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Over the life-span of any building property or plant operation, the replacement,
renovation or addition of various piping systems is a frequent occurrence. Due to the fact
that operating pressures of most high rise buildings or process plants rarely exceed 300 PSI,
internal pressure does not often factor in the selection of pipe schedule.

Today, schedule 40 black pipe is almost automatically chosen for most small diameter
piping needs - with little thought given to the physical wall thickness limitations of the pipe
itself. High pressure steam and other critical services are the exception. As a result, it is not
uncommon to find the premature failure of relatively new condenser or process water
installations, as well as examples of properties which have replaced such small diameter
piping on a regular basis every four, five, or six years.

In contrast, piping systems decades older often provide significantly longer service life.
This is in part due to the previous use of schedule 80 or extra heavy pipe for all threaded
applications. Other factors such as better quality steel and more effective chemical corrosion
protection of years ago also play an important role, but it is the thinner pipe wall thickness
used at installations within the past 25 years which often becomes the most important
limitation to long service life. Review a summary of piping quality, operating, and design
changes which have occurred.

Allegations of poor or unsatisfactory chemical water treatment is almost immediately


cited in such failures, although for most cases, testing will show an acceptable to moderate
corrosion rate. In fact, the problem commonly exists because more than 60% of the original
pipe wall is removed in the threading process, leaving little material remaining. Joint
compounds and sealants, and/or the degree to which the connection is tightened, are rarely
capable of holding back water once the threaded wall area is penetrated by corrosion.

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The below table well illustrates the degree to which the threading process weakens
schedule 40 pipe - a loss rarely considered by building engineers, plant operators, and many
mechanical contractors. A consulting engineer or mechanical designer will often initially
specify schedule 80 or extra heavy pipe as soon as threading is involved, but such plans then
change at some point along the way toward installation. Cost cutting, or reducing the pipe
thickness based on pressure requirements alone, are typically the reasons.

At the smallest sizes, the amount of wall lost during threading actually equals
approximately 65% of the original pipe wall. Such initial high wall loss, coupled with a
corrosion rate anywhere exceeding 2 MPY, will inevitably produce a premature pipe leak.

The long established standard piping formula, known as the Barlow formula, (Piping
Handbook, Nayar, 6th Edition, C.138) is used to calculate the pressure that a section of pipe
of known thickness will tolerate, and is represented as:

tm = PD/2SE + A

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This formula takes into account variances in:

z Pipe diameter
z Internal pressure
z Material stress factor
z Temperature
z Corrosion allowance
z Mill tolerance
z Material strength
z Joint preparation and efficiency

The minimum wall thickness derived by this calculation is relevant for all types of pipe, as
well as for all materials, and is the standard by which design engineers specify the materials
for new building or process piping construction.

In general, schedule 40 steel piping satisfies the engineering requirements of most


building applications. However, under certain conditions and pipe sizes, special
consideration must be taken to ensure that threading or grooving does not reduce the pipe
wall thickness past the permissible minimum dimensions. With threaded schedule 40 pipe
used in condenser water or open process applications, that minimum acceptable wall
thickness standard is not met for most small pipe sizes on the first day of installation.

For illustration, CVI has prepared the following table showing a series of calculations for
carbon steel black pipe in sizes 3/4 in. through 3 in. Different configurations of schedule 40
vs. schedule 80, open vs. closed, and welded vs. threaded pipe are presented.

At the two far right columns comparing both new original pipe wall thickness and
calculated minimum acceptable wall dimensions, we can easily illustrate the threat of using
schedule 40 pipe under certain operating conditions. While corrosion activity is still the
major factor in piping failures, in fact, even new schedule 40 pipe does not meet minimum
minimum thickness requirements in threaded open water applications based upon the
minimum value calculated according to Barlow. In such applications, therefore, the use of
schedule 80 is recommended.

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We can see by both piping tables that the primary cause of failure to meet minimum
specifications is the amount of wall thickness removed in the threading process. Secondary to
that is the higher corrosion rate factor specified for open water condenser systems - a 0.065
in. lifetime corrosion allowance we have well documented as being far too low for today's
operating conditions.

This 0.065 in. wall loss was factored into the Barlow formula based upon anticipation of a
low 1 MPY corrosion rate over the 65 year estimated service life for a typical building
property. With 3-5 MPY being more the average condenser water corrosion rate today, and
with 10 MPY corrosion rates not uncommon, it is in fact possible to exceed this previously
anticipated lifetime corrosion loss of 65 mils in only a few years.

CorrView International has long used the Barlow formula in all ultrasonic piping
investigations, and has found the resulting minimum acceptable wall thickness and
remaining life prediction estimates accurate and reliable. It is the firm recommendation of
CVI that schedule 80 black iron pipe should be used exclusively under such threaded
condenser water conditions - regardless of operating pressures. Its use in other services
where small diameter piping exists provides an added level of protection.

The below sample of new 2 in. threaded ASTM A53 pipe very well illustrates the high
degree of wall loss caused when pipe is threaded. Such thread loss is unavoidable in most
circumstances, but where installed in more corrosive environments, must be compensated

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for by using heavier materials if long service life is desired.

This above cross sectional close-up view of a threaded end of schedule 40 stock shows
the original wall thickness at the left having a micrometer and ultrasonically measured
wall thickness of 0.156 in. - just slightly above the ASTM factory specification of 0.154 in.
This cross section of a standard NPT taper thread shows the deep loss of steel at the right
side or forward edge of the thread.

