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Cathodic Protection
Monitoring for Buried
CEA 54276

This NACE Report reflects international engineering practices and was originally prepared by a joint working group of the
National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE) and the Institute of Corrosion. This report does not necessarily reflect
the positions or opinions of NACE and is a dynamic document open to review: comments may be sent to NACE, Technical
Activities Department, 1440 South Creek Drive, Houston, TX 77084-4906.
Copyright 1990, Copyright control of this document rests jointly with the National Association of Corrosion Engineers and the
Institute of Corrosion.
Issue date: 1988


This NACE Report reflects international engineering

practices and was originally prepared by a joint working
group of NACE (the National Association of Corrosion
Engineers) and the Institute of Corrosion (Icorr). This
report does not necessarily reflect the positions or
opinions of NACE and is a dynamic document open to
review: comments may be sent to NACE, Technical
Activities Department, 1440 South Creek Drive, Houston,
TX 77084-4906. Neither NACE nor Icorr, nor the officers,
directors, or members thereof accept any responsibility for
the use of the materials, practices, or information
discussed herein. This document is informational only and
the use of the materials or methods is undertaken solely at
the risk of the user.

The surveys covered are for use on continuous steel

pipelines buried in normal soil conditions and reflect
general practices within the United Kingdom. This
document may be used for applications outside the United
Kingdom but may require modification as determined by
local conditions.
It is suggested that this document be used with all
statutory and corporate regulations that apply for specific
operations. Acceptance of this document does not imply
its precedence over standards, codes of practice, or other
regulations that may be in force or general usage.
References to be used in conjunction with this report

This report is published for the guidance of managers,

engineers, and technicians who are active in the
monitoring and operation of corrosion prevention systems
applied to buried pipelines and who are responsible for the
integrity of the pipeline system.

(1) BRITISH STANDARD 5493: 1977 Code of

Practice for protective coating of iron and steel
structures against corrosion.
(2) BRITISH STANDARD. Code of Practice 1021:
1973 Cathodic Protection.


1.1 The purpose of this report is to designate procedures

and practices for the monitoring of cathodic protection
systems applied to buried pipelines. The report also
outlines specialist survey techniques, which may be used
for monitoring purposes.

Test locations are carefully selected so that
measurements taken at them will give a reliable and
accurate record of the performance of the cathodic
protection system. It is desirable that such locations
are selected at the pipeline design stage so that the
suitable test facilities may be installed as part of the
initial construction. The accessibility of the locations
is borne in mind, as test points where access is
difficult are unlikely to be inspected frequently.

The report is intended to cover practices for monitoring to

a high standard.
This document is intended to provide information to all
persons involved in cathodic protection, whether at the
design stage, during routine fieldwork or maintenance, or
with the subsequent recording and analysis of the results.

Pipe-to-soil potentials are always measured
with the reference electrode placed in the same
predetermined location for successive surveys. (The
predetermined location is as close to the pipeline as
possible, i.e., placed vertically above the pipeline.)

1.2 Pipe-to-soil
measurements, together with inspections are necessary in
order to ensure that the required criteria are being
continuously maintained and that the applied cathodic
protection system is correctly operating in all respects.

Pipe-to-soil potentials are always recorded
with respect to the reference electrode used and in
the same denoted units.

1.3 The following actions are normally taken prior to the

commencement of monitoring surveys.


2.1 The following measurements are normally recorded

for monitoring purposes:

Pipe-to-soil potential measurements.


Current measurements of sacrificial anodes.


Current measurements of bonds.

Current measurements of individually
controlled anode or cathode distribution systems.

Voltage and current output of transformerrectifier units and their switch or auto transformer

Structure/electrolyte potentials of other
structures associated with the applied cathodic

protection systems, i.e., steel casings, offtakes, tanks,

earthing systems, foreign structures.


3.1 Visual inspection is normally carried out on cathodic

protection equipment to determine the following:



Continued serviceability of equipment




Aesthetic appearance

Transformer-rectifier units


Bond stations

Distribution, control, or junction boxes


Test stations

All other aboveground cathodic protection
equipment, i.e., isolating devices, cable connections,
resistances, shunts, surge divertors, diodes, etc.
Where visual helicopter or aerial indicators
are fitted to transformer-rectifier units, they are
checked for:

3.2 Visual inspection may be directed at the following



non-fading of colour markings
correct electrical and mechanical functioning.


4.1 The test locations that form monitoring survey

programmes are carefully selected with regard to the
following criteria:

Location of transformer-rectifier units.


Location of sacrificial anodes.

A copper/copper sulfate electrode is normally used for

buried structures but other reference electrodes are
available and may be used in special cases.
Reference electrodes are considered more fully in
Clause 6 and Appendix II.
4.3 Regular Monitoring

Location of applied cathodic protection
termination points, i.e., isolating devices change to
nonmetallic materials.

The cathodic protection system is monitored at regular

intervals to check its continuing satisfactory performance.
Each pipeline operator will have determined monitoring
criteria (subject to any regulatory minima).

Location of mid-point test stations or other
sites where a low pipe-to-soil potential may be
expected - e.g., thrust boxes, cased crossings, and
known corrosive areas.

4.4 Monthly Monitoring

Test stations are visited and pipe-to-soil
potentials measured and recorded to determined the
performance level. If any pipe-to-soil potentials do
not meet the accepted criteria further measurements
may be necessary to ensure that protection levels are
satisfactory elsewhere. The stations visited include
drain point, mid points, and end-of-line terminations.
In practice an average of not less than one test
station is visited for each ten kilometers of pipeline.

Provision of an adequate number of
monitoring points for the data to reflect accurate and
realistic performance criteria.
Determination and control of points or areas
of stray current interaction.
Minimum performance criteria as determined
by the initial commissioning of the applied cathodic
protection system.

The transformer-rectifier units are visited and
the voltage and current outputs recorded. The
operation of visual indicators is verified and the oil
level and temperature of oil cooled units checked.

4.2 Pipe-to-Soil Potential Measurements

The locations of sacrificial anodes are visited
and pipe/soil potentials measured. However, when
sacrificial anodes are the primary form of cathodic
protection only a representative selection are visited.

Pipe-to-soil potential measurements are
referred to a copper/copper sulfate reference
electrode which has been calibrated.

4.5 Three Monthly Monitoring

All transformer-rectifier units are visited and
the voltage and current outputs measured and
recorded. The unit is visually inspected with particular
reference to the following:

Ideally, all cathodic protection test stations
are visited and pipe-to-soil potentials measured and
recorded. Where a large number of stations exist, the
monthly inspection may be extended to include a
larger number of test stations, especially in areas
where pipe-to-soil potentials are less negative than

Oil leaks (where oil cooled)

Breather (where fitted)
Oil level
Oil temperature
Cable connections
Surge divertors
Support stability (plinth, wall, or pole mounted)
Time switch
Oil drain cock/tap
Oil samples may be retained from the unit and
tested in accordance with BS.148
Local earthing facilities

All transformer-rectifier units are visited and
the voltage and current output measured and
A visual inspection is carried out on all
equipment visited and reported as serviceable or
4.6 Annual Monitoring

All bonds, distribution boxes, control boxes,
and junction boxes are inspected. Voltage and
current measurements are taken and recorded.
Where necessary the equipment is inspected and
defects reported for subsequent maintenance. Items
to be inspected include:

All cathodic protection test stations are
visited and pipe-to-soil potentials measured and
recorded. At all sacrificial anode locations the anode
current and potential, together with the potential of the
pipeline, is measured and recorded.
The equipment is inspected and any defects reported
for subsequent maintenance.
Items inspected

Cable connections
Surge divertors
Minor maintenance items may be completed at
time of survey

Surge Divertors
Permanent Reference Electrodes


5.1 Record sheets are prepared such that all site

measurements and inspection details can be entered.

Note: When preparing data record sheets for manual use

advice is to be taken with regard to design and
identification; this will assist with the ultimate transcription
to computer storage.

5.2 All record sheets are kept up to date and may be

lodged at a central control point for storage, analysis, and

5.5 Consideration is given to making summaries of

annual (or more frequent) readings, which can assist in
following long-term trends.

5.3 Records may be maintained on data sheets,

computer data sheets, or in computer storage.

5.6 Pipe-to-soil potentials may be plotted graphically

against pipeline chainage either by computer or manually.
By comparison with previous plots obvious anomalies,
faults, and long-term trends are made apparent.

5.4 Records maintained on a computer storage system

are to be available for easy retrieval and analysis.


6.1 All equipment and instrumentation is specifically

designed for cathodic protection monitoring and
maintained in good working order at all times.

6.2 Equipment and instrumentation includes the following

as a minimum.


High-Impedance Voltmeter/Potentiometer

The above meters are sometimes available as a

single multimeter.

The impedance value necessary depends on

circumstances and modern transistorized meters,
whether analogue or digital, with an impedance
typically of 10 megohms or more are suitable in
almost all circumstances. Instruments having variable
input impedance can be useful. Plain moving coil
instruments of 50,000 ohms/volt were normally used
before the advent of transistorized meters and are still
perfectly satisfactory in most cases. Potentiometer
measurement is, however, sometimes essential.

All meters are to be checked regularly and recalibrated at least annually.


Reference Electrodes.

For pipeline use, a copper/copper sulfate electrode

(also known as a half-cell) is standard, but
silver/silver chloride electrodes are necessary for use
in aqueous saline environments and a calomel
electrode may very occasionally be used.


Reference electrodes are to be re-charged regularly

and kept in a clean condition and calibrated before
use. See Appendix II.

A current meter useable over the range 1 mA to 10 A

will cover almost all circumstances.
A zero
resistance ammeter is sometimes desirable - e.g.,
for measuring the current in bonds between pipelines
and current output of sacrificial anodes.


Test Leads, Hand Tools

Meter test leads with appropriate terminations and

hand tools, e.g., spanners, pliers, wire strippers,
hacksaws, are carried as a matter of routine.

Resistance Meter.

Used principally for checking continuity.


7.1 Visual examination is made at every opportunity that

is available. When a pipeline is uncovered it is examined
for corrosion and, where possible, for the condition of the

7.2 Details of examinations are recorded and entered into

the central data storage system.


8.1 Routine Surveys

this. If this is not available in house outside help is


Routine survey work does not normally require the use of

highly qualified personnel. Familiarity with the route to be
surveyed is very time saving, but on-the-job training in the
placement of half-cells and meter reading usually
produces a satisfactory operative for this purpose. This
work can often be done in house if desired.

8.3 Specialized Surveys

Specialized surveys always require specially trained
operatives and usually require purpose-built specialized
equipment. These surveys may only be carried out
economically by appropriately equipped teams, generally
from a specialist contractor.

8.2 Trouble Shooting

Considerably greater experience is required for trouble
shooting and specialist personnel are always employed for


A number of special survey techniques are available for

particular purposes. They are usually time-consuming and
expensive to carry out but give valuable information not
available by other means. Their use is strongly suggested
in appropriate cases.

pipeline, but allowing time for full consolidation of the

9.1 Pearson Holiday Survey
The Pearson Holiday Detector is used to locate the
presence of coating defects and holidays which escaped
rectification before laying or have developed since.

They may be used as a monitoring procedure at intervals

of between three and five years and are initially
undertaken as soon as possible after completion of the

Pearson Surveys may be undertaken on new
buried pipelines that have been externally coated.
They are made after consolidation of the backfill but
not in any event are they made sooner than three
months and not later than twelve months after burial.

Surveys may be carried out with the cathodic
protection system permanently energized. This is
simply an extension of the normal survey technique.
Surveys may be carried out with the cathodic
protection system permanently de-energized. This
technique is often used to locate hot spots, i.e.,
areas of local anodic (corrosive) activity which are not
always so readily