Pipe Corrosion

A Common Problem Greatly Under Recognized By Property Owners And Managers, Design Engineers, And Plant Operators

The corrosion of steel piping and its related components is a continuous and virtually unstoppable process.  The end product, which is commonly referred to as rust, is simply the result of an electrochemical reaction through which the higher energy processed metal is slowly reverted back to its naturally occurring form – metal ore.

Even with the proper application of available countermeasures, the estimated cost for replacing corroded piping systems in the United States alone stands well in excess of $75 billion annually – making corrosion one of the most potentially damaging losses to any commercial, private, or industrial property.  The financial impact of all metal corrosion on a worldwide scale is staggering – resulting in losses of $1 trillion dollars in the United States alone for 2012.  Review the latest corrosion loss statistics from this independent source.

Over $121 billion is spent annually in the United States on corrosion control chemicals, coatings, and other protective systems.  Hundreds of millions more are spent on corrosion monitoring and testing.  An estimated one sixth of all steel production worldwide is used to replace corroded metal – much of it at cooling water piping systems.  And yet, corrosion problems are increasing in frequency and severity, not decreasing.  Some fire protection systems now fail within 2-3 years.  Entire condenser water and cooling systems within 5-10 years.  For various reasons ranging from declining material quality to engineering design, to less effective corrosion controls – corrosion activity now presents to many property managers potentially career altering challenges.

Problems Mild To Severe

Pipe corrosion represents the most serious threat and monetary loss to any commercial or industrial building or plant operation next to fire.  In its less serious form, corrosion can produce problems ranging from lost heat transfer efficiency and constricted pipes – to annoyance pinhole leaks and temporary shutdowns.  More serious failures are often in the form of million dollar flood damages, operating failures, lost production, productivity interruption, and personal injury.  Potentially worst consequences exist for fire protection systems, and where an internal corrosion problem, because of the volume of iron rust deposits generated, has the potential to clog the pipe and thereby render the fire protection system totally worthless.

In extreme, but all too common examples, the failure to recognize a serious corrosion problem will result in the need to replace some or all of the piping system at extraordinary cost, and possibly with the loss of critical services.

Multiple Reasons For Problems

articles couponarticle2Finding oneself in scouponarticle2_140uch a position, however, is not an overnight event. Most high corrosion scenarios are the result of years of a problem condition which has gone either unrecognized, unaddressed or ignored. Often it is inherited from a previous owner or operator not effective at controlling a corrosion problem, and / or having obviously less concern. For many of the worst corrosion problems we have been called in to investigate, a total reliance and blind trust in corrosion coupons have allowed years of sky high corrosion to continue unabated. A new publication at left documents such a case history.

Through our involvement in the field of chemical water treatment and ultrasonic pipe testing since 1981, we have seen a surprisingly high number of facility engineers and plant managers interested in extending the retirement date of plant piping just slightly beyond their own! A fact rarely obvious until a major and often premature failure occurs.

A combination of less effective corrosion control chemicals, lower quality and less corrosion resistant metals, and less tolerant design engineering practices, have made the need to closely monitor corrosion losses more critical today than ever before.

This Internet site is dedicated to the issue of pipe corrosion and the identification and reduction of such problems through better monitoring and preventative actions. Its contains a large volume of useful information based upon hands on investigations into most of today’s corrosion problems.

Documented Examples

CorrView International, LLC offers a series of photo galleries taken from 18 years of past ultrasonic piping investigations, which address the above and additional corrosion conditions.  A review of the different types of corrosion is often helpful in initially determining the likely corrosion cause.

In many cases, however, a combination of conditions will exist within the same piping system.  View our extended Corrosion Photo Gallery of 27 different corrosion types and failure conditions.

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Dead Zones

The Leading Cause Of Pipe Failure At Condenser Water Systems

Despite various corrective measure, advanced failures at condenser water systems are on the rise. Many problems are engineered into the system from the start due to the failure to recognize the impact rust deposits and particulates have on producing higher secondary corrosion levels. In addition, most corrective measure, if they are attempted, fail to provide a solution. Here is why.

