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0 Description of the Damage Mechanism

Corrosion under insulation (CUI) results from the collection of water in the vapor
space between the insulation and the metal surface. Sources of water may include
rain, water leaks, condensation, cooling water tower drift, deluge systems, and steam
tracing leaks. CUI causes wall loss in the form of localized corrosion. CUI generally
occurs in the temperature range between -12C and 150C, with temperature range
of 60C to 120C being the most severe environment.

Generally, plants located in areas with high annual rainfall or warmer, marine
locations are more prone to CUI than plants located in cooler, drier, mid-continent
locations. External inspection of insulated systems should include a review of the
integrity of the insulation system for conditions that could lead to CUI and for signs of
ongoing CUI (i.e. rust stains or bulging). However, external indicators of CUI are not
always present. Mitigation of CUI is accomplished through good insulation practices
and the use of appropriate coatings.

Special attention should be given to insulate stainless steel equipment and piping, as
insulation can cause chloride stress corrosion cracking of these alloys. Insulation can
be a source of chlorides or can cause the retention of water and concentrating of
chlorides under the insulation.

A detailed technical description of the damage mechanism is attached in appendix A

of the present document.

2.0 Definitions
API American Petroleum Institute

CUI Corrosion under Insulation

CL- SCC - chloride stress corrosion cracking

IR Infrared

NACE National Association of Corrosion Engineers

UT Ultrasonic Testing

3.0 References

1) API RP 571, Damage Mechanisms Affecting Fixed Equipment in the Refining

Industry, First Edition, January 2003.

2) API Publication 581, Risk-Based Inspection - Base Resource Document,

2nd Edition, October 2000, American Petroleum Institute, Washington, D.C.,

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3) NACE Standard RP0198-98, The Control of Corrosion Under Thermal
Insulation, and Fireproofing A Systems Approach, NACE International, TX,

4) W.I. Pollock and C.N. Steely, Corrosion Under Wet Thermal Insulation,
NACE International, TX, 1990.

4.0 Damage Likelihood Assessment

This section contains questions to determine if equipment is susceptible to the

damage mechanism and provides a damage likelihood scoring:

Is the Material Carbon or No No foreseeable CUI Corrosion

Low alloy steel? CUI Score = 1


Is Material Insulated?


Is Operating temperature No
below 150 Deg. Celsius?


Is Operating temperature Yes Serious external corrosion

<= 15 Deg. Celsius? CUI score = 3


Is 15 DegC < Op. Temp. < 60 DegC

Serious external corrosion
CUI score = 2
120 DegC < Op. Temp. < 150 DegC ?

Serious external corrosion

Is 60 DegC <= Op. Temp. <=120 DegC ?
CUI score = 4

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4.0 Time Dependency of the Damage Mechanism

The damage mechanism should be considered as Time Dependant

5.0 Effectiveness of the Inspection Plan

The mechanism results in localized external thinning damage.

Therefore, the inspection plan effectiveness level should be evaluated using the
Control Plan 03 Control for Localized External Thinning (CUI).

6.0 Surveillance of the Damage Mechanism

The damage mechanism cannot normally be monitored but the evolution of the
mechanism can be verified during the operation of the circuit.

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Appendix A

Technical Description of the Damage Mechanism

A.1 Description of the Damage

Corrosion under insulation (CUI) can be defined as corrosion of piping,

pressure vessels and structural components resulting from trapping water
under insulation or fireproofing.

A.2 Materials Affected

Carbon steel, low alloy steels, 300 Series and duplex SS.

A.3 Critical Parameters

a) Critical factors are: the design of insulation system, temperature,

environment (humidity, rainfall and chlorides from marine environment,
industrial environments containing high SO2).

b) Poor design and or installations that allow water to become trapped will
increase CUI.

c) Corrosion rates increase with increasing metal temperature up to the point

where the water evaporates quickly.

d) Corrosion becomes more severe at metal temperatures between the

boiling point 100C (212F) and about 120C (250F), where water is less
likely to vaporize and insulation stays wet longer.

e) In marine environments or areas where significant amounts of moisture

may be present, the upper temperature range where CUI may occur can
be extended significantly above 120C (250F).

f) Damage is minimized by effective protection of the substrate by coatings.

g) Insulating materials that hold moisture (wick) can be more of a problem.

h) Cyclic thermal operation or intermittent service can increase corrosion.

i) Equipment that operates below the water dewpoint tends to condense

water on the metal surface providing a wet environment.

j) Damage is aggravated by contaminants that may be leached out of the

insulation, such as chlorides.

k) Plants located in areas with high annual rainfall or warmer, marine

locations are more prone to CUI than plants located in cooler, drier, mid-
continent locations.

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l) Environments that provide airborne contaminants such as chlorides
(marine environments, cooling tower drift) or SO 2 (stack emissions) can
accelerate corrosion.

A.4 Type of Equipment and Units Affected

a) Carbon and low alloy steels are subject to pitting and loss in thickness.

b) 300 Series, 400 Series and duplex SS steels are subject to pitting and
localized corrosion.

c) 300 Series SS are also subject to chloride stress corrosion cracking (Cl -
SCC), especially in older calcium silicate insulation known to contain
chlorides. Duplex SS is less susceptible.

d) Location Issues: Common areas of concern in process units are higher

moisture areas. The following are some examples of critical areas that
should be considered when performing inspection for CUI:

Areas exposed to mist overspray from cooling towers.

