If you work in the gas or oil industry, you already know that corrosion is one of the leading causes of pipeline failure. It’s also one of the public’s primary concerns about the oil industry. Below, we’ll talk about what happens when corrosion goes undetected, how companies can detect corrosion, and how to prevent future corrosion.
Corrosion is one natural result of your pipeline’s exposure to water or air. It can also happen to underground pipelines. Anything from bacteria to oxygen can cause corrosion. Plus, since your pipelines transport potentially corrosive substances, corrosion will occur no matter what, which means you need to stay on top of pipeline maintenance, corrosion detection, and corrosion prevention.
Why do you need to prevent corrosion? Your pipelines transport hazardous materials that can endanger the surrounding area if they spill, especially if they result in fires or explosions. Pipeline corrosion can cost you thousands of dollars in damages and puts your employees at risk.
Pipelines remain the safest way to transport dangerous liquids and gases long distances. Pipeline accidents happen much less frequently than truck or freight train accidents. But, like airplane accidents, pipeline accidents often draw more attention than truck accidents, perhaps because they happen much less frequently. Plus, accidents from corrosion often have more devastating consequences than smaller truck accidents, as some recent North American incidents demonstrate:
- In Carlsbad, New Mexico in 2000, extensive corrosion caused a natural gas pipeline to rupture. The gas exploded, killing 12 people and creating a large crater.
- A trucker discovered an extensive leak from a BP pipeline in Prudhoe Bay in 2006. Officials estimated that over one million litres (267,000 gallons) leaked from a corroded pipeline across formerly pristine ice and snow fields.
- In 2008, internal corrosion led to one death, one injury, and the loss of 720,000 L (190,000 gallons) of oil in Texas.
- In the 2010 Kalamazoo oil spill, corrosion caused 4,163,952 litres (1,100,000 gallons) of diluted bitumen from Alberta to spill into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan. Much of the oil remains on the river bottom.
Fortunately for your business, accidents like those above often stem from a failure to follow pipeline maintenance procedure. When you carefully maintain your pipeline and stay on top of corrosion, you can avert accidents and ensure your pipeline stays safe.
Oil and gas companies follow many strategies to protect their pipelines from corrosion. Some of the most common include:
- Applying a coating to the pipeline as it’s being manufactured. Many businesses use epoxy coating, though you might use a specialized coating depending on your pipeline’s purpose. For example, pipelines in riverbeds require different types of coating to resist the current’s flow.
- Using cathodic protection. This method relies on an electrical current that moves corrosion away from the pipeline.
- Choosing corrosive-resistant materials, such as stainless steel, certain alloys, and plastic.
- Using corrosion inhibitors. These substances decrease instances of corrosion, extend pipelines’ lives, and deter product contamination.
The type of corrosion prevention you use will depend on your product, the surrounding environment, and your pipeline’s placement. As you work to avoid corrosion, carefully monitor external environmental conditions and train pipeline operators to assess and control corrosion.
Pipeline corrosion can occur from the inside out and vice versa. If you’re worried about pipeline corrosion, a non-destructive testing (NDT) company like 20/20 NDT Inc. can help. 20/20 NDT will test your pipeline to catch problems before they develop into larger issues. Depending on your pipeline’s situation, we will likely use the following methods to look for signs of corrosion, including thinning walls, holes, and hairlines cracks:
- Visual inspection: visually examining the pipe to find leaks, holes, cracks, etc.
- Dye penetrant testing: applying dye to the pipe’s surface to reveal any problems.
- Ultrasonic testing: using ultrasound technology to measure the inside and outside of pipes to find thinning walls and other signs of damage.
- Magnetic particle testing: evaluating a ferrous surface to find its weak spots.
Tests like these can forestall devastating disasters and their consequences on your company and the environment.