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Copyright 2005, Society of Petroleum Engineers Inc.

This paper was prepared for presentation at the 14

SPE Middle East Oil & Gas Show and
Conference held in Bahrain International Exhibition Centre, Bahrain, 1215 March 2005.

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The paper gives a contribution to the problematic of external
corrosion of pipelines. The performance of plant and field
joint coatings is detailed and interference between coatings
performance and cathodic protection efficiency is evaluated.
Recent failures on a buried onshore 18 refinery pipeline
coated with FBE and a buried onshore 18 oil pipeline coated
with 3 layer low-density polyethylene and heat-shrinkable
sleeves applied over a liquid epoxy primer are presented and
commented. The so-called cathodic protection shielding ef-
fect prevents cathodic protection current to flow to areas
submitted to corrosion risk under disbonded coatings.
The most critical zone for offshore pipelines is the transi-
tion area between riser thick coatings and atmospheric paint
system where accelerated corrosion may occur.

Pipelines represent a major part of surface facilities invest-
ments and require particular attention. They constitute the
safest method for transporting liquid and gaseous petroleum
products. However, it is of utmost importance to implement an
efficient Integrity Management programme in order to prevent
failures and control them when necessary. This applies espe-
cially to major transportation pipelines, but also to less strate-
gic assets constituted by flow-lines in the production fields.
Generally accepted requirements concerning corrosion
prevention of pipelines have been introduced in the ISO 13623
established by ISO TC67/SC2, devoted to design, construc-
tion, operation, inspection and maintenance of pipelines used
in Oil and Gas industry
Corrosion Management of pipelines consists of four com-
plementary steps:
Evaluation of internal and external corrosion risks from
the preliminary study to the abandonment of the pipeline,
taking into account the best knowledge of corrosion as-
sessment methods and of data relative to the transported
fluid and the pipeline environment;
Implementation of efficient and adapted corrosion preven-
tion systems, including material selection, cathodic protec-
tion, coatings, injection of chemicals, actions on the proc-
ess. All these actions are aimed at preventing or minimiz-
ing corrosion damage for the full design lifetime of the
Corrosion Monitoring, aimed at ensuring that:
Corrosion prevention is applied, when specified,
Corrosion prevention is efficient, when applied,
Corrosivity remains as low as expected, when no cor-
rosion prevention applied.
Periodical Inspection and Re-qualification (e.g. pressure
tests), providing information on the physical condition of
the pipeline with respect to corrosion or mechanical dam-
age (due to various causes like fatigue, third-party im-
Publications have been presented by Total S.A. on these
and the present lecture is aimed at updating major
aspects related to the external corrosion risks of pipelines. It
presents the cumulated experience acquired during 40 years
and includes recent case stories of failures with modern coat-

Major parameters determining corrosion risks
General. All external (and internal) corrosion processes af-
fecting pipelines used in the Oil & Gas industry are of electro-
chemical nature, hence necessitating presence of liquid water
in contact with steel. In addition, an oxidising species is nec-
essary for feeding corrosion cells: this is mainly dissolved
oxygen for external corrosion and H
ion (acidic corrosion at
low pH) for internal corrosion. A specific cause of corrosion
failures is MIC (Microbiologically Induced Corrosion), en-
countered when growth of "sulfidogenic" bacteria (producing
S) is significant on steel surface (local anaerobiose, gener-
ally in moderate conditions of salinity, temperature and pH).
In addition to metal loss type corrosion damage, Environ-
mentally Induced Cracking failures may occur. These are
Stress Corrosion Cracking (SCC), Hydrogen Embritllement
and fatigue-corrosion. SCC is an anodic process where cracks
initiate from depassivated areas. For pipelines, stainless steels
in presence of chloride ions are mainly concerned, as well as
some forms of external cracking for carbon steel. Hydrogen
Embrittlement is a cathodic process and failures are consecu-
tive to the presence of H
S ("sour service") or due to cathodic

SPE 93600
M. Roche, Total S.A.
External Corrosion of Pipelines: What Risk?
2 SPE93600