Areas exposed to steam vents.
Areas exposed to deluge systems.
Areas subject to process spills, ingress of moisture, or acid vapors.
Carbon steel systems, including those insulated for personnel
protection, operating between 12C and 120C (10F and 250F).
CUI is particularly aggressive where operating temperatures cause
frequent or continuous condensation and re-evaporation of
atmospheric moisture.
Carbon steel systems that normally operate in-service above
120C (250F) but are in intermittent service or are subjected to
frequent outages.
Deadlegs and attachments that protrude from the insulation and
operate at a different temperature than the operating temperature
of the active line, i.e. insulation support rings, piping/platform
Systems in which vibration has a tendency to inflict damage to
insulation jacketing providing paths for water ingress.
Steam traced systems experiencing tracing leaks, especially at
tubing fittings beneath the insulation.
Systems with deteriorated coating and/or wrappings.
Cold service equipment consistently operating below the
atmospheric dew point.

e) Design Issues:

CUI can be found on equipment with damaged insulation, vapor

barriers, weatherproofing or mastic, or protrusions through the
insulation or at insulation termination points such as flanges.
Equipment designed with insulation support rings welded directly
to the vessel wall (no standoff), around ladder and platform clips,
lifting lugs, around nozzles and stiffener rings.

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Piping or equipment with damaged/leaking steam tracing.
Localized damage at paint/coating systems.
Locations where moisture/water will naturally collect (gravity
drainage) before evaporating (insulation support rings on vertical
The first few feet of a horizontal pipe run adjacent to the bottom of
a vertical run is a typical a CUI location.

f) Damaged Insulation Areas:

Damaged or missing insulation jacketing.

Termination of insulation in a vertical pipe or piece of equipment.
Caulking that has hardened, has separated, or is missing.
Bulges, staining of the jacketing system or missing bands (bulges
may indicate corrosion product build-up).
Low points in systems that have a known breach in the insulation
system, including low points in long unsupported piping runs.
Carbon or low alloy steel flanges, bolting, and other components
under insulation in high alloy piping.

A.5 Appearance or Morphology of the Damage

a) After insulation is removed from carbon and low alloy steels, CUI damage
often appears as loose flaky scale covering the corroded component.
Damage may be highly localized.

b) In some localized cases, the corrosion can appear to be pitting (usually

found under a failed paint/coating system).

c) For 300 Series SS, specifically in older calcium silicate insulation (known
to contain chlorides), localized pitting and chloride stress corrosion
cracking can occur.

d) Tell tale signs of insulation and pain/coating damage often accompany


A.6 Countermeasures and Prevention

a) Since the majority of construction materials used in plants are susceptible

to CUI degradation, mitigation is best achieved by using appropriate
paints/coatings and maintaining the insulation/sealing/vapour barriers to
prevent moisture ingress.

b) High quality coatings, properly applied, can provide long-term protection.

c) Careful selection of insulating materials. Open cell foam glass materials

will hold less water against the vessel/pipe wall than mineral wool and
potentially be less corrosive.

d) Low chloride insulation should be used on 300 Series SS to minimize the

potential for pitting and chloride SCC.

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e) Mitigation of ClSCC under insulation is best accomplished by preventing
chloride accumulation on the stainless steel surface. This is best
accomplished by first maintaining the integrity of the insulation. Second,
by preventing chloride ions from contacting the stainless steel surface
with a protective coating.

f) An immersion grade coating suitable for stainless steel is the most

practical and proven method of protection. However, wrapping of the
stainless steel with aluminum foil, which serves as both a barrier coating
and a cathodic protection anode, has also proven to be effective

g) It is not usually possible to modify operating conditions. However,

consideration should be given to remove the insulation on equipment
where heat conservation is not as important.

A.7 Measuring the Effect

a) An inspection plan for corrosion under insulation needs to be a

structured/systematic approach starting with prediction/analysis then
looking at the more invasive procedures. The inspection plan should
consider operating temperature; type and age/condition of coating; type
and age/condition of insulation material. Additional prioritisation can be
added from a physical inspection of the equipment, looking for evidence
of insulation, mastic and/or sealant damage, signs of water penetration
and rust in gravity drain areas around the equipment.

b) Utilize multiple inspection techniques to produce the most cost effective

approach, including:

Partial and or full stripping of insulation for visual inspection.

UT for thickness verification.
Real-time profile x-ray (for small bore piping).
Neutron backscatter techniques for identifying wet insulation.
Deep penetrating eddy-current inspection (can be automated with
a robotic crawler).
IR thermography looking for wet insulation and/or damaged and
missing insulation under the jacket.
Guided wave UT.

c) Inspection ports or plugs that are removed to permit thickness

measurements on insulated systems represent a major contributor to
possible leaks in insulated systems. Special attention should be paid to
these locations. Promptly replacing and resealing these plugs is

Insulation can be a source of chlorides and/or cause the retention of water and
chloride concentrating under the insulation. The spray from seawater and cooling
water towers carried by the prevailing winds can cause Cl - SCC. The spray soaks
the insulation over the austenitic stainless steel equipment/piping, the chloride
concentrates by evaporation, and cracking occurs in the areas with residual stresses
(e.g. weld and bends). Other cases of cracking under insulation have resulted from
water dripping on insulated pipe and leaching chlorides from insulation.

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Operating Environment
(C) Marine / Cooling
Temperate Arid / Dry
Tower Drift Area

< -12 0.0 mm/yr 0.0 mm/yr 0.0 mm/yr

-12 to 15 0.125 mm/yr 0.075 mm/yr 0.025 mm/yr

16 to 60 0.05 mm/yr 0.025 mm/yr 0.0125 mm/yr

61 to 120 0.25 mm/yr 0.125 mm/yr 0.05 mm/yr

121 to 150 0.05 mm/yr 0.025 mm/yr 0.0125 mm/yr

> 150 0.0 mm/yr 0.0 mm/yr 0.0 mm/yr

Table 1: Estimated Corrosion Rates for Carbon and Low Alloy Steel Under Wet
Insulation in Various Environments

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