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Undersized Steel Pipe

A Simple Dial Caliper Measurement Of New Steel Pipe May Reveal Surprising Results

In addition to the many corrosion influences negatively impacting piping systems, many new building properties are constructed using carbon steel pipe which is below factory specification. To the surprise of many, an FM or UL approval, like its ASTM stamp, does not define that the pipe actually meets ASTM thickness standards.

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Inevitable Corrosion

The Decline In The Quality Of Today’s Piping Products Means Greater Corrosion Problems

A large number of negative influences have comined to produce a higher frequency of corrosion problems – often in spite of all precautionary measures taken. Of those, lower quality pipe, undersized pipe, more complex piping layouts, and generally less effective chemical treatment options have produced a “Perfect Storm” contributing to more piping failures.

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Corrosion Threats

When Pipe Corrosion At A Fire Protection System Can Cost Lives

The time to learn of a fire pipe corrosion problem is not during an actual fire emergency. Internal rust deposits can, and have, totally blocked water flow through the sprinkler heads – resulting in the loss of human life. More common at dry systems, internal deposits are a serious threat to all fire protection systems.

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Fire System Failures

Major Misconceptions Within The Fire Protection Industry

Ignoring the obvious does have serious consequences when it comes to fire protection systems. From the use of thin wall schedule 10 & 7 pipe, to lower quality pipe products, to frequent flow testing which brings in new fresh water, clear and well documented reasons exist to explain the higher corrosion activity found at today’s fire protection systems.

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Fire System Corrosion

The Threat Of A High Corrosion Condition To A Fire Sprinkler Line

Often viewed only in terms of water damage in the case of a corrosion induced pipe failure, far more serious concerns exist, although rarely considered. Unlike HVAC piping systems, corrosion activity at fire related piping can impede and in some cases totally block water flow – a potentially life threatening condition during any fire emergency

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Ultrasonic Testing

The Benefits of Ultrasonic Testing in Determining Corrosion Rate and Service Life

Ultrasonic testing provides the most comprehensive, accurate, and cost-effective tool to assess the condition and remaining service life of any piping system. Planned and performed properly, ultrasound offers the first step toward identifying a potential corrosion problem, or for certifying a piping system as fit for service.

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Corrosion Influences

Why Not All Pipe Failures Are The Fault Of Your Chemical Water Treatment Provider

Various design elements to any piping system can have dramatic impact upon its corrosion activity. Pipe origin, schedule used, physical layout, and many other unknown factors can produce a pipe failure. And yet they are completely beyond the realm of protection offered by chemical water treatment.

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Corrosion By Design

Pipe Corrosion Problems No Water Treatment Program Can Protect Against

Various changes have occurred to mechanical piping designs over the past few decades, with virtually all HVAC, plumbing, and fire protection systems having been affected in some way. Many changes relate to the materials themselves. Major changes in piping design, however, have introduced new corrosion problems no chemical treatment program can stop.

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Corrosion Coupons

The Benefits and Limitations of Corrosion Coupons

Relied upon for decades as an indicator of corrosion activity within piping systems, corrosion coupons are highly unreliable in most examples, and totally worthless in others. Many of the most damaging corrosion failures have occurred while at the same time corrosion coupons produced excellent results. Here is why.

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Unexpected Failures

If Corrosion Activity Is Only 0.4 MPY, What Is Wrong With The Above Picture?

Corrosion coupons reported a 0.4 MPY corrosion rate for 6 years where the actual rate exceeded 25 MPY. Believed implicitly in contrast to multiple leaks and failures, the slow but total destruction of the entire condenser water piping system was the net result. A case history illustrating the threat from relying exclusively upon this highly flawed testing method.

Dry Fire Sprinkler

Fire Protection Contractor – Antifreeze: The Fine Line Between Hero and Defendant

Antifreeze used in dry fire sprinkler systems may solve one problem, but has also proven deadly. Rated a Class 1 flammable liquid, antifreeze can accelerate a fire, create a fireball, and even cause an explosion. Although now restricted to lower concentrations, antifreeze still adds heat value to any fire and introduces new and unknown liability to any such system.