Soil or water exposure. Contact of steel pipeline with a con-
tinuous electrolyte makes possible the application of the theo-
retically most reliable corrosion prevention method: cathodic
As long as coatings remain bonded to steel and cathodic
protection is correctly applied, monitored and maintained, no
corrosion risk exists. All the (few) corrosion cases known by
the author were due to disbonding of coatings on buried on-
shore pipelines. Disbonding may prevent access of cathodic
protection current to steel exposed to a corrosive electrolyte
(renewal through "pumping effect", presence of sulfidogenic
bacteria): this constitute the so-called "cathodic protection
shielding effect". The same may occur when rocks or stones
make such a screen to the cathodic protection current.
In addition to the metal loss corrosion process, disbonded
coatings may lead to various forms of Environmentally In-
duced Cracking with carbon steel when a conjunction of det-
rimental mechanical and physico-chemical parameters occurs:
high pH SCC at high temperature (local potential in-
termediate between the protection potential and the corro-
sion potential due to partial polarisation)
near neutral pH SCC at ambient temperature (generally
explained by a lack of protection caused by the shielding
This risk is pernicious because not fully detectable using
the best cathodic protection inspection methods, the safest way
of detection being inline inspection using intelligent pigging.
Pipelines are most often made of carbon steels. However,
some of them are made of stainless steels when prevention of
internal corrosion of carbon steel through chemicals is not
efficient or reliable enough. For the external side, corrosion
risks of stainless steels by soils or waters due to localized cor-
rosion forms induced by chlorides (pitting, crevice corrosion,
SCC) are significant. Consequently, they have to be protected
in the same way that carbon steels, by coating and cathodic

Atmospheric exposure. This concerns small lengths close to
the ends of pipelines, but also a lot of flow-lines in their entire
length in desertic areas (e.g. Middle-East, North Africa, Ar-
gentina). Ideally, aerial flow-lines should be efficiently in-
stalled on supports to prevent contact with soil. Corrosion pre-
vention of air exposed surface should be adapted to the sever-
ity level of atmospheric corrosion. They can only be protected
by paint coatings. Their success depends on system selection,
quality of application, inspection and maintenance pro-
grammes. The use of efficient paint systems is systematic on
aerial sections of transport pipelines and flow-lines which are
buried or immersed on their major part. When local atmos-
pheric corrosivity is very low because air is always dry, flow-
lines are left bare without significant attack.

Corrosion prevention of pipelines
Onshore buried pipelines. Coatings and cathodic protection
are systematically used for protecting flow-lines as well as
transport buried or immersed pipelines external surface from
corrosion. Most often, ICCP (Impressed Current Cathodic
protection) is applied: cathodic protection is achieved using a
d.c. current supplied by transfo-rectifiers (technology to be
adapted to local environment) or solar cells powered stations,
to ensure a potential more negative than 0.85 V/sat.Cu-
. Surface ground-beds are generally used, but deep
ground beds may be necessary when resistivity is lower in
depth. Fe-Si-Cr anodes are most often used; alternatively scrap
steel or titanium covered with mixed metal oxides (MMO)
may be used. Basic requirements and recommendations are
published in standards
As much as possible, pipelines and flow-lines should be
electrically insulated from foreign structures in order to ensure
optimization of cathodic protection and a better homogeneity
of potentials (even if resistors or shunts may be installed at
isolating joints to regulate the various systems). Electrical
isolation from treatment and storage facilities is the most im-
portant. Electrical isolation between flow-lines and wells is
especially important when cathodic protection of well casings
is not an objective. Isolating joints shall not be buried to pre-
vent external shortage and corrosion. When separated conduc-
tive water exists inside the line at the level of isolating joint,
factory manufactured isolating spools must be used, with an
internal coating (on the protected side).
Monitoring of cathodic protection functioning and effi-
ciency is carried out through routine checks of CP stations and
periodical measurements at representative locations along the
pipeline route (sometimes with a remote monitoring or control
device). A major question (not fully solved) is raised on the
exact signification of the values measured, because reference
electrodes cannot be at the close contact of steel at coating
defects. Correction of ohmic drop in soil is a difficult prob-
lematic, partially solved by the ON/OFF method (in absence
of stray currents) or by the use of coupons with ON/OFF
measurements carried out on these artificial defects. Stan-
dards give recommendations for these measurement tech-
An optimisation of potential level (between 0.95 and 1.1
) is necessary to prevent:
SCC under disbonded coatings, mainly when other detri-
mental parameters exist (high mechanical stresses, princi-
pally when dynamic, high S content in steel)
Hydrogen Embrittlement where dents and other mechani-
cal damage exist
Coating disbonding of coatings.
Design of cathodic protection systems should be based on
a sufficient number of stations, electrical insulation from other
facilities, adapted stray current drainage and automatic ca-
thodic protection stations when necessary (stray currents).

