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Corrosion Analysis in a RBI Study

 Published on March 28, 2017

Elimar Anauro Rojas M.

FollowElimar Anauro Rojas M.
Senior - Executive Consultant & Advisor - Process, Integrity, Reliability & Risk Areas / Energy,
Oil & Gas Companies

This RBI Study stage is critical and requires careful analysis having sufficient detailed knowledge of the

equipment, process, and failure mechanisms to make accurate evaluation; reason that, Corrosion Analysis

in a RBI Study is based on design and operating conditions. The applicable process upset scenarios shall

be advised in the documents that will be provided, as described by the Material Selection Documents or


All basic modes of degradation must be considered when identifying damage mechanisms for equipment.

Modes of degradation include: internal thinning due to corrosion or erosion, external thinning due to

corrosion, cracking, metallurgical changes, mechanical forces, etc. This will assist in evaluating

consequences and mitigation methods in later stages.

Additionally, provides guidelines to proactively manage risks due to corrosion, identify, monitor damages

and provide corrosion control options in the Operation & Maintenance phase of the asset life cycle of any

Project. Also, will require periodic revisions based on facility performance reviews, corporate audits, T&I

or Turnaround findings, changes in design, feed composition, capacity and operational parameters or RBI

Assessment updated, amount others.

Each process unit shall been broken down into corrosion loops (CL) with the main damage mechanisms

and their marked up into each Process Flow Diagram (PFDs) with distinctive and unique colors which

will show the group of piping and equipment within each CL.

Each CL is a practical way to describe, understand and check degradation mechanisms in a unit and

consists of a group of assets (piping system and equipment) grouped together with similar process

conditions, made of similar materials of construction and sharing similar corrosion/degradation threats or

same active/potential Damage Mechanisms (DM) as per: ASME PCC-3 Table A-1 or API-RP-580:

Appendix A-Deterioration Mechanisms or API-RP-571: “Damage Mechanisms Affecting Fixed

Equipment in Refining Industry”); whereof the weld fabrication damage mechanisms are outside the

scope of most of RBI study.

Damage Mechanism (DM) is a phenomenon that induces deleterious micro and/or macro changes in the

material conditions that are harmful to the material condition or mechanical properties. Damage

mechanisms are usually incremental, cumulative, and unrecoverable. Common damage mechanisms are

associated with thinning, chemical attack, creep, erosion, fatigue, fracture, embrittlement and thermal


Understanding damage mechanisms is important for the analysis of the probability of failure, the selection

of appropriate inspection intervals, locations, and techniques; the ability to make decisions (e.g.,

modifications to process, materials selection, monitoring) that can eliminate or reduce the probability of a

specific damage mechanism. Also, Identification of the credible damage mechanisms and failure modes

for equipment included in a risk analysis is essential to the quality and the effectiveness of the risk

The guidelines laid out will permit to: ensure minimal foreseeable risk on safety and reliability; assure

maximum life expectancy of aging equipment or identify areas of new technology applications. Based on

that, some of the top corrosion challengers are:

 Stress Corrosion Cracking (SCC): SCC is the cracking induced from the combined influence

of tensile stress and a corrosive environment. The impact of SCC on a material usually falls

between dry cracking and the fatigue threshold of that material. The required tensile stresses may

be in the form of directly applied stresses or in the form of residual stresses. Cold deformation

and forming, welding, heat treatment, machining and grinding can introduce residual stresses.

The magnitude and importance of such stresses is often underestimated. The residual stresses set

up as a result of welding operations tend to approach the yield strength. The build-up of corrosion

products in confined spaces can also generate significant stresses and should not be overlooked.

SCC usually occurs in certain specific alloy-environment-stress combinations. Usually, most of

the surface remains un-attacked, but with fine cracks penetrating into the material. In the

microstructure, these cracks can have intergranular or trans-granular morphology.

Macroscopically, SCC fractures have a brittle appearance. SCC is classified as a catastrophic

form of corrosion, as the detection of such fine cracks can be very difficult and the damage not

easily predicted.

 Localized Corrosion: can take many forms, such as pitting resulting in numerous surface

cavities, selective galvanic corrosion in the region between two electrochemically different

metals, selective corrosion attack along a weld heat affected zone (HAZ), corrosion attack in

crevices resulting from the concentration of aggressive chemical specie(s), or local grooving due

to impingement. In general, the more resistant an alloy is to general corrosion, the more likely it

is that corrosion, if it occurs, will be localized.

 Erosion-Corrosion: is acceleration in the rate of corrosion attack in metal due to the relative

motion of a corrosive fluid and a metal surface. The increased turbulence caused by pitting on the

internal surfaces of a tube can result in rapidly increasing erosion rates and eventually a leak. A

combination of erosion and corrosion can lead to extremely high pitting rates. Materials selection
plays an important role in minimizing erosion-corrosion damage. Caution is in order when

predicting erosion-corrosion behavior on the basis of hardness. High hardness in a material does

not necessarily guarantee a high degree of resistance to erosion-corrosion. Design features are

also particularly important; designs creating turbulence, flow restrictions and obstructions are

undesirable. Abrupt changes in flow direction should be avoided.

