Corrosion Control an Enduring Topic

May 1, 2004
The topic of corrosion control seems to be impervious to trends. New technologies and processes come and go as priorities in the minds of water and wastewater professionals...

by Sylvie Dale

The topic of corrosion control seems to be impervious to trends. New technologies and processes come and go as priorities in the minds of water and wastewater professionals; but corrosion control has a pervasive quality that makes it timely no matter what.

It's a good time to talk about corrosion control, on the heels of Corrosion NACExpo conference & exhibition. The National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE), in its annual event that ran March 28 - April 1 in New Orleans, covered a track on cooling, boiler and wastewater treatment.

Industrial WaterWorld readers rank corrosion control near the top of the list for importance. According to my analysis of reader service reports from the last year, more readers request additional information from articles, product releases and ads on this topic than for almost any other topic.

And it's little wonder that corrosion can inspire fear in the hearts of industry veterans — in the U.S. production and manufacturing sector, a 2002 study funded by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and conducted by CC Technologies estimates that $17.6 billion, or 12.8% of the sector's total costs, were spent annually on corrosion-related prevention and repair. The study used 1998 as the reference year.

This sector consists of companies in oil and gas exploration and production, mining, petroleum refining chemical petrochemical, and pharmaceutical, pulp and paper, agricultural production, food processing, electronics, and home appliances.

Breaking it down further, here are the estimated direct costs of corrosion for each type of business within the production and manufacturing sector.

• oil and gas exploration and production, $1.4 billion
• petroleum refining, $3.7 billion
• chemical, petrochemical and pharmaceutical, $1.7 billion
• pulp & paper, $6 billion
• food processing, $1.1 billion

The same Web site estimated that telecommunication, electric power, gas and water/wastewater utilities annually spend $47.9 billion, or $34.7% of total costs, on preventing and controlling corrosion. Of this amount, $6.9 billion is the electric power industry's share. Most of this comes from nuclear and fossil-fueled generating facilities.

The total annual estimated direct cost of corrosion in the U.S. is a whopping $276 billion — approximately 3.1% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The study provides evidence to support its assertion that although the country as a whole has improved the way it deals with corrosion, U.S. businesses and utilities should find more ways of supporting and implementing corrosion control programs.

The study results and additional information can be found at The study was also supported by NACE, with additional information on its Web site at

The costs estimated in this study are direct costs, which means that many costs are missed, including labor, required equipment, loss of revenue because of interruption of service, and the cost of loss of reliability.

Industry experts are hard at work finding solutions for the many scenarios in which corrosion can be a problem.

The technical papers presented in Corrosion NACExpo's March 30 track titled "Advances and New Technology in Cooling, Boiler and Waste Water Treatments" covered such topics as:

• calcium carbonate scaling
• scaling on heat transfer surfaces
• measuring alkalinity
• phosphate inhibition
• new technologies for cooling water performance and control
• boiler water treatment for steam plant performance
• hydrazine solutions vs. alternatives
• dosing of environmentally friendly biocides
• a review of bromine chemistry in industrial water systems

The California Department of Health Services and the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission are conducting research which should yield some information by year's end into whether the use of chloramines to disinfect drinking water hastens corrosion in the distribution system, according to North Coast County Water District General Manager George Kanakaris and NCCWD's Scott Dalton.

If a connection can be found between the use of chloramines and corrosion in lead water pipes, it could provide one more reason for the increased vigilance of all businesses and utilities operating treatment facilities.

Sylvie Dale, Associate Editor

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