Onshore pipelines laid on the ground. A number of flow-
lines are laid bare directly on the ground without supports on
purpose. To prevent corrosion on a long term, experience
shows that it is necessary to apply cathodic protection. This
also applies for badly supported flow-lines. Current output and
number of cathodic protection stations should be high enough
to take into account all surfaces of steel in contact with soil. In
some cases cathodic protection becomes practically unfeasible
due to a too high surface of steel in contact with corrosive soil.
Road crossings are always buried and should be protected
using coating and Mg anodes.
SPE93600 3
When the conventional protection criteria are difficult to
achieve locally, alternative criteria may be considered:
- in very low conductive soils : < -0,75 V between 100 and
1000 Ohm.m and < -0,65 V/sat.Cu-CuSO
above 1000
Ohm.m (EN 12954, ISO 13623 and ISO 15589-1)
11, 1, 12

- potential shift of 100 mV minimum at formation or decay
of polarisation (NACE RP 0169, ISO 15589-1)
10, 12

Offshore pipelines. Cathodic protection and coatings are sys-
tematically used for protecting offshore submerged flow-lines
and transport pipelines. Cathodic protection is most often
achieved by galvanic systems using sacrificial anode-bracelets
(generally made of aluminium alloy), sized for the whole de-
sign lifetime, using conservative hypothesis for CBF (coating
breakdown factor)
. More detailed values presently speci-
fied by the authors company are given in Table 1, differenti-
ating between various kinds of plant-applied and field joint
coatings and taking into account eventual presence of concrete
weight coating and joint infill. Mean values are used for calcu-
lating the total weight of anodes, final values for verifying
their dimensions and number.

Table 1: Coating breakdown factors of pipeline coat-
ings for a lifetime of 20 years

Coating Concrete Field joint coating Infill Mean Final
Tapes No 9 13
Bituminous Yes 7 10
Heat-shrink sleeves No 8 11

Yes 6 9
Tapes NA 6 9
No Heat-shrink sleeves NA 4 7
PE reconstituted NA 3 5
Tapes No 4 6
3LPE Yes 3 4
Yes Heat-shrink sleeves No 3 5
Yes 2 3
No 2 3

PE reconstituted
Yes 1 2
Tapes NA 5 8
No Heat-shrink sleeves NA 3 5
PP reconstituted NA 2 4
Tapes No 4 6
3LPP Yes 2 3
Yes Heat-shrink sleeves No 3 5
Yes 2 3
PP reconstituted No 2 3
Yes 1 2
Tapes NA 15 30
Heat-shrink sleeves NA 13 28
FBE NA 12 26
Tapes No 8 12
Yes 6 10
Heat-shrink sleeves No 7 10
Yes 5 8
No 6 8


Yes 4 7

Sacrificial anode-bracelets are typically installed about every
150 m but in some specific cases it is of utmost importance to
increase as much as possible this spacing in order to reduce at
a minimum the number of weld connections of anode lugs
with pipeline to prevent cracks due to:
HISC (Hydrogen Induced Stress Cracking) when sensitive
pipeline steels are used, especially Supermartensitic
stainless steels

Fatigue of SCR (Steel Catenary Risers) used in conjunc-
tion with deep water floating structures like TLP or
In these cases, the most electrically insulating coatings
should be selected. It may be heat-insulating multilayer thick
PP or PU foam coatings for the first case, or 3 layer PE or PP
coatings for the second one. For example, 3LPE was chosen
for Matterhorn SCR in Gulf of Mexico instead of FBE, used
for the pipeline itself. Modeling of CP using PROCOR

software was carried out to demonstrate that anodes located on
the bottom side of 10 pipeline near SCR were able to protect
remote coating defects localized near the surface. Fig. 1 shows
how the potential at the surface of a 1m long coating defect
near surface side varies with time for a conventional polariza-
tion curve (100 mA/m
at 0.9 V/Ag-AgCl-seawater in initial
conditions). Initial value of CBF (0.2 %) was used during 15
days, then mean value (1%) between 15 and 155 days, and
final value (4%) between 155 and 305 days.
Fig. 1: Modeling of evolution of potential on a large (1m
) defect
located near surface side end of SCR coated with 3LPE
Simplified approaches for evaluating potential attenuation
along a coated pipeline are proposed, e.g. by ISO 15589-2
appendix A
. Another method to determine the maximum
distance between anodes consists in applying the following
E = L
.D/ 4.d.(D-e) + R
.j.. D. f
where E is the voltage drop midway between anodes, R
anode resistance, j the current density, f
the coating break-
down factor, D the outer diameter, the specific resistivity of
pipe material, L the anode spacing and e the wall thickness.
To summarize the experience with offshore pipelines, it
may be considered that the only external corrosion cases en-
countered occurred in the splash or aerial zones of risers. No
corrosion problem under disbonded coatings has ever been
recorded so far in the submerged zone because of the absence
of significant "cathodic protection shielding effect" in sea-
water probably due to its high conductivity. Coatings of these
pipelines have always been applied in a plant with field joint
coating on the lay barge or the spool yard, which is another

(1) CETIM (Centre Technique des Industries Mcaniques, France)
Potentiel sur le dfaut
0 25 50 75 100 125 150 175 200 225 250 275 300 325

4 SPE93600
reason which explains this favorable situation as regard to
onshore case when coating was applied over-the-ditch.

