If you’re working on a complex engineering project, chances are the dread of pipeline corrosion keeps you up at night. And that’s valid — every year, corrosion problems in industrial pipelines cost the U.S. economy more than $9 billion.
And cost isn’t the only downside. Causes of pipe erosion and corrosion can lead to halted production and work-related injuries. Worst of all, it’s difficult to see with the naked eye until it’s too late.
However, pipe wear through corrosion doesn’t have to be scary. You can fight back against this phenomenon, keep pipe wear minimal, and save everyone time and money with these tips.
What is Pipe Corrosion?
Other than being the sworn enemy of many pipe installers, pipe corrosion is when pipeline materials begin to break down because of environmental factors.
If you’ve ever run into rusty sections on pipes and other metal pieces, you know what corrosion looks like. And it doesn’t just look bad, this kind of pipe wear can lower the structural integrity of piping and metal structures, which could lead to expensive damage and even injuries later.
What Causes Pipe Corrosion?
Simply put, the main cause of pipe corrosion is contact. When metal comes into contact with water, oxygen, grime, or even other metals, corrosion can occur. While any one of these things can be a cause of corrosion, they cause it for different reasons.
More technically, corrosion is a chemical reaction that involves a loss of electrons in the metal. Electrons are encouraged to leave by electron-greedy materials like water. This results in rust, cracks, and holes in the weakened metal. Perhaps worst of all, corrosion is self-perpetuating, which means it only gets worse once it begins.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent corrosion from creeping into metal surfaces. The following are a few tips you can use to prevent corrosion.
Watch Out for Water
As noted already, water is a significant cause of corrosion. When water’s pH levels are below about 6.5, it can cause damage to a pipe’s lining, especially in copper pipes.
Besides monitoring the pH levels in your water, you might also want to monitor oxygen levels. Because oxygen leads to corrosion as well, having water that’s high in oxygen all over your piping can be twice the problem.
Finally, water temperature also comes into play. The warmer water is, the more corrosive it tends to be. If you can keep water temperatures towards the cool end, that will be ideal for avoiding corrosion.
Keep Pipes Clean
Corrosion can also occur with exposure to certain bacteria. Called microbiologically induced corrosion, or MIC, this happens when metals become exposed to corrosive bacteria. The way to avoid this is straightforward: keep your pipes and other metal pieces clean, especially if they come into contact with sulfates on a regular basis.
You may also choose to use inhibitors or biocides for keeping everything free of bacteria. Another option is to use special chemical treatments for the water or liquids used in your pipeline system.
Protect All Metals
Some types of metal get along fairly well together, while others can cause significant corrosion when they make contact. Protective linings, special coatings, and pipe wear pads can prevent corrosion from happening between pipes and other surfaces. Beams, joints, and bolts are made of metal, just like pipelines themselves, so using wear pads and other liners to separate them is a good strategy for avoiding corrosion caused by contact with metal.
Galvanization is one such method, in which a layer of zinc is added to metal surfaces to prevent any metal touching them from corroding.
It’s also a good idea to use a sealant for preventing corrosive bacteria from settling in between joints and crevices.
Keep Everything Stable
A lot of movement tends to take place in industrial environments, even without heavy equipment being transported. Friction, bouncing, and jiggling caused by manufacturing and construction processes can cause significant wear on metal over time. When openings in metal begin to form, corrosive material can make its way in, leading to crevice corrosion.
To prevent crevice corrosion, try using restraints such as U-bolts, clamps, and straps to limit movement. Methods like this minimize vibrations that might lead to corrosion.
Metal corrosion may cost billions in damage annually, but you don’t have to fall victim to it. By putting those tips into action, you can minimize pipeline corrosion.