In the realm of science, corrosion has been the subject of study for more than 150 years. It occurs naturally when a material (typically metal) or its properties deteriorate due to a reaction with its environment. The latest estimates by the World Corrosion Organization place the annual cost of corrosion worldwide at around $2.2 trillion USD, which is over 3% of the world GDP. While there are many types of corrosion and corrosion can form on many structures and in many areas, this discussion is focused on energy pipeline corrosion. There are currently over 2 million miles of oil and gas pipelines in the United States alone. These pipelines are important because they supply the fuel needed to power our communities and economies. They are the energy lifeline that sustains our nations, but they are vulnerable.
The World Corrosion Organization place the annual cost of corrosion worldwide at $2.2 trillion USD
More and more, it seems that pipeline ruptures and spills are in the news, creating a negative perspective towards the oil and gas industry and their practices. Aside from unavoidable natural disasters, one of the major contributing factors to pipeline failures is corrosion. More than half the pipelines that travel throughout the United States were installed before the 1960’s. During that time, due to the lack of awareness in the industry of the long-term issues associated with pipeline aging and corrosion prevention, many pipelines had little to no protection from the environment.
Since then, pipeline regulations have increased and advancements in pipeline manufacturing and protection have reduced the aging process and required better protection from corrosion. Unfortunately, older pipelines that predate the newer regulations were essentially exempted from the newer regulations. Therefore, these older pipelines that are more susceptible to aging and corrosion have been the dominate source for many of the recent pipeline failures.
Crude oil pipelines develop corrosion and fail because of the large amount of water that mixes with crude oil. Heated water used to blast oil out of the earth mixes with dirt, which forms a sludge that builds up in the bottom of pipelines. Over time, this mixture causes corrosion and thinning of the internal wall of a pipeline. Because the damage is occurring on the inside, it can go largely unnoticed until the pipeline ruptures or fails.
There are many inspection companies that specialize in internal corrosion detection, but with the growing demand for more pipelines to be built, inspection companies are not able to keep up. This is due to lower interest from younger generations and inspection equipment that limits the speeds of inspections. As participants in the industry, it is up to all of us to continue to create awareness of the issues we are facing and encourage younger generations to get involved.
To find out more about pipeline inspections and how Innerspec Technologies is developing new techniques to aid inspection companies visit our Corrosion Detection webpage and contact one of our Oil & Gas specialists.