Experience with coatings
General. For a better efficiency of cathodic protection and
often to ensure its feasibility, a coating is always applied on
the external steel surface of buried or immersed pipelines.
A key issue during construction of pipelines is to ensure
that enough care is taken for the selection and application of
coating to prevent their disbonding during the whole lifetime
of the pipeline. This means that the coating should be applied
in a plant on pipe lengths before pipeline construction in order
to ensure quality (surface preparation, hot application). It has
to resist to handling, transportation and laying operations and
to service conditions (especially maximum temperature). The
field joint coating applied on girth weld areas after welding
must be compatible with the plant coating and resist to service

Asphalt and coal tar enamels. Over-the-ditch coatings were
used initially but abandoned more than 30 years ago due to the
frequent bad quality of application, depending on the weather
conditions. Plant applied coatings suffered from mechanical
brittleness, mainly coal tar enamels which are somewhat less
flexible than asphalt enamels. Field bending appeared to be
impossible in safe conditions. Corrosion under disbonded
coatings was experienced in various places such as France,
Tunisia, Iraq. However, these coatings are still used offshore
for concrete weight coated pipelines. No damage leading to
corrosion has been identified yet. This may be explained by a
combination of better adherence (plant-applied coatings on
abrasive blasted steel surface) and better efficiency of cathodic
protection in seawater. However, mechanical damage on the
lay barge due to heavy impacts during harsh weather has been
sometimes a problem.
High temperature resistance of asphalt and coal tar enam-
els is highly controversial. Experience was very bad on some
Lacq gas field (France) pipelines coated with a special type of
asphalt enamel designed for high temperature resistance (theo-
retically up to 100C). Experience showed that it was bleeding
and no more bonded to steel after a few years at temperatures
as low as 60 to 70C. Offshore, service temperatures up to 105
C exist on some pipelines coated with such coatings without
identified corrosion but the exact state of enamel underneath
concrete is not known. Slippage of pipeline inside the concrete
coating due to thermal dilatation has been encountered due to
softening of the enamel. Presently, such coatings are no more
specified for new pipelines by the authors company. In some
specific cases (local coating plant capacities), asphalt enamel
may be accepted, but coal tar is forbidden for health consid-

Cold applied tapes. When applied over-the-ditch, the same
problems that those encountered with enamels occurred due to
bad quality of application. Severe corrosion underneath dis-
bonded tapes was encountered, e.g. in Tunisia. Tapes are now
only used for some minor field joint coating projects or for
field repairs.

Mono or two-layer Polyethylene (PE). These coatings were
introduced in Europe 35 years ago. The first use by the au-
thors company was in 1968, offshore Italy in the Adriatic
Sea, applied by fusion of powder (monolayer): massive dis-
bonding appeared consecutive to damage by trawlers. Poten-
tial measurements carried out using a thread-like Ag-AgCl
reference electrode demonstrated that protection was achieved
underneath the disbonded coating. The first use of 2-layer ex-
truded PE was in 1975 onshore Gabon: adherence problems
were encountered during laying. PE application became ma-
ture afterwards and no major failure was then noticed but
monolayer was limited to short lengths (quality less good but
easier to apply in small quantities).
For offshore concrete coated pipelines, it is necessary to
improve shear strength to avoid slipping in the tensioners of
the lay barge between PE and concrete. Shear strength exceed-
ing 5 kg/cm
is specified by the authors company for PE and
PP coatings. A rough finish with PE powder is the most usual
solution. It leads to shear strength of 10 kg/cm
, to be com-
pared with values lower than 2 for a smooth surface.

Fusion Bonded Epoxy (FBE). FBE was developed in the
USA and introduced in Europe (mainly UK) in the 70's. First
use by the authors company was in 1976 for a flare line of
Frigg field (North Sea) due to a low minimum design service
temperature. However, the first main reason for choosing FBE
instead of PE was high temperature (above 60C). Examples
were Sahmah 10" 100 km long oil pipeline in Oman in 1979,
Lacq gas pipelines in 1980, offhore Angola in 1984. A good
behaviour of the powders selected by lab tests was generally
observed, but some problems appeared above 90C: local blis-
ters on an onshore line operating at 95C (Lacq), massive blis-
tering on the hottest side (100 to 110C) of an offshore line
(Angola). Recent failures have been detected and investigated
on a FBE coated pipeline in France; this case story is detailed
in a specific paragraph.
The second main reason for selecting FBE was the use of
offshore reel barge, the aim being to avoid heat-shrinkable
sleeves or cold applied tapes for girth weld coating. Good re-
sults were provided except when thickness was too excessive
at overlaps between field and parent coatings (cracks). This
solution is no more as attractive now as reconstitution of PP
coating at field joints is easily carried out.