We can provide another close-up view of the same pipe sample below, and again
showing the cross sectional area lost due to threading.

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Here, a micrometer measurement at its solid wall thickness dimension shows 0.156 in.
of available pipe wall, while the below photograph taken at the lowest cut area of the
threads provides only 0.079 in. of pipe wall. This represents a 0.069 in. or an approximate
50% loss which occurs on the first day of installation.

It is this high initial wall loss, ranging from 35% to 68% of the original schedule 40
pipe wall, which typically limits the service life of any threaded piping system. Schedule
40 pipe typically does not provide condenser water service much beyond 15 years except
at the most well maintained systems - where corrosion can be confirmed at 1 MPY or
below. With 0.069 in. of material at its leading edge, and having a more typical corrosion
rate of 4-5 MPY, it is easy to demonstrate that a service life of 10 years or less is all that
should be expected from schedule 40 condenser water pipe.

Failures at threaded joints represent the most common of all corrosion related problems.
The appearance of a leak is rarely an isolated event, but simply the first indication of a
larger and system wide problem. While spot repairs may extend the service life of the
system, at some point the increased frequency of failure will demand total pipe replacement.
As the piping system is allowed to operate under such conditions, the level of threat for a
major piping failure also increases.

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The below photo gallery illustrates the typical evolution of a threaded joint failure at steel
to steel connections. Under the same corrosion characteristics, threaded joints will always
fail prematurely. In many examples, this loss is amplified by galvanic activity caused by the
direct connection of threaded black pipe to a brass valve or copper fitting. See Technical
Bulletin P-10 regarding galvanic corrosion.

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What appears in the above photo gallery as a corrosion problem originating at the outside
of the pipe is actually the beginning of a small leak. Dissolved iron oxide, fine particulates,
calcium carbonate and other water soluble elements are carried through the microfine
penetration of the pipe to the outside and evaporate. These dissolved elements then
precipitate out and accumulate at the immediate area. As long as the rate of evaporation
exceeds the rate of the leak, the problem remains localized.

Such small leaks are often not noticed or simply ignored. Once the leak rate exceeds the
evaporation rate, however, water droplets travel elsewhere to cause additional problems,
and repairs are required. Ignoring such small tell tale signs of a problem allows a greater
amount of the pipe to wear - thereby possibly creating a much greater leak once it does
eventually fail. The common argument that pipe leaks seal themselves up with internal rust
simply does not hold.

The use of schedule 40 threaded pipe at fixtures such as temperature wells, pigtails,
pressure gauges, and control sensors also presents the same threat. If located before a shut-
off valve, the failure of even such small piping components can require the shut down of the
entire piping system for repair.

Under controlled corrosion conditions of 1 MPY of less, such as occurs typically at chill
water systems and other closed conditions, threaded schedule 40 pipe offers generally
acceptable service life. Yet, under extremely high corrosion conditions, the installation of
threaded schedule 40 pipe can produce failures in as little as two years.

It should be noted that while schedule 80 pipe does provide greater wall thickness and
therefore greater pipe life, it does not offer substantially longer service life under high
corrosion conditions exceeding 10 MPY. Brass valve to carbon steel connections lacking a
galvanic coupling or insulator, a common installation scenario, simply accelerate the
corrosion process.

In short, a high corrosion condition is a problem - but a high corrosion condition where

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threaded schedule 40 pipe has been installed represents significantly greater threat, and
difficulty to correct.

Under controlled corrosion conditions of 1 MPY of less, such as occurs typically at chill
water systems and other closed conditions, threaded schedule 40 pipe offers generally
acceptable service life. Yet, under extremely high corrosion conditions, the installation of
threaded schedule 40 pipe can produce failures in as little as two years.

It should be noted that while schedule 80 pipe does provide greater wall thickness and
therefore greater pipe life, it does not offer substantially longer service life under high
corrosion conditions exceeding 10 MPY. Brass valve to carbon steel connections lacking a
galvanic coupling or insulator, a common installation scenario, simply accelerate the
corrosion process.

In short, a high corrosion condition is a problem - but a high corrosion condition where
threaded schedule 40 pipe has been installed represents significantly greater threat, and
difficulty to correct.

Review our disclaimer on any technical information contained within this article.

© Copyright

CorrView is the first "pipe fuse" for HVAC systems. Produces a brilliant color change
indicating that a predetermined amount of pipe wall thickness has been lost due to internal
corrosion.

CorrView is a new product designed in response to corrosion problems


recognized in over 22 years of chemical water treatment and ultrasonic pipe
testing experience.

This simple, self-contained, low cost, and maintenance free corrosion


testing device provides every property owner / plant operator an easy and
effective means to realistically measure corrosion activity. Ideally suited for
monitoring condenser water and other HVAC or process piping.

We hope the above Technical Bulletin has been interesting and helpful.
Please feel free to contact CorrView International, LLC at any time to discuss
any particular corrosion, piping, or rust problem or concern.

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z Operates Under Actual System Conditions


z Installed Directly Into The Piping System
z More Accurate Than Corrosion Coupons
z Extends Monitoring Coverage
z Provides Added Safety
z Measures All Forms Of Corrosion Effect
z Low Cost, Easy Installation Extends Use
z Provides Independant Testing

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