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Corrosion Trends

American Welding Society – Understanding Pipe Corrosion Problems

A piping system that satisfies service life demands, requires the recognition of piping design vulnerabilities, effective corrosion monitoring, and the adoption of corrective measurements. With corrosion related failures on the rise, and with generally lower quality pipe being installed, advanced planning and an awareness of potential threats becomes more important.

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Testing Procedures

World Pipelines – Investigation vs. Procedure

Substantially different findings are likely where ultrasonic pipe testing is approached as a forensic investigation based upon known system problems and vulnerabilities, rather than simply a linear based measurement procedure. A critical importance is understanding the inherent corrosion related problems to various piping systems. An adapting investigation will also produce a more definitive answer to any piping problem.

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Fire Pipe Corrosion

Fire Protection Contractor – When Pipe Corrosion In a Fire Protection System Can Cost Lives

The time to first learn of a pipe corrosion problem is not during a true fire emergency when lives are in jeopardy. Thinner pipe, more corrosive steel, lower quality galvanizing, foreign pipe, dry systems, MIC – all such negative factors are driving toward higher internal corrosion deposits to render your fire protection system worthless.

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Ultrasonic Testing

Fluid Handling Systems – Finding The Remaining Service Life

Ultrasonic testing is, by far, the most informative diagnostic method available for determining pipe status, as well as extremely cost effective. An effective piping analysis is much more than a spreadsheet of a few wall thickness measurements – requiring careful statistical analysis and practical interpretation of the data.

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Pipe Corrosion

World Pipelines – Multiple Metering And Monitoring Needs

With no single form of corrosion monitoring capable of proving full coverage to the many different forms of pipe corrosion possible, multiple testing methods are always advised. These should include ultrasonic testing, spool pieces, LPR, regular internal inspection, and a close observance to the often obvious but missed signs of a problem.

A 30+ Year Knowledge Base

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Corrosion

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Failure

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Repair

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Replacement

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Unfortunately, the above is a very common progression of events for many of our clients. Often, greater attention to chemical corrosion control and corrosion monitoring could have saved the system and avoided the problem. In others, a decades prior design flaw or poor choice of pipe supplier may be traced back as the primary fault.

During the 20 years that we have been involved in the field of ultrasonic pipe testing / corrosion monitoring, we have authored various Technical Bulletins for the benefit of our clients. These Technical Bulletins address frequent problem issues to any building owner or operator, and offer both insight as well as reasonable and proven solutions.

We offer below the various categories available, and continue to add new bulletins as time permits.

Current Categories

Interior Rust Deposits, Common Threats, Corrosion Types, Winter Lay-Up, MIC, Corrosion Monitoring and Testing, CUI, Corrosion Coupon Failures, Rust Removal, Reducing Corrosion Threats, Roof Level Corrosion, Drained Pipe, Corrosion Trends, Fire Sprinkler Corrosion, Corrosion At “Free Cooling” Systems


The Impact Of Flow Rate To Higher Corrosion, Inadequate Water Filtration, Piping Layout Design, “Green” Piping Designs


Corrosion Threats, Design Misconceptions, Interior Rust Deposit Threat, Dry Fire System Corrosion, Schedule 10 Pipe, Premature Failures, Clogged Fire Systems, Chemical Control Options, Remediation Choices


Condition Assessment, Due Diligence, Preparation Prior To Renovation, System Evaluation, Expert Witness


Heat Exchangers, Benefits of UT Testing, High Pressure Water Jet Cleaning, Filtration Errors, Chemical Treatment, Condenser Tube Coating, Mold Concerns, Chromate Removal, Growing Threat of Corrosion, Heat Exchanger Tub Coating, Nondestructive Testing


Schedule 40 Limitations, Piping Trends, Hidden Corrosion Threats, Dielectric Insulators, Clamped Grooved Piping, Piping Schedules, Pipe Testing Specification, Roof Pipe Draining, Low Corrosion Guidelines, Dual Temperature Piping Failure


Cold Water Threats, External Corrosion Issues, Fire Reserve Tanks, Interior Pitting, Protective Coatings, Rehabilitation


Improving Heat Transfer Efficiency, Improving Filtering Efficiency, Filter Placement, Poor Performance Causes, Filter Selection Considerations


Chemical Treatment Challenges, Limitations to Water Treatment, Corrosion Coupon Reliance