Three-layer Polyethylene (3LPE). An epoxy primer layer
has been introduced at the end of the 70's to improve peeling
strength of extruded PE coatings (> 600 N/50mm) and ca-
thodic disbonding. The first use for the authors company was
in 1980 offshore Gabon for 6" and 8" lines. This coating be-
came the standard choice for PE coatings from the late 80's,
using powder epoxy and LDPE (branched structure). PEMD
or PEHD (linear structure) together with grafted adhesive are
now mandatory, because of higher mechanical and thermal
A general good performance has been obtained, but some
problems of massive loss of adhesion between epoxy and steel
have been reported in various countries such as India
, South
, Pakistan or Iran. In 2003, Total has undertaken a
survey in their operating subsidiaries in order to identify and
explain such potential problems. A first case has been found in
SPE93600 5
Syria in 2000 (local disbonding without corrosion). More re-
cently, important failures have been detected and investigated
on the Rabi Cap Lopez 18 pipeline system in Gabon; this
case story is detailed in a specific paragraph. No case of dis-
bonding has been identified on offshore pipelines.

Three-layer Polypropylene (3LPP). This coating was intro-
duced at the end of the 80's, mainly for high temperature resis-
tance, due to failures with FBE above 90C and demand for
higher operating temperatures. It is also interesting for higher
mechanical resistance than 3LPE (selection for rough trans-
portation conditions or rocky soils). Adherence is higher than
3LPE and maintained at high temperature (> 250N/50mm at
100C). The first use by the authors company was in 1990
offshore Angola for temperature about 110C. No failure has
been reported up to now.

Field joint coatings. ISO 13623 recommends that perform-
ance of field joint coatings should be as good as or even better
than the performance of plant-applied coatings of pipes.
Cold applied tapes. For offshore applications, tapes have
been the traditional choice for field joint coating of pipes
coated with asphalt or coal tar enamels and with concrete
weight coating, together with a marine mastic joint infill. They
are no more used by the authors Company on new projects.
Heat shrinkable sleeves (HSS). PE based heat shrinkable
sleeves constitute the classical solution used by the authors
company, especially for PE coated pipelines, onshore and off-
shore, with or without concrete weight coating and eventually
joint infill. Fast curing epoxy liquid primer is systematically
used to improve adherence for onshore applications as the
time necessary for this operation does not cause any problem
and because there is an important risk related to corrosion un-
der disbondments. Recently, important failures have been de-
tected and investigated on the Rabi Cap Lopez 18 pipeline
system in Gabon; this case story is detailed in a specific para-
graph. Fast curing epoxy liquid primer is not generally used on
traditional lay barges. Some specific PE based heat shrinkable
sleeves are used with 3LPP pipe coatings up to a temperature
not yet fully established.
PP based heat shrinkable sleeves have been qualified to be
used with 3LPP coatings up to 110 C operating temperature.
When fully qualified, heat shrinkable sleeves constitute the
simplest method for field joint coating on conventional lay
barge. At high temperatures, it is however necessary to per-
form the same first steps of operations than with reconstituted
coatings, i.e. abrasive blast cleaning, heating up to 200 C
and application of a FBE primer.
Reconstitution of epoxy-polyolefin coatings. Various so-
lutions exist to reconstitute a complex coating at field joints
which is more or less similar to the 3 layer polyolefin plant
Coatings from flame spray polypropylene: It consists of
the application of an epoxy resin primer, in the form of
powder by flocking or by electrostatic spray, or in liquid
form applied by spraying, covered with a coat of modified
polypropylene powder applied by spraying or flame
spraying and then the coating thickness is obtained apply-
ing modified polypropylene powder by flame spraying.
Coatings from hot applied chemically modified polypro-
pylene tapes: It consists of the application of an epoxy
resin primer coat, in the form of powder by dusting or by
electrostatic spray, or in liquid form applied by spraying,
covered with a coat of chemically modified polypropyl-
ene powder applied by spraying and then the coating
thickness is obtained by wrapping hot polypropylene tape
either in a spiral way or in cigarette way.
Coatings from injected polypropylene: It consists of the
application of an epoxy resin primer coat, in the form of
powder by dusting or by electrostatic spray, or in liquid
form applied by spraying, covered with a coat of modified
polypropylene powder applied by spraying and then the
coating thickness is obtained injecting polypropylene in a
proper mould.
The authors company has experience with the two first
processes, with success provided that a strict prequalification
of the applicator is carried out in the precise conditions of the
project. Oxygen Induction Time (OIT) is a critical parameter
to be checked for ensuring acceptable oxidation level for
flame-spray applications.

