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The Top 8 Corrosion Trends Found in Piping Systems Page 1 of 6

Over 20 years of experience in chemical water treatment and ultrasonic pipe testing has
provided CorrView International an excellent understanding of many common corrosion
related problems found at commercial office properties and plant facilities. Indeed, we see
the same corrosion problems again and again - which indicates to us some clear and
unmistakable trends for different piping systems and operating conditions.

We offer below some general guidelines of where corrosion problems might exist and
why. Many corrosion scenarios are linked to others obviously in similar cause or effect.
Although the corrosion issue is complex, and may present itself in many different forms, it
often begins due to some simple initiating factor - a lack of chemical treatment, or a faulty
start-up of the system, for example. The presence of a corrosion problem in any particular
area should always raise concern and the need for further investigation.

Higher corrosion rates are often found at the return lines for open
process or cooling tower systems. This difference does not commonly
exist in closed systems.

Sorting a large set of testing data based upon flow direction for a
condenser water loop will often show this difference quite clearly - with
1-3 MPY higher return side corrosion rates not uncommon.

One suggested cause is that the higher temperatures returning to the

cooling tower naturally accelerates the corrosion activity, and/or that it
provides a more suitable thermal environment for microbiological

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Another is that the iron oxide created at the supply side piping then has
opportunity to migrate downstream to the return side - where it is more
likely to deposit and create higher corrosion conditions. See Technical
Bulletin C-4 about the problems associated with interior deposits.

This is an obvious problem well recognized by most experienced plant

engineers and property owners - and which becomes most pronounced
as either the length of the horizontal or vertical pipe run increases.

Particulates, and especially those heavier components, settle out in the

horizontal lines based upon the length of pipe, flow velocity, and pipe
diameter. We consider interior deposits to be one of the most serious
problems affecting any piping system due to the secondary damage
usually created.

This problem exists for open and closed systems both, but more so
obviously at open cooling systems due to the greater source of airborne
particulates, microbiological content, and due to the naturally higher
corrosion rates of an open system. See Table C-1 for the actual pounds
of metal lost at various corrosion rates.

For tall commercial building properties, the vertical risers often show
substantially less corrosion and pitting than the horizontal runs. Longer
vertical runs increase the difficulty for particulates to migrate upward
and therefore horizontal settlement increases. Larger volumes of pipe
also produce a greater volume of iron oxide deposit which inevitably
settles elsewhere.

For large process and manufacturing plants spanning acres of floor

space, particulates entering any length of pipe may not remain
suspended, but instead settle throughout the distribution lines. This
problem is amplified as the piping branches off into smallest lines, and
as the distance from the circulating pumps increases - thereby lowering
flow velocity.

Three separate corrosion scenarios can exist to produce a noticeable

difference between pipe located at the top and bottom of the same

The first involves the settlement of particulates into the lowest points of
the system to produce an under deposit condition with substantially
higher corrosion rates.

Second involves the layout of the piping system, and whether significant

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enough differences in flow rate exist to influence the effectiveness of

the chemical treatment program and/or cause the deposition of

Depending upon whether the system is partially drained over the cold
weather months, a third possibility may be the substantially higher
corrosion which occurs at any pipe which is drained and left open to
the atmosphere. This is a common problem at roof level piping. See
Technical Bulletin # C-3 about increased corrosion activity during
winter or temporary drain down.

Drained pipe is usually linked to the most serious corrosion losses. In

many cases, a high corrosion condition will be traced back to years
earlier - when some event required the temporary or extended draining
of some or all of the pipe. In comparison, drained piping produces
significantly greater metal loss than pipe filled with fresh and untreated

The degree to which draining causes damage is directly related to the

infiltration of fresh air into the pipe. Therefore, it is common to find a
high wall loss at the cooling tower side, and a sudden increase in wall
thickness after an isolating valve, or as the pipe travels further toward a
dead end. See Technical Bulletin # C-3 about increased corrosion
activity during drain down.

Any effort to maintain a piping system filled with chemically treated

water is highly recommended. This includes insulating and heat tracing
outdoor lines in colder climates, and installing critical isolating valves.
Another option is to use extremely effective VCI chemical inhibitors
where possible. See Technical Bulletin # C-9 for further information on
VCI corrosion inhibitors.

