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INVESTIGATIONS OF THE CORROSION OF WATER

STORAGE TANK IN AL-KHOBAR PLANT1


Saleh A Al-Fozan, Mohammad Al-Hajri and Anees U. Malik

Research and Development Center


Saline Water Conversion Corporation
PO Box 8328, Al-Jubail 31951, KSA
E-mail : <rdc@swcc.gov.sa >

INTRODUCTION

The Manager, Al-Khobar Plant in his letter No. 3100/011/04/T&I dated 14.1.2004
addressed to the Manager, R&D Center, Al-Jubail requested R&D Center to analyze
the cause of corrosion on the bottom plate of product water tank. The R&D Center
decided to take up the necessary investigation.

BACKGROUND

Al-Azizia pumping station is consisted of six water tanks. The external corrosion of
bottom plates was observed during the inspection by Magnetic Flux Leakage (MFL).
These tanks were constructed in 1982 for the storage of product, brackish and blended
water, respectively.

The results of MFL studies indicated metal losses from most of the product water tank
(OXT60B001) bottom plates had exceeded the allowable material loss. Also, pin holes
were found on the bottom plates.

PRODUCT WATER TANK SPECIFICATION

Tank diameter : 49 m
Capacity : 22,500 m3
Design pressure : vacuum - 6 bar
Design temperature range : 40 – 70oC
Materials
Annular plates : ASTM A 516 gr 70
Bottom plate : ASTM A 285 gr. C
Roof plate : ASTM A 283 gr. C

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Issued as Troubleshooting Technical Report No. 3804/04008 in August 2004.
Metal thickness
Annular plate : 9.5 mm
Bottom plate : 9.5 mm
Roof Plate : 6.35 mm
Corrosion allowance : 1.5 mm

PHYSICAL EXAMINATION

Product water tank was visually inspected. The following are the general observations:
1. Internal coating :
The internal coating was found deteriorated at different locations in bottom, annular
and roof plates.
2. Pitting:
Pits were observed on the entire surface of the bottom plate. Through holes were
also found on the bottom plate at different locations. The holes were concentrated
on or near annular plate as shown in Figures 1 and 2.
3. Metal sample:
Two corroded pieces were cut from tank bottom plate (Fig. 3) for laboratory
analysis. Also, samples of ground bed were collected for same purpose.

LABORATORY ANALYSIS

The chemical analysis was performed in order to determine the composition of the
bottom plate material and underneath layers of the soil. Table 1 shows the chemical
composition of the bottom plate. Table 2 shows the composition of different soil layers
under tank bottom. Table 3 shows the chloride content in soil under tank bottom.

The Energy dispersive X-ray analysis (EDXA) was carried out to analyze the
composition of corrosion products in the pits and the soil layers. Figure 4 shows the
composition of corrosion products covering the pit area. Figures 5, 6 and 7 show the
EDX analysis results of soil under tank.

GENERAL VIEW

The corrosion on the external surface of the bottom plate appears to initiate by an
electrochemical process where the soil beneath the bottom plate acts as an electrolyte.

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The factors which can affect the corrosion of under ground system are soil corrosivity
and/or stray current.

SOIL CORROSIVITY

There are many factors which affect the soil corrosivity. The factor include: pH,
resistivity, moisture content, chloride ion content, sulfide ion content, sulfate ion
content, oxygen content, bacteria, etc. Figure 8 shows the pitting propagation stage over
steel in soil environment.

STRAY CURRENT CORROSION:

Referring to corrosion damage resulting from current flow other than in the intended
circuit(s), for larger structures, this term usually alludes to corrosion damage caused by
extraneous current(s) flowing through soil and/or water. Stray current corrosion has
been classified into the following types:

1. Direct stray current corrosion: Originating from direct current sources such as
dc rail transit systems, dc welding equipment and cathodic protection systems. In
general, direct stray current corrosion is considered the most severe form of these
problems.

2. The flow of direct stray current is not necessarily steady with time, in terms of
magnitude and current path(s). This has led to a further distinction between
dynamic stray currents (unsteady state) and static stray currents (steady state).

3. Alternating stray current corrosion: Originating from alternating current


sources such as overhead ac power lines.

4. Telluric effects: A "natural" form of dynamic stray currents induced by


transient geomagnetic activity.