Riser coatings. Specific coatings are applied on pipeline risers
supported by conventional platforms because they have to be
especially mechanically resistant for tidal and splash zone
offshore conditions. SCR suspended below water surface are
coated with more traditional coatings.
Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP). 8mm thick Glass Rein-
forced Epoxy coatings has been developed in France 30 years
ago. These coatings may withstand temperatures higher than
100C provided that the resin and the curing process are
adapted for these service conditions. For higher temperatures,
epoxy resin may be replaced by specific vinylester resin.
These coatings have been used with success mainly in Gulf
of Guinea and North Sea. However, some cases of disbond-
ments at the upper end have been noticed, sometimes leading
to corrosion in the air exposed area after 10 to 20 years of ex-
posure. In some cases corrosion was severe, leading occasion-
ally to leakage. This was due to specifically aggressive condi-
tions occurring at the transition zone between the thick riser
coating and paint system where protection continuity is diffi-
cult to achieve. Water from the atmosphere may introduce at
the end of the coating and disbond it, leading to undercutting
process due to swelling of corrosion products. Repairs have
been carried out using glass reinforced epoxy applied on site.
To prevent this risk, it may be decided to extend the riser coat-
ing up to at least 2m above the conventional splash zone upper
level (generally at + 4m) or even up to the first deck level for
allowing easy inspection and maintenance.
Elastomeric (rubber) coatings. Polychloroprene or EPDM
(for temperatures higher than 90C) constitute the conven-
tional solution used worldwide, but several disbondments
were encountered (Heimdal, Indonesia): bonding to steel is
very critical. Both primer and bonding agent are mandatory to
reduce disbonding risk.
Important corrosion may occur in the splash and atmos-
pheric zones. Like for Glass Reinforced Epoxy coatings, cor-
rosion was sometimes severe and inspection helped to dis-
cover the problem before leakage. This is either due to espe-
6 SPE93600
cially aggressive conditions occurring at the transition zone
between the thick riser coating and the aerial paint system or
to direct massive disbondments of rubber coating. Transition
zone between rubber type riser coating and three layer poly-
olefin pipeline coating constitutes a critical point where it is
necessary to find a coating avoiding gap of protection and
allowing a good adherence between all the coatings. A good
solution consists in using a cast elastomeric polyurethane 10 to
20 mm thick.

Case stories of failures on modern pipeline coatings
The general behaviour of the modern coatings is good but
some problems appeared in some specific cases on onshore
pipelines, sometimes after a short service life. Two recent case
stories are presented.

FBE coated pipeline. Corrosion under blistered FBE oc-
curred on a 18", 7.9mm thick, 8.9 km long onshore buried
pipeline transporting alternatively hot (80C) heavy fuels from
a refinery to storage facilities and crude oil (40C) in the other
Corrosion was detected in 1998 through intelligent pigging
and DCVG inspection, after 10 years operation. Blistering of
such a FBE coating (0.42mm thick, Tg =100C) at tempera-
ture not exceeding 80C is not usual and it is much more diffi-
cult to explain why corrosion occurred in spite of a good effi-
ciency of ICCP, a supposed advantage of FBE being not to
present the risk of cathodic protection shielding effect. A
study was carried out by IFP (French Institute of Petroleum)
showing that blistering may be explained by decrease of me-
chanical characteristics and increase of ionic mobility at 80C.
A Wet Tg or plasticized Tg of 80C has been measured
using a closed cell for DSC, to be compared with the conven-
tionally measured dry Tg value of 100C for this coating
(see Fig.2 a and b). This constitutes a promising new ap-
proach for studying epoxy mechanical and electrical proper-
. Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy (EIS) con-
firmed a break in the impedance curve at 80C, where barrier
properties of the coating decrease significantly (see Fig.3). On
another hand, corrosion under blisters may be due to lack of
permeability to CP current when the pipeline operates at lower

