What causes corrosion in pipes? How can we stop corrosion? These are serious questions that left unanswered can have costly consequences. Next to fire, pipeline corrosion represents one of the most serious threats and potential monetary losses to any private, commercial, or industrial property. Even with countermeasures in place the estimated cost for replacing corroded pipe systems last year cost the US economy over $1.1 trillion. Pipe system failures due to corrosion can be found in the most unlikely of places — fire suppression systems now fail within 2-3 years of installation and even cooling systems fail within 5-10 years. To make matters worse corrosion in pipelines continues to be unrecognized, unaddressed or even ignored until high-corrosion plumbing emergencies occur. What causes corrosion in pipe systems in the first place and more importantly is there a cost effective way to solve the challenge of corrosion in pipes?

What Causes Corrosion in Pipes?

There are a number of variables to consider when looking at why many pipe systems corrode. Often the first sign of a corrosion problem is a plumbing failure resulting in water damage from a pinhole leak or loss of water pressure due to tuberculation from corrosion restricting the diameter of the pipeline. The following are three common reasons why many pipelines corrode.

Microbiologically Influenced Corrosion (MIC)

MIC is one of the most severe cases of corrosion pipeline systems face today. Metals, nutrients, water and oxygen (all of which are commonly found inside any pipe) are the main ingredients for this naturally occurring chemical process which eats away at the metal in the pipe. The existence of MIC in a piping system usually is a serious sign that if unnoticed or left untreated can ruin the integrity of the pipe system. MIC has been found to destroy copper, brass, and stainless steel pipes.

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Interior Pipe Deposits

Commonly referred to as tuberculation, internal rust deposits are the proverbial death trap for most pipe systems. Once corrosive conditions become extremely high these deposits will become even more prevalent. Horizontal lines or low flow pipe systems are likely to be affected by this type of corrosion failure, however it can effect vertical pipe systems as well. The amount of rust deposits will restrict the diameter of the pipe which will increase the chances of back-ups to occur.

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Weather Damage

If a piping system is exposed to weather such as rain, snow, or even an HVAC overspray, corrosion can occur. However, with regular maintenance corrosion can easily be prevented. Since these types of piping systems are exposed, monitoring corrosion will be more apparent than those pipes that are in the ground or inside buildings.

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How to Stop Corrosion in Pipes?

Over $121 billion is spent annually in the United States on corrosion control chemicals, coatings, and other protective systems. Since the process of corrosion begins due to the electrochemical reaction of a surface with corrosive elements – an effective solution is to isolate the internal surface of the pipe with a protective barrier or coating. While there are many variables to consider, CIPP lining (an epoxy resin) is an effective solution to stop further corrosion from taking place inside a non-pressurized pipe system. In cases where corrosion has already begun inside a pipeline, cleaning measures take place before the protective epoxy resin (CIPP lining product) is installed inside the failing pipeline.

For more info about the CIPP lining process check out >> What is the CIPP Lining Process?

Epoxy barrier coatings are also a viable solution to solve pipe failures due to corrosion in pressurized pipe systems. The installation process and epoxy barrier coating makeup are specifically designed for pressurized pipe systems such as HVAC systems, fire suppression systems, and potable water lines.

From critical failures, restoration costs, property losses, downtime losses – the cost of ignoring corrosion in pipe systems is high. Yet with the proper prevention planning and technologies in place, solving current corrosion and preventing future corrosion can be a fight that private, commercial, and industrial properties can win.