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AC Corrosion – A New Challenge to Pipeline Integrity

Published by NACE International
Author(s): Robert Gummow
Co-Author(s): Robert Wakelin - Corrosion Service, Sorin Segall - Corrosion Service

Corrosion of steel by alternating current was investigated as far back as the early 1900’s. These early studies and others in the 1950-60’s indicated that AC corrosion of steel was only a fraction of an equivalent amount of direct current (i.e. less than 1 % of a like amount of DC) and in addition was controlled to negligible levels when cathodic protection was applied to industry standards. In 1986 however, an investigation into a corrosion failure on a high pressure gas pipeline in Germany indicated that the sole cause of the failure was AC corrosion. This corrosion failure on an otherwise well protected pipeline resulted in the initiation of several laboratory and field studies which indicated, that above a certain minimum AC current density, normal levels of cathodic protection will not control AC corrosion to acceptable levels and that AC mitigation is often required to prevent serious corrosion. Several other AC corrosion sites were discovered at coating holidays during the follow-up investigations in Germany. A graph, relating AC voltage to holiday size at the minimum AC current density for corrosion, is presented to assist the pipeline operator in determining whether or not a pipeline is susceptible to AC corrosion activity.