3LPE and HSS coated pipeline. A case of severe corrosion
associated with disbonding of coatings has been recently dis-
covered on a 234 km long 18 X60 pipeline system transport-
ing oil between Rabi field and Cap Lopez terminal in Gabon.
This pipeline is composed of 3 sections electrically discon-
nected at pig traps:
Section 1: Rabi Batanga, 105 km, laid in 1988/89
Section 2: Batanga Tchengu, 100 km, laid in 1988/89
Section 3: Tchengu Cap Lopez, 29 km, laid in
Pipe inlet temperature is 60C minimum, consecutive to
heating above inversion point for prevention of wax deposi-
tion. Soil is wet compacted sand (pH of sample 5.4). 3LPE
coatings using low density PE (nominal maximum operating
temperature 70C) were applied on line pipes in France and
Germany in compliance with the company specification re-
questing a minimum of 70 micrometers FBE and followed-up
by company inspectors. Field joint coating used heat-
shrinkable sleeves with hot-melt adhesive applied on fast-
curing liquid epoxy (nominal maximum operating temperature
80C). Brush-cleaning was used for surface preparation, abra-
sive blast cleaning being only recommended by the supplier
and not mandatory. The application was fully surveyed by a
company inspector.

20 40 60 80 100 120 140
temprature C



(a): DSC runs with conventional cells: Dry Tg
40 90 140
temprature (C)


89 C
82 C

(b): DSC runs with closed cells: Wet Tg

Fig. 2 (a and b): Evidence of a Wet T
on a failed FBE coating

40 50 60 70 80 90 100



modulede Z

Fig. 3: EIS on a failed FBE coating
The failures. The entire pipeline system was inspected us-
ing a MFL intelligent pig in January 2004. 13600 features
were reported, the majority of which being in the first 13 km
(hottest side). All the signals were due to external corrosion,
the majority (12494) at less than 20% wt, 1168 between 20
and 40%, 11 greater than 40% wall thickness, and the maxi-
mum being 57%, close to section 1 pipe inlet. Excavations in
this area confirmed the information of intelligent pig survey.
The major part of corrosion is located under field joint
coatings at girth welds, massive disbonding of HSS leading to
corrosion caused by the cathodic protection shielding effect
SPE93600 7
(see Fig.4 and Fig.5). Excavations revealed that adhesive was
molten on the whole surface, but bonding on plant applied PE
coating failed due to brush abrasion limited to bevels of coat-

Fig. 4: Disbonding of HSS

Fig. 5: Corrosion underneath disbonding of HSS

3LPE plant applied coating generally appears externally
correct but was found fully disbonded (when cut with a tool)
between FBE and steel at the excavation locations near section
1 inlet. Except the presence of an important layer of magnetite
on the steel surface, no significant corrosion of the steel was
noticed (see Fig.6). However, the analysis of inspection pig
data showed that some corrosion was found under PE plant-
applied coating on some pipe lengths (46 tubes, all in the first
13 km, except one). Excavations showed that in this case PE
coating was longitudinally cracked and opened at 3 and 9
oclock (see Fig.7). No correlation between cracking/opening
and bending during laying was found (4 pipes bent over 46).
Measurements on samples taken from disbonded coatings re-
vealed an important thermal aging of PE (loss of elongation at
break, increase of melt index and Shore D hardness and typi-
cal peaks of aged PE on surface IR spectrum).
As further excavations carried out at all the other inlets and
outlets of the 3 pipeline sections and on spare pipes did not
reveal any disbonding of coatings or aging of PE, it can be
concluded that the major parameter for disbonding and corro-
sion is temperature. No significant influence of cathodic over-
protection (alone) has been noticed: Section 1 was highly
overprotected (-6.4 V/sat.Cu-CuSO
) in 1991 during 2 months
due to dysfunctioning of an automatic solar cells powered CP
station caused by lightning damage.

Fig. 6: Disbonding of 3LPE

Fig. 7: Cracking of disbonded 3LPE

Analysis of problem. Possible explanation for disbonding
of 3LPE is:
water and oxygen diffusion through PE (accelerated by
thermal aging and temperature);
water saturation of FBE layer;
superficial corrosion of steel surface forming magnetite;
all steps being accelerated by temperature.
Corrosion under disbonded 3LPE only occurs when it is also
cracked due to thermal aging, which leads to an important gap
between disbonded coating and steel allowing renewal of ag-
gressive species.
Disbonding of HSS may be due to:
temperature effect;
surface preparation by brush cleaning;
penetration of water at disbonded overlaps over 3LPE
plant coating.
Corrosion under disbonded HSS may be due to:
penetration of water through disbonded overlaps;
shielding effect preventing CP;
8 SPE93600
acceleration of corrosion rate by temperature.
From now it has been decided that abrasive blast cleaning of
girth welds is mandatory when HSS is applied over a liquid
epoxy on onshore pipelines.
Investigations in the field will be continued, especially
through excavations in different locations, for a better knowl-
edge of the effect of temperature on coating disbonding and
thermal aging and of the status of 3LPE where corrosion has
been detected. DCVG and CIPS measurements appeared to be
somewhat efficient to detect the problem. Field tests will be
On another hand, lab programmes are launched to study PE
thermal aging and to investigate the parameters which may be
significant in coating disbonding such as surface preparation
(chloride or grease contamination, rugosity profile or brush
cleaning vs. abrasive cleaning for HSS), epoxy materials,
thickness of FBE, effect of temperature, cathodic overprotec-
tion. Concerning epoxy materials, their precise chemistry (e.g.
the dicyandiamide content
) could explain various behaviours
due to their specific interaction with water.