Stray current which imparts corrosion problem in tanks, is difficult to identify and it is
painstaking to find means to rectify the effects. Electromagnetic or inductive
interference on pipelines or tanks occurs when there is extended and close parallel

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routing with three-phase high voltage alternating current (HVAC) overhead
transmission lines. The induced AC interference voltage is due to any phase imbalance
in the lines as shown in Figure 9. The likelihood of interference increases with rising
operating currents in the overhead lines, with increasing quality of the coating on the
pipeline, and with the length of pipeline parallel to and close to the HVAC transmission
lines. Voltages are induced in the pipeline by magnetic coupling with the high-voltage
lines, and results in currents flowing in the pipeline. These currents result in a voltage
difference between the pipeline and the surrounding soil and lead to localized
corrosion.

RESULT AND DISCUSSION

From the metal loss of tank plate at some locations (9.5 mm) and the operation time
(approximately 20 year), the corrosion rate of bottom plate can calculated. The
corrosion rate at some location is higher than 0.43 mm/year. The design corrosion rate
of tank bottom plate is 0.06 mm/year as general corrosion. This fact indicates that the
corrosivity of the soil under the tank bottom plate was not properly assessed during the
commissioning of the tanks. Figure 10 shows the severity of corrosion under the tank
bottom plate. From the soil analysis data the concentration of chloride ions appear to be
high as shown in table 3 and EDX results. From bottom plate sample and floor scan
results it appears that the corrosion is localized as pitting on bottom plate. Figure 8
shows the pitting corrosion propagation stage on steel surface. The external surface of
the bottom plate is coated by asphalt layer to separate the tank bottom from the outside
environment. The chloride ions in soil had migrated through asphalt layer and initiated
localized attack. Table 3 shows the chloride contents in soil layer beneath asphalt layer
under plate # 43 plate # 54.

The presence of stray current source near the tank also contributed in aggravating the
pitting corrosion bottom plate. Figure 11 shows the transmission lines in the vicinity of
the tanks area. The approximate distance from the line and tanks is 77 m. Figure 12
through Figure 14 shows the results of floor scanning. The results show the severity of
corrosion of tank # OXT 60 B001 and tank # OXT 30 B001 compared with tank OXT
50 B001. The tanks # 30 and 60 are closer to transmission lines as compared with tank

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# 50. This result is an indication of the influence of stray current in accelerating the
corrosion of tank bottom of tanks # 30 and 60.

SOLUTION OF STRAY CURRENT

Grounding the tank bottom to earth discharges the induced AC current, and reduces the
potential on the tank bottom. The tank bottom can be grounded to earth by use of zinc
anodes or galvanized steel grounding rods installed at periodic intervals.

The use of zinc anodes for grounding is effective, provided enough anodes or
grounding rods are installed, and the system is not required to dissipate fault currents
and lightning. Either extruded zinc ribbon can be laid in the ditch with the tank, or deep
rods can be driven into the ground. When the ground resistance decreases with depth,
deep rods are preferred. Deep rods also are more convenient to install after
construction.

If grounding systems are used, they add load to the tank’s cathodic protection (CP)
system. However, the load on CP is small due to 2 factors: (i) the potential of zinc rods
is close to CP potential of the tank and (ii) the area of the ground rods is smaller than
the CP system. AC grounding, however, must be decoupled from the cathodic
protection system. Otherwise, the cathodic protection will not be maintained on the
tank. De-coupling is achieved using polarization cells or new solid-state devices which
pass AC over a pre-set threshold voltage, but which block DC current.

CONCLUSIONS

1. The mechanism of corrosion of tank bottom plate is localized corrosion in the


form of pitting.
2. The pitting corrosion of tank bottom plate is due to the higher corrosivity of
underneath soil which is further accelerated by the presence of stray current
source in the form of high voltage transmission lines in the close proximity of the
tanks.

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RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Application of the cathodic protection system to tank bottom plate will minimize
the corrosion attack due to the soil corrosivity.
2. Check grounding system (rods and connection).
3. Increase the grounding rods numbers.

REFERENCES

1. Test & Inspection Report "corrosion of water storage tanks", Al-Khobar


plant, 2004.

