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Internal Corrosion in Gas Pipelines

Corrosion on the internal wall of a natural gas pipeline can occur when the pipe wall is exposed to water and contaminants in the gas, such as O2, H2S, CO2, or chlorides. The nature and extent of the corrosion damage that may occur are functions of the concentration and particular combinations of these various corrosive constituents within the pipe, as well as of the operating conditions of the pipeline. For example, gas velocity and temperature in the pipeline play a significant role in determining if and where corrosion damage may occur. In other words, a particular gas composition may cause corrosion under some operating conditions but not others. Therefore, it would be difficult to develop a precise definition of the term "corrosive gas" that would be universally applicable under all operating conditions. (reference)

Corrosion may also be caused or facilitated by the activity of microorganisms living on the pipe wall. Referred to as microbiologically influenced corrosion, or MIC, this type of corrosion can occur when microbes and nutrients are available and where water, corrosion products, deposits, etc., present on the pipe wall provide sites favorable for the colonization of microbes. Microbial activity, in turn, may create concentration cells or produce organic acids or acid-producing gases, making the environment aggressive for carbon steel. The microbes can also metabolize sulfur or sulfur compounds to produce products that are corrosive to steel or that otherwise accelerate the attack on steel.

Internal corrosion in a gas pipeline may be detected by any of several methods, including visual examination of the inside of a pipeline when it is opened, external measurement of the pipe wall thickness with instruments, evaluation of corrosion coupons or probes placed inside the pipeline, or inspection of the pipe with an in-line inspection tool to identify areas of pitting or metal loss.

Internal corrosion may be kept under control by establishing appropriate pipeline operating conditions and by using corrosion-mitigation techniques. One method for reducing the potential for internal corrosion to occur is to control the quality of gas entering the pipeline. Also, by periodically sampling and analyzing the gas, liquids, and solids removed from the pipeline to detect the presence and concentration of any corrosive contaminants, including bacteria, as well as to detect evidence of corrosion products, a pipeline operator can determine if detrimental corrosion may be occurring, identify the cause(s) of the corrosion, and develop corrosion control measures.