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Corrosion occurs when a refined metal naturally reverts to its more chemically stable form. Several factors can make the change happen faster, including:
- Oxygen exposure
- Warm temperatures
- Acids and salts
- Exposure to electrical current
Since corrosion is an irreversible process, people must take proactive steps to prevent it. One option is to design industrial products with corrosion-resistant metals. The use of sacrificial metals is also common. For example, placing magnesium or zinc in direct contact with steel stops it from corroding. Beyond protecting the immediate area, these dissimilar metals safeguard the surrounding surfaces.
Another possibility is to apply a primer containing corrosion-resistant pigments. Those options change the surface metal’s base properties, giving it a high level of electrical resistance.
You may initially think that corrosion will not significantly affect your industrial facility and that there is no need to take action now. However, corrosion control could have a positive, measurable effect on your company’s productivity, reputation and more.
Operating Procedures Can Elevate Corrosion Risk
Many industrial plants’ daily processes naturally create the conditions that lead to corrosion. For example, the water and steam flowing through equipment at power plants undergo regular chemistry tests to address impurities.
A water impurity problem could cause deposits in a boiler, making it less efficient and posing safety risks. Corrosion could also send rust into a water stream.
Stress corrosion cracking is another issue of concern. It develops due to the combination of tensile strain and corrosive environments and causes fine cracks to form. People categorize it as a catastrophic type of corrosion because it’s not easy to spot the damage and estimate the potential ramifications.
In the 1980s, corrosion on a pipe bend in a feedwater pump at Virginia’s Surry nuclear power plant resulted in several worker deaths and tens of millions of dollars in costs when the facility went out of service. That’s an example of what can happen when people fail to notice corrosion in time.
Corrosion is an Inevitable Occurrence
Even the most thorough corrosion control measures cannot eliminate the problem. However, knowing about the parts of an industrial process that are most likely to cause it can help prevent issues.
For example, estimates suggest that corrosion results in $8 billion worth of extra costs for the oil refining and transport industry. However, crude oil itself does not cause corrosion that occurs in the pipelines that carry it.
Instead, trace amounts of water and sediment are the culprits. Also, the pipeline’s environment is relatively cool. That’s in stark contrast to the refining setting, which may be nearly 400 F. Sulfur and acid become corrosive at those temperatures, and heavy crude oil often contains high levels of both.
Keeping corrosion under control in any industry requires knowledge about the surrounding environment's typical characteristics, such as the temperature. That makes it easier to determine what type of pipelining could minimize corrosive effects. For example, polypropylene tolerates temperatures up to 225 F and is a budget-friendly option. Alternatively, polytetrafluoroethylene lining withstands temperatures up to 450 F as well as exposure to most chemicals.
Corrosion Damages Vehicular Electrical Systems
Besides taking corrosion control measures for your company’s metal equipment, pipes and fittings, it’s also necessary to understand the potential impacts on a vehicle’s electrical system. For example, the chemicals used to treat roads in icy conditions can trigger new corrosion or worsen an existing issue related to the wiring on a vehicle’s undercarriage.
Some industrial experts say the increased calcium and magnesium chloride usage on roadways makes corrosion happen faster. These materials also naturally pull moisture from the air, which also speeds the corrosive process.
Moisture getting into wiring systems is the main cause of this type of corrosion. However, checking for sealed connections is an excellent proactive measure. Once wetness affects a wire, the moisture proceeds down the whole length of it, worsening the issue.
If your business frequently uses construction equipment, agricultural tractors or other assets that are regularly exposed to the elements, get into the habit of performing ongoing inspections to check for possible corrosive damage. It’s also vital to store such items properly within your facility, especially during prolonged periods of disuse. Otherwise, corrosion could go undetected for months, resulting in an unpleasant and costly surprise when it’s time to use the equipment again.
Corrosion Creates Costly and Complex Problems
Unaddressed corrosion costs some industries billions of dollars, due largely because of how it necessitates more frequent replacements of affected equipment. For example, the water, acid and salts found in many industrial facilities harm geared motors by accelerating the corrosion rate. Gearboxes may get switched out as often as twice per year due to this reality.
However, using preventive measures and knowing the early signs of corrosion can reduce some of these costs. For example, spotting a problem sooner rather than later should limit its effects and the associated expenses.
The nature of your industry could also make metal deterioration more likely to occur. Estimates suggest that marine corrosion costs $50 billion to $80 billion worldwide annually. This equipment is almost always in or near salt and water, both of which accelerate the process. Such corrosion could harm the environment, plus hurt a company’s bottom line.
Checking equipment for corrosion and conducting efficient repairs when necessary is crucial for limiting unwanted effects. Becoming more aware of the issue could also help company leaders notice trends that enable making future improvements.
Know Which Repairs to Consider
Some problems caused by corrosion are exceptionally awkward to repair. The anaerobic digesters used in the biomass sector are particularly prone to damage due to the required fermentation and oxidation processes. That’s true for both concrete and steel varieties. However, the steel types usually have glass linings to combat corrosion.
The downside of the glass lining is that it can be damaged. Even seemingly minor breakage can cause methane or liquid digestate leakage. Also, a digester produces methane and carbon dioxide. These combustible gases have an elevated explosive potential.
Thus, static electricity or the sparks from welding equipment could have dangerous consequences. These characteristics take some repair options out of the question. However, two common possibilities are to apply an epoxy paste or affix plates to the outside of the digester to deal with known leaks.
This example shows that even some measures to keep corrosion at bay can cause issues. That does not mean you should take them out of consideration. However, knowing how to safely and effectively fix any problems is crucial to prevent making those matters worse.
Corrosion Control Requires Careful Choices
These tips and examples show that corrosion control means taking materials, processes and environmental characteristics into account. However, studying those factors before deciding how to manage corrosion should lead to favourable results.