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Process Pipeline Disasters from Stress Corrosive Cracking

Pipeline incidents and ruptures have been a hot topic in the media recently. In 2013 alone, there have been 11 serious pipeline ruptures or incidents thus far, many of which resulted in major fuel leakages, fires, and explosions. Damage to a pipeline can also cause damage to local power lines, water sources, and any workers that may be present at the site of the incident. Wildlife can be damaged, ecosystems can be harmed, and the PR damage sustained by a company can be incredibly hard to recover from.

Identifying the Culprits

Pipe in Georgia

One of the main reasons for a pipeline rupture is excavation that is performed without the proper research into the area. Once a pipeline has been ruptured by diggingor excavation equipment, thousands of gallons of fuel can be released before emergency services can shut the pipeline down, so it is vital that any company involved in construction or excavation perform their due diligence in discovering whether or not they may be working near active pipelines.

Another culprit is stress corrosion cracking, or SCC, which can occur when cracks grow and weaken the strength and structure of the pipeline itself. SCC is more likely to occur with pipes of certain alloys, and pipelines which carry certain chemicals. Visually speaking, detecting SCC can be incredibly difficult to spot, due to the
fact that this damage can occur in the form of micro-cracks, which are nearly impossible to see with the human eye. A pipeline can look pristine, but beneath the surface, there may be damage to the integrity of the metal which could lead to a disaster sooner rather than later.

A Look at the History

In 1965, a pipeline near Natchitoches, Louisiana exploded, killing 17 people and destroying 7 residences that were a distant 450 feet away from the site. The pipe was carrying gas, which normally wouldn’t cause this level of disaster. Gas, with other volatile fuels, is transported across thousands of pipelines throughout the world without incident, but all of the factors were there for a disaster:

  • The pipeline had micro-cracks which were undetected
  • A volatile chemical was present in concentrated amounts
  • The environment was not properly regulated for gas transmission

The question then becomes: what can be done to prevent SCC from occurring, and how can we identify the leading factors of SCC before a disaster takes place?

Addressing the Problem

Whether you are in charge of process piping, or you’re handling the inspection of transmission lines, SCC occurs mainly due to corrosive environmental factors. In Britain, certain types of ammunition and firearms were cracked due to ammonia created in the droppings of animals, combined with the high temperatures of the summer and spring seasons. Corrosive environmental factors can happen anywhere, at any time.

The best way to prevent SCC from occurring is to design your system to resist it from the ground up. By working with construction services and choosing the right alloys to resist chemical corrosion, you can form a strategy that will limit the amount of stress placed on the pipes and effectively control the environment to prevent the build up of corrosive, harmful materials.

Control of stress is also vital in the fight against SCC. Depending on the size of the system and the scope of the project, stress-relief annealing or partial stress relief may be the answer for optimal results. By addressing the design of the system, the stress of every day operation, and the environmental factors that can lead to SCC, it is more than possible to reduce your chances of an incident occurring to nearly 0%.

 

 

 

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Process Pipeline Disasters from Stress Corrosive Cracking

Pipeline incidents and ruptures have been a hot topic in the media recently. In 2013 alone, there have been 11 serious pipeline ruptures or incidents thus far, many of which resulted in major fuel leakages, fires, and explosions. Damage to … Continue reading