2. J.H. Fitzgerald III, "Stray Current Analysis", in Uhlig's Corrosion


Handbook, Second Edition, R.W. Revie Editor, Wiley, 2000.

3. Electricity Safety (Stray Current Corrosion) Regulations 1999 , S.R. No.


50/1999 Version as at 3 May 1999.

4. Boat US Marine Insurance Report, "Back to Basics" , Seaworthy July


2001.

5. Melvin Romanoff, "Underground Corrosion", NACE publication, 1989.

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Table 1. Bottom plate material analysis

Element Fe Si Al Mn C S
% 97 0.1 --- 0.6 NA NA

Table 2. Under tank soil analysis

Element S#2 S#3 S#4 S#5 S#6


%Fe 48 54 49 0.2 <0.1
% Si (Soluble) 0.1 0.1 <0.1 0.1 0.1
% Al <0.1 <0.1 --- 0.3 0.3
% Ca 1.7 1.1 --- 11.1 9.1
% Mg --- --- --- 1.5 2.3
%K --- --- --- NA NA
% Mn --- 0.4 0.4 --- ---

S # 1 : Plate sample No. 54 S # 2 : Layer 2 below plate No.43


S # 3 : Layer 1 below plate No. 43 S # 4 : Layer 1 below plate No. 54
S # 5 : Layer 2 below plate No. 54 S # 6 : Layer 3 below plate No.43
NA : Not analyzed

Table 3. Chloride content in under tank soil analysis.

Element Unit S#5 S#6

Chloride (Cl) mg/Kg 520 400

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Pits over the tank bottom plate

Figure 1. Photograph showing the pitting over the tank bottom plate

Figure 2. Close view of pits over the tank bottom plate

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Through pits on plate

Plate # 54 Plate # 43

Figure 3. Tank bottom plate as in received condition internal side

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cps

Fe
15

10

Fe
Si Cl
Ca
0
0 5 10 15 20
Energy (keV)

Figure 4. EDX result of pit composition of plate number 43

١٠
cps
8

6 Si

Ca
4

2 O
Al
Mg S
Ca
Cl K
Fe

0
0 5 10 15 20
Energy (keV)

Element Element% Atomic%


O 43.44 61.53
Mg 2.31 2.15
Al 2.72 2.28
Si 20.69 16.69
S 2.59 1.83
Cl 0.99 0.63
K 1.06 0.62
Ca 22.80 12.89
Fe 3.40 1.38

Figure 5. The EDX result of asphalt layer below plate number 43

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cps
40

Ca

30

20

Si

10 O

Mg
Al Ca
Cl
K
S Fe
0
0 5 10 15 20
Energy (keV)

Element Element% Atomic%


O 49.45 68.40
Mg 3.71 3.37
Al 1.65 1.35
Si 9.64 7.60
S 0.49 0.34
Cl 1.37 0.85
K 1.09 0.62
Ca 29.21 16.13
Fe 3.39 1.34

Figure 6. The EDX result of soil layer below plate number 43

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cps

50

Ca

40

30

Si

20

O
10
Mg Ca
Al Cl K
S Fe
0
0 5 10 15 20
Energy (keV)

Element Element% Atomic%


O 48.35 67.46
Mg 3.08 2.83
Al 1.29 1.07
Si 10.83 8.61
S 0.61 0.43
Cl 0.43 0.27
K 1.31 0.75
Ca 31.59 17.59
Fe 2.50 1.00

Figure 7. The EDX result of soil layer around tank (outside tank)

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Soil Surface
O2 O2
Fe(OH)3
Fe3O4

O2 O2

Fe(OH)2
OH- OH- OH- Oxide Film

Fe2+
Fe2+

Metal

Figure 8. Pitting corrosion propagation stage over steel in soil

Figure 9. Different distances between the under ground structures and each phase
transmission line, along with phase imbalance, lead to induced AC
interference on the pipeline

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Corrosion underneath bottom plate

Figure 10. Photograph showing sever corrosion on external side of tank bottom
plate

Figure 11. Photograph showing the tank location and over head high voltage
transmission line A and B

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Figure 12. Floor scanning result of tank # OXT60B001

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Figure 13. Floor scanning result of tank # OXT30B001

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Figure 14. Floor scanning result of tank # OXT 50 B 001

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