 Corrosion under Insulation: is any type of corrosion that occurs due to moisture buildup on the

external surface of insulated equipment. The buildup can be caused by one of multiple factors.

The corrosion itself is most commonly chloride, acidic, or alkaline corrosion. Intruding water is

the key problem in CUI. Special care must be taken during design not to promote corrosion by

permitting water to enter a system either directly or indirectly by capillary action. Moisture may

be external or may be present in the insulation material itself. Corrosion may attack the jacketing,

the insulation hardware, or the underlying equipment. For high temperature equipment, water

entering an insulation material and diffusing inward will eventually reach a region of dry-out at

the hot pipe or equipment wall. Next to this dry-out region is a zone in which the pores of the

insulation are filled with a saturated salt solution. When a shutdown or process change occurs and

the metal-wall temperature falls, the zone of saturated salt solution moves into the metal wall.

Upon reheating, the wall will temporarily be in contact with the saturated solution, and stress-

corrosion cracking may begin. The drying/wetting cycles in CUI associated problems are a strong

accelerator of corrosion damage since they provoke the formation of an increasingly aggressive

chemistry that can lead to the worst corrosion problems possible, e.g. stress corrosion cracking,

and premature catastrophic equipment failures. If undetected, the results of CUI can lead to the

shutdown of a process unit or an entire facility, and in rare cases, it may lead to a process safety


 External corrosion can result in the gradual reduction of the wall thickness of the equipment or

piping and a resulting loss of strength. It can occur relatively evenly over an area surface

(sometimes referred to as “General Corrosion”) or in isolated spots. This loss of strength could

result in leakage or rupture due to internal pressure stresses unless the component is repaired.
External corrosion occurs due to environmental conditions on the outside of the equipment or

piping. Typically, the external surface of the equipment or piping is coated in order to prevent the

surrounding soil or other environmental condition from contacting the steel, thus preventing the

oxidation process.

 General Corrosion: general attack corrosion proceeds more or less uniformly over an exposed

surface without appreciable localization. This leads to relatively uniform thinning on sheet and

plate materials and general thinning on one side or the other (or both) for piping. It is recognized

by a roughening of the surface and usually by the presence of corrosion products. The mechanism

of the attack typically is an electrochemical process that takes place at the surface of the material.

Differences in composition or orientation between small areas in the metal surface create anodes

and cathodes that facilitate the corrosion process. Most often caused by misapplying materials in

corrosive environments, general corrosion often can be tolerated because the effect of metal loss

is relatively easy to assess and allowances can be made in the initial design. Additionally, some of

the Corrosion Management Strategies or methods of corrosion prevention, control and mitigation

that shall be following are:

 Material Selection: from a purely technical standpoint, an obvious answer to corrosion problems

would be to use more corrosion resistant materials. In many cases, this approach is an economical

alternative to other corrosion control methods. Corrosion resistance is not the only property to be

considered in making materials selection but it is of major importance in the chemical process

industries. Carbon steel is the most prevalent material used; however, with increased capacity and

contaminants, stainless steels are increasingly being specified for resistance against high

velocities and aggressive attack.

 Protective Coating Selection: Engineered coatings are applied on various structures and

operating equipment externally or internally to protect against corrosion/erosion, act as thermal

barriers, prevent fouling, etc. The coatings can be organic, metallic, ceramic or composite-based.

Coatings can be used as barrier films to prevent pitting and microbial induced corrosion, erosion,

and chemicals attacks. They are applied either externally or internally in immersion, buried,

atmospheric and under insulation. There are different coating technologies that can be specified

and customized to fit for the purpose in addition to other corrosion management strategies. For


1. Special ceramic filled epoxy coatings that contain anti-bacterial pigment can be used to protect

piping elbows, exchanger boxes, and valves internals from MIC corrosion. Also, Special coating

for reboilers tubes applied by flooding can prevent pitting and under deposit corrosion.

2. Surface tolerant epoxy or rust encapsulation coatings can be used during maintenance work for

steel structure with high water washing instead of abrasive blasting.

3. Viscoelastic or 100% solid epoxy coatings types are used to protect buried drains and fire water

steel risers from soil corrosion depending on temperature.

4. Immersion coatings are used to protect carbon and stainless steel equipment and piping from

pitting and chloride stress corrosion cracking under thermal insulation and fire proofing.

5. Thin film (40 - 100 mils) thermal insulating coatings types with anti-corrosion prime coatings can

be used instead of conventional insulation, to reduce the risk of corrosion under thermal


6. Ceramic filled epoxy coatings can be used to protect piping elbows, exchanger tube sheets, and

valves internals from corrosion-erosion.

