper pipeline monitoring and maintenance, corrosion is completely manageable. Operators can utilize existing technologies to ensure the integrity of these critical assets and prevent damaging failures.

Two Categories of Corrosion in Pipelines

Pipeline corrosion can be broken down into two primary categories.  Internal Corrosion, which causes approximately 12% of all incidents, occurs on the inside of the pipeline, while External Corrosion, which results in approximately 8% of all pipeline incidents, occurs on the outside of the pipe. 

Pipeline Corrosion Protection Strategies for External and Internal CorrosionTwo primary mitigation strategies are employed to prevent external corrosion of pipelines:

Pipeline coatings

Cathodic protection

When these mitigation strategies are properly employed, monitored and maintained, steel pipelines can last indefinitely. While this sounds simple, pipeline coatings are never perfect and are themselves subject to damage during construction and degradation over time, while cathodic protection is a complex process that requires continuous monitoring and extensive testing, combined with regular maintenance to be effective.

Internal corrosion, in most cases, is a result of contaminants naturally occurring in the product being transported by the pipeline. Common contaminants include oxygen, hydrogen sulfide, carbon dioxide, chlorides, and water.

Many variables can affect the nature and extent of a particular internal corrosion reaction on a pipeline:

Contaminant concentrations

The combination of contaminants within the pipeline

Operating pressure and velocity

Pipeline geometry and holdup points

Operating temperature

Other factors

The primary pipeline internal corrosion prevention strategies include:

Controlling or minimizing contaminants prior to transporting them in the pipeline

Internal pipeline coatings

Injection of corrosion inhibitors

Increased frequency of internal pipeline cleaning to remove the accumulation of contaminants

For controlling both external and internal corrosion, regular monitoring and testing programs combined with the appropriate mitigation strategies, are a critical part of any pipeline integrity management program.  When performed properly, corrosion can be effectively controlled, assuring that pipelines remain safe from corrosion indefinitely.

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