Standardisation: a way for improvement
Important efforts are currently produced in the field of Interna-
tional Standardization (ISO) for specifying the best compro-
mises for pipeline coatings and cathodic protection.
and Regional (EN in Europe
, Austral-
) standards exist for specifying pipeline coatings, to-
gether with Recommended Practices, especially written by
NACE International
. Presently, significant efforts are pro-
duced to write ISO standards in the frame of ISO TC67 SC2
WG14 (Oil & Gas Industry Pipelines Coatings). A series
of parts of the future ISO 21809 on Petroleum and natural gas
industries - External coatings for buried and submerged pipe-
lines used in pipeline transportation systems will be issued
within a few years, the first ones being:
ISO 21809-1, Three layer polyolefin coatings
ISO 21809-2, Fusion-bonded epoxy powder coatings
ISO 21809-3, Field joint coatings
ISO 21809-4, Two layer polyethylene coatings
The standard on field joint coatings will codify the various
families of coatings, specify general requirements and detail
specificities for each of the families.
The new ISO and CEN standards concerning cathodic pro-
tection of pipelines have been mentioned hereabove.

A comprehensive Corrosion Management system should
be implemented for pipelines from the design stage to
abandonment in order to ensure the safest condition for
these strategic assets during the whole operation lifetime;
It is highly recommended that onshore pipelines be buried
or immersed, including flow-lines;
The best guaranty for ensuring external corrosion preven-
tion of buried or immersed pipelines is based on adequate
cathodic protection and qualified and well applied and in-
spected plant and field applied coatings;
For existing flow-lines laying above ground, when sup-
porting is not possible, cathodic protection has to be
adapted to achieve the best protection level (insulating
joints, additional cathodic protection stations,);
As long as coatings remain bonded to steel and cathodic
protection is correctly applied, monitored and maintained,
no corrosion risk exists. Disbonding may prevent access
of cathodic protection current to steel exposed to a corro-
sive electrolyte ("cathodic shielding effect") and cause ex-
ternal corrosion for onshore pipelines but this risk does
not seem to be significant offshore;
In addition to the metal loss corrosion process, disbonded
coatings may lead to various forms of Environmentally
Induced Cracking which should be assessed for onshore
For offshore pipelines, the major risk of corrosion con-
cerns the transition zone between the thick riser coatings
and the atmospheric paint system, where water may dam-
age the bonding;
In-line inspection using intelligent pigs constitutes the
most efficient inspection method for a corrosion risk
management programme applied to pipelines, including
for detection of external corrosion under disbonded coat-
It is necessary to study the parameters which lead to dis-
bonding of 3LPE coatings;
Sharing experience feed-back is necessary to better un-
derstand these parameters and modify specifications for
improving reliability of coatings and reducing corrosion
Important efforts are currently produced in the field of
International Standardization (ISO) for specifying the best
compromises for pipeline coatings and cathodic protec-

The author wishes to thank his Company and affiliates for
permitting the publication of this paper. He thanks also very
much his colleagues who supplied information and comments
for the preparation of the paper.

CBF Coating Breakdown Factor
CIPS Close Interval Potential Survey
CP Cathodic Protection
DCVG Direct Current Voltage Gradient
DSC Differential Scanning Calorimetry
EIS Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy
EPDM Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer
FBE Fusion Bonded Epoxy
FPSO Floating Production, Storage and Offloading
GRP Glassfibre Reinforced Plastic
HISC Hydrogen Induced Stress Cracking
HSS Heat Shrinkable Sleeve
ICCP Impressed Current Cathodic Protection
3LPE 3 Layer Polyethylene
3LPP 3 Layer Polypropylene
MFL Magnetic Flux Leakage
MIC Microbiologically Induced Corrosion
MMO Mixed Metal oxides
OIT Oxidation Induction Time
SPE93600 9
PE Polyethylene
PP Polypropylene
PU Polyurethane
SCC Stress Corrosion Cracking
SCR Steel Catenary Riser
Tg Temperature of glass transition
TLP Tension Leg Platform

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