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Clamped Type Pipe Construction - Service Life Reduced On Installation Page 1 of 5

Groove clamped type piping construction is becoming more frequently employed in a


variety of applications. Once primarily seen at fire sprinkler service and temporary
applications, groove clamped construction is now commonly found in condenser water
piping from large 24 in. diameter main risers to smaller 2 in. distribution lines. Today it is
commonly installed at chill and secondary water systems, as well as for domestic water
applications.

The groove clamped pipe system, most commonly known by the manufacturer names
Victaulic or Grinnell, offer faster installation, lower installation costs, tremendous flexibility,
among other benefits. While in many respects viewed as equal to welded black iron pipe,
there are a few critical considerations to remember. The premature failure of groove
clamped piping systems can occur, and has been documented to do so, if certain precautions
are not followed.

The most important consideration for a groove clamped installation, from our
perspective, is the method of producing the groove itself. The groove can be rolled or
swagged into the pipe to leave a raised ridge on the interior surface, or it can be cut or milled
from the outer wall.

From its outward appearance alone, it is difficult to identify the method of groove
formation, although the exterior side wall of a rolled groove will sometimes appear with a
slight radius. The below are typical examples of grooved condenser water pipe having been
in service over many years. Obviously, the small gap between piping sections offers a clear
opportunity for deposits to settle and create an accelerated corrosion condition.

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If rolled or swagged, no actual wall loss at the pipe occurs, and the displaced pipe wall
material still exists in the form of a ridge at the pipe's interior. For purposes of calculating
minimum acceptable wall thickness value then, a swagged groove pipe equals that of welded
pipe, and no additional wall loss is factored.

However, if cut or milled from the pipe, significant wall loss results. For 4 in. diameter
piping, 0.098 in. of pipe is lost when the groove is cut; for 8 in. pipe, the loss is 0.107 in. With
a specified groove depth of 0.124 in. for most larger diameter pipes, this wall loss can
amount to 33% of the pipe itself, but as much as 55% of its allowable pipe loss to reaching
minimum acceptable thickness limit.

Often used as an alternative to threading small diameter pipe and the losses which occur,
cutting a groove into pipe can produce equal, if not worse result. Similarly, where extra
heavy or schedule 80 pipe is used rather than schedule 40, the heavier pipe wall often
requires cutting the groove rather than rolling or swagging.

In fact, cutting a 0.124 in. groove into extra strong 12 in. pipe stock of 0.500 in. wall can
actually result in pipe which has a remaining thickness value at the groove which is equal to
lighter standard pipe of 0.375 in. and having a rolled groove. In such cases, the added
expense, labor and anticipated benefit of using extra heavy pipe is negated immediately upon
installation. The possibility that a cut groove is eccentric to the pipe simply adds further
threat.

The below close-up photographs of a typical Victaulic or Grinnell groove illustrates its
depth into the outer pipe wall. Where cut, this represents an unnecessary and potentially
dangerous loss of wall thickness material, and therefore the weakest point along that entire
pipe length.

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The below top right photograph shows the absence of a roll groove protrusion where the
iron oxide deposits have been scraped away. In this case, the loss of 0.124 in. of material cut
out a 12 in. pipe having a 0.375 in. wall, combined with a 15 MPY corrosion rate over 12
years, has reduced the remaining service life of this piping system to zero.

Generally, a look inside the pipe is necessary in order to determine whether the groove
has been cut or rolled. A protruding ridge on the pipe interior, seen in the above left
photographs, shows that the groove has been rolled. The absence of any ridge, shown at the
above right photographs, shows that it has been cut. While many pipe construction
specifications will define the method of grooving, some do not - thereby leaving it up to the
piping contractor.

From discussions with various steam fitters and piping specialists, we have been advised
that cutting the pipe is an easier and cheaper installation method - especially for larger
diameter stock. This may possibly explain why some of our clients have been surprised to
find the groove cut when the piping specification clearly called for a rolled groove. Such
information is typically revealed only after one or more leaks or piping failures have
occured.

Another potential threat involving the use of cut grooved piping has to do with it being

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unevenly cut. We have identified some installations where the groove was cut eccentrically
into the pipe - with the 0.124 in. specified depth of the groove actually measured at 0.050 in.
on one side, and 0.200 in. at its opposite wall. This not only removes an extreme amount of
pipe material in one area, but produces a weakened joint due to inadequate and uneven
clamping.

Such a condition can only be attributed to poor workmanship by the contractor, and is all
but impossible to detect once the pipe is in place. Careful attention to all all aspects of any
piping installation is always justified.

Clamped pipe construction places far more emphasis on maintaining a top quality water
treatment program. For open water condenser systems especially, this means maintaining
excellent chemical inhibitor control and closely monitoring for corrosion rate and
microbiological content. See Technical Bulletin C-2 for recommendations on maintaining
good corrosion control.

Filtration is critically important in order to lower the particulate content and therefore
minimize the potential for under deposit corrosion or MIC to establish itself between the end
gaps of the piping system. See Technical Bulletin W-4 regarding various types of filters
available.

Unlike welded pipe, crevices exist at each clamped joint where dirt and bacteria can
accumulate. A piping system found with pitting activity in any area can be expected to show
even greater threat at the end gap of each grooved clamp pipe section.

While the chemical resistance of the rubber gasket is high, the use of oxidizing biocides
and cleaning agents always introduces the potential to cause deterioration and cracking over
extended time. A review of proposed chemical agents with the piping system manufacturer,
therefore, is always highly recommend prior to any aggressive cleaning program.

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

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indicating that a predetermined amount of pipe wall thickness has been lost due to internal
corrosion.

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