For a wide variety of reasons, threaded pipe almost always shows the
first sign of a corrosion problem. This is primarily because as much as
65% of the available pipe wall is cut away during the threading process
itself on day one. This small diameter pipe also offers inherently less
wall thickness - thereby an already thin material is reduced even

Threaded pipe usually exists at lower flow areas, and at the furthermost
extremes of the system at the process equipment or A/C units. Here,
flow rates are the lowest, or may be periodically shut down altogether -
two additional factors commonly associated with higher corrosion rates.

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Threaded pipe almost always involves brass valves or a transition to

copper pipe. This often creates a galvanic corrosion condition at the
threads since, in the majority of examples, dielectric insulators are

Gaps at the pipe fittings also offer opportunity for particulates and
microbiological growths to collect and produce a localized corrosion
problem - once again focused at the very weakest point of the system.
While adequate pipe may exist along 99% of its length, a failure at the
threads usually means the end of service for the entire pipe length.

Any piping investigation, if thorough, is likely to identify some higher

degree of corrosion at the horizontal and/or lower floor piping. This is
obviously due to the settlement of particulates in this area, and the
secondary corrosion effects such particulates create.

In many of those cases, a substantial increase in corrosion activity and

wall loss can be measured at the bottom and lower sides of the
horizontal runs. Primarily dependent upon flow velocity, particulates
settle, and tubercles of iron oxide develop to produce extremely high
under deposit corrosion rates of 25 MPY or greater.

No flow areas of piping can demonstrate dramatically different

corrosion scenarios. Where isolated and truly stagnant, such as exists
for a fire standpipe system, a small amount of corrosion takes place and
then further corrosion activity virtually ceases. It's not unusual,
therefore, to measure remaining wall thickness values near new pipe
specifications in such cases.

Where new water is introduced in to a dead end, by-pass, or isolated

pipe section, results can be the opposite, and extremely high corrosion
activity often becomes established. By definition, such areas of pipe are
never tested for corrosion - as no flow exists to route water to and from
a corrosion coupon.

Any by-pass loops, especially those having the downstream side closed
by a valve, are high priority areas for severe pitting corrosion to
develop. This occurs when particulates enter and settle out in the pipe
in high quantities to produce severe under deposit pitting, and is quite

Pipe serving lead and lag equipment, or where the water flow is shut
down when the equipment is de-energized, is especially vulnerable to
much higher corrosion activity.

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Higher corrosion rates are often found at the new pipe following a pipe
repair, replacement, or extension to an existing system. This is
especially common at condenser or open process water systems.

One easy explanation is the better quality and higher corrosion

resistance of pipe produced decades ago. Its not unusual to measure a
1-2 MPY corrosion rate at 40 year old pipe, and a 4-5 MPY corrosion
rate at newly installed pipe within the same recirculating system.

In many examples, iron oxide and other particulates quickly migrate

into the new pipe to produce an accelerated under deposit condition.
Where new pipe is installed downstream of older constricted pipe, the
greater volume of the new pipe slightly drops the velocity and therefore
allows more settling of particulates.

Galvanic activity between new and clean pipe and old and deposit laden
pipe is also recognized as occurring - although the mechanism is not
completely understood.

In many cases, identifying a corrosion problem is simply a question of looking in the right
direction. Quite often, no problem is known about, nor even suspected, until some special
interest is raised. Under the worst case scenario, a problem may exist for years and exhibit
no indication to the property owner, operators, or chemical treatment contractor.

Ultrasonic testing excels as the most valuable corrosion monitoring tool for the purpose of
finding hidden faults since it provides a quick and low cost method of determining wall
thickness. Coupled with a thorough data analysis, ultrasound can provide an almost
complete understanding of piping system integrity. Areas of concern raised can them be
confirmed or further investigated through metallurgical testing or other methods.

As long as sufficient testing is performed by skilled and experienced personnel, and as

long as key problem areas as outlined above are addressed, ultrasound will produce a
thorough and reliable system evaluation. See Technical Bulletin P-7 for more about the level
of information provided by ultrasonic testing.

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

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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

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.

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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