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the corrosion under insulation (CUI) war has been fought for many years in the petrochemical industry.

The
corrosion processes are well understood but yet CUI often goes undetected until the damage is significant which
may lead to catastrophic failures, e.g. on equipment operating under high pressure. CUI May occur on:

Carbon steel (general/localised corrosion)

Stainless steel (localised corrosion/stress corrosion cracking)


CUI (Corrosion under insulation) cost studies have shown that:

40 to 60 % of pipe maintenance costs are caused by CUI

NDE/inspection costs with a high confidence level for detecting CUI are equal to or exceed field painting costs

Approximately 10 % of the total maintenance budget is spent repairing damage from CUl
CUI risk:
General temperature ranges in which risk of CUI is present:

Carbon steel: -4 C to + 175 C: Risk of CUI (highest risk area: +60 C to +120 C)

Stainless steel: +50 C to +175 C

Insulation of process equipment is normally implemented when the outer steel temperature exceeds 50 C (due to
the risk of work-related injuries as well as heat loss).
Carbon steel:
Insulated carbon steel corrodes due to:

Infiltration of water under insulation (rain, process liquids, fire water, etc.)

Condensation water

Ingress of external contaminants


The insulation material may also contribute to CUI:

Creates a crevice for water retention

May absorb water

May leach contaminants that increase corrosion rate


Temperature and oxygen corrosion rate:
Fig. 1: Curve Showing Corrosion rate of Steel with respect to temperature.

CUI of carbon steel:

Fig. 2: CUI of Carbon Steel


Stainless steel:
Stainless steel (austenitic or duplex) corrodes due to:

1. Chlorides (or other halides) in presence of water are transported to the hot surface

2. The chlorides are concentrated by evaporation of the water

3. The chloride concentration reaches a critical level causing stress corrosion cracking (SCC)

4. (The critical chloride concentration depends on: Temperature and alloy type) The insulation material may also
contribute to CUI:

Creates a crevice for water retention

May absorb water

May leach contaminants (e.g. chlorides) that cause ESCC

Fig. 3: Industry Accepted Chloride Stress Corrosion Cracking temperature Limits


How is CUI avoided?
Avoid that moisture enters the insulation material and the steel surface:

Correct selection and design of the insulation material

Good design of the item to be insulated e.g. it is difficult to insulate around flanges, taps, flowmeters, supports,
etc.

Cover above the insulated item (against rainfall, etc).


Application of corrosion protection On average, 60 % of all insulation in service for more than 10 years will contain
corrosion-inducing moisture!
Carbon steel:

Organic coatings

Thermal-sprayed aluminum (TSA)

(Personnel protecting cages)


Stainless steel (austenitic or duplex)
Organic coatings

Thermal-sprayed aluminum (TSA)

Al-foil wrapping (prevents ESCC and pitting)

(Personnel protecting cages)


Organic coatings on carbon steel:
Experience shows that organic protective coatings on piping in CUI service ranges from 5-13 years

Once the protective life is reached, field re-painting is necessary (or periodic NDE in order to monitor CUI).

Coatings may be damaged during handling and installation leaving unprotected areas.

Important parameters for coatings used for CUI prevention: High permeability resistance (barrier protection)
High flexibility (for cyclic temperature service)
Methods of protection:

Fig. 4: Methods of protection


Thermal Sprayed Aluminium (TSA):
TSA may provide long-term corrosion protection at significant life cycle cost savings, however at higher initial
costs.

TSA provides atmospheric corrosion protection for more than 40 years.

Has been recorded to provide 25-30 years of maintenance and inspection-free CUI service.

Application by electric arc or flame spray.

Requires high quality surface preparation and strict application control.


Advantages:
The coating is robust
Minor pores/damages are protected by the surrounding coating

No under-rusting

Unlimited construction sizes

No risk of deformations (cold process)


Disadvantages:
No treatment in hollow spaces, inside pipes, etc.

The treatment prescribes a certain structural design

Sharp edges must be chamfered/rounded

Often large variations in layer thickness

Quality control

Price
CUI Prevention Strategy:
Data from operating facilities shows that water-free insulation is not practical in ageing facilities. Thus a CUI
prevention strategy is necessary in order to provide long-term and reliable prevention of CUI:
Choice between strategies:

1. Organic coatings on carbon steel; Ongoing re-painting; NDE (does not prevent CUI but predicts remaining life).

2. TSA on Carbon Steel


Stainless steel (+ TSA or Al foil wrapping) Initial, maintenance and inspection costs need to be assessed for each
choice in order to give lowest total lifetime cost.
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