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DATE: 11-18-2010


SUBJECT: Epoxy Coating Systems on Steel Pipe BY: Richard Norsworthy, NACE International Corrosion Specialist #4037
Epoxy coating systems have been successfully used for many years to protect steel structures against corrosion in a variety of environments. This is only true when all parameters of the particular coating system are strictly followed. This technical brief will address the use of epoxy coating systems for protecting steel pipes under insulation in the critical environment of sub-freezing food and beverage industries. The design engineer must be familiar with the types of epoxy coatings available for a sub-freezing environment. There are several selection criteria steps that must be followed. 1. Know your coating! Selection of the wrong coating type will result in quick failure, allowing un-protected surfaces to rapidly corrode. The use of coatings, typically called primers, is an example of poor coating selection. These coatings alone are not meant to provide corrosion protection to steel. Primers are typically applied very thin and if used without proper top coat, these systems will fail quickly through water absorption which reacts with surface contaminants. 2. Epoxy coating systems must be properly selected for the particular environment. Temperature (hot, cold or fluctuating), flexibility, impacts, and chemical exposure are only some of the issues to consider. On subfreezing systems, pipe coefficient of linear expansion is different from the expansion rate of the insulation layer; the repeated expansion and contraction of sub-freezing piping can cause the coating to crack and disbond, allowing moisture vapor to penetrate the coating, allowing corrosion to develop under the coating system. 3. Application methods are also critical. Some require expensive application equipment that must be operated by well-trained applicators. Some can be applied in a more simple process, but acquiring proper thickness is critical to performance. If applied too thin, water will permeate more rapidly causing failure. If too thick, proper cure may not occur which may affect the adhesion, may be more susceptible to damage, and may be more porous to water, cure times must be respected. After the selection of the particular type of epoxy coating to be used, surface preparation is the most critical step in coating performance. 1. All good epoxy coatings call for a very clean steel surface with an anchor pattern. The surface must be cleaned to remove any hydrocarbon and other contaminates. Blasting must be performed to remove rust, mill scale and other defects on the steel surface that cause coating failures. 2. If mill scale, rust and other defects are not removed, the epoxy will lose adhesion allowing water to come in contact with the steel starting the corrosion process. Once corrosion starts in these failed areas, under cutting of the epoxy will become a problem causing more and more epoxy to lose adhesion. Corrosion will continue to destroy the pipe in these events.



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