 Corrosion Monitoring: Successful corrosion management is obtained through building a history

of monitoring results and correlating that data to actual T&I or On-Stream Inspection results. The

following methods can be used to monitor corrosion behavior:

1. Corrosion Coupons.

2. Corrosion Probes.

3. NDT Testing (OSI).

4. Laboratory analyses.
5. Corrosion product analysis: Iron counts; Bacteria counts; Brine analysis; Hydrocarbon

composition, gas composition and acid gas content or Monitoring changes in process variables;

i.e., pressure, temperature and/or production.

6. Failure analysis.

7. Visual inspection.

Corrosion coupons and on-line probes are often used in studying the effectiveness of corrosion inhibitor

programs or the effects of specific process changes on corrosion. However, they do not accurately

measure localized corrosion (pitting). The readings should be used to create a corrosion rate loss indicator

through the trending of data. Whenever this indicator shows an upwards trend, the corrosion inhibition

and process parameters of the plant piping and equipment shall be reviewed by corrosion engineer.

Recently, non-intrusive methods has improved and become more reliable to monitor corrosion in systems

where intrusive techniques cannot be used such as in high velocity locations, or high pressure locations.

Most of these technologies are currently under evaluation. Some of the following advanced NDT

techniques may be of use in the progressive inspection of equipment and piping:

1. Automated UT Mapping (P-Scan): This method is used to inspect vessels and piping for

corrosion, hydrogen blistering and environmental cracking particularly for piping.

2. Advanced UT Scanner: This technique is used to inspect piping and equipment at elevated

temperatures (550°F) and is used to verify stepwise cracking and blistering.

3. Time of Flight Diffraction (TOFD): This system is used to detect and size base metal and weld

defects (cracking) on pressure vessels and piping.

 Inspection Techniques: Inspection normally refers to the evaluation of the quality of some

characteristic in relation to a standard or a specification.

1. Equipment: Visual inspection, random ultrasonic thickness (UT) and wet fluorescent magnetic

particle testing (WFMPT) are commonly used to check for localized corrosion and environmental

2. Piping: Various techniques such as random ultrasonic thickness (UT), UT shear wave (UTSW) of

welds and radiography (RT) are used to detect metal loss, weld preferential corrosion and fine


Some of the recommendations for inspection are:

1. For Internal: Performing 10% MFL of tubes, 100% VT with random UT measurements or 50%

VT and random UT.

2. For External: 50% UTT of CML’s; 100% of the CML’s using manual UTSW, AUT or


3. For CUI: 100% external visual inspection and 100% profile or real-time radiography of damage

or suspect area.

Additionally, new technologies should be evaluated in order to obtain better results due to inspection

activities that have to be performed, i.e.:

 On-line Clamp-On Erosion-Corrosion Monitoring System: The monitoring system is a non-

intrusive device that enables measurement of corrosion or erosion damage in piping system. It is

based on acoustic guided lamb wave’s techniques. Utilizing the non-intrusive approach will

provide flexibility in selecting the monitoring locations in congested areas where tools required

maintaining intrusive devices may not have room to function. It can enhance the plant safety and

reliability by identifying and monitoring the loss in the pipe wall thickness. Corrosion detected by

these devices could then be addressed through implementing appropriate corrosion mitigation


 Protective Coatings: The following are some coating technologies that can used:

1. Thermal insulating coating: It is applied as alternative to the exiting insulation on equipment,

piping and valves.

2. PTFE linings for instrument piping/bridle: It prevents corrosion due to stagnation and help better

process control.

3. Glass lining: It can be used on temperature thermo-well probes.

4. Ceramic coatings: It can be used for heater tubes and refractory.

5. Heat Exchange Tube Coating: It can be applied both on external and internal surface of tubes.

 Insulation Component Test (INCOTEST): Using pulse eddy current method for measuring the

remaining average wall thickness under insulation of low alloy carbon steel/ferromagnetic object

and analyzing their decay and is the most reliable method for corrosion detection. This is an

excellent technique to be applied on objects that are insulated and also can be applied on objects

that are difficult or extreme cost accessible. The range of application is enormous and

INCOTEST contributes in significantly reducing inspection cost. This pulse eddy current

technology is an excellent on-stream tool for positioning further inspection works during shut

down or periodic maintenance works. This system does not require cleaning or removal of

concrete/coating/insulation. In most cases scaffolding is not necessary and this results in huge

savings in comparison to traditional inspection preparation cost. By monitoring with INCOTEST,

you will substantially reduce the chances to failure of your equipment. Assessment of the damage

that results from CUI (Corrosion under Insulation) or FAC (Flow Accelerated Corrosion) is a

relatively inexpensive and a prudent prevention method.



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