Pipeline owners need to be vigilant in protecting their assets from corrosion
As a population, Australians are critically dependent on the pipelines that deliver essential services to our homes and businesses. Pipeline owners need to be vigilant in protecting their assets from corrosion - here we take a look at some of the common methods for protecting these vital pieces of infrastructure.
Small sacrifice, big rewards
In Australia, tens of thousands of kilometres of steel pipelines run underground right beneath our feet, carrying basic human essentials such as gas and water to our houses. In addition, there’s also a significant network of pipelines to take things like sewage and stormwater away from the community.
The length and diameter of the pipelines in our network is varied; from large diameter transmission pipelines stretching hundreds of kilometres across the country, carrying precious cargo between states, to the smaller diameter gathering and distribution pipelines transporting gas and water between delivery points.
Pipelines are an integral part of our infrastructure, and given the way we live our lives today, it is important that they are able to fulfil their function. There are several important factors to ensure that the steel pipelines we all depend on stand the test of time in a safe and cost efficient manner.
Laying the right foundations
There are a few simple steps that can be taken at the construction phase to ensure pipelines are up to the task. They include choosing the right material, using the right coating application method and fabrication technique, working with experienced installers during the build and adhering to quality assurance standards.
These are the things asset owners can do before the pipeline is in the ground – but what can be done to ensure a pipeline stays operational once it is buried?
The most common reason for pipeline failure is coating degradation or failure, which causes bare steel to become exposed and then allows it to corrode and fail. This is predominantly a problem with older inferior coating systems used before 1990; but it can also be an issue with new pipelines that were not manufactured or installed properly, or that have suffered some mechanical trauma.
The challenge is that it is difficult to determine where coating defects (and hence corrosion) will occur. It’s also hard to estimate the extent of corrosion damage in a buried pipeline. Further, with older pipelines, it is impractical to excavate and repair large amounts of coating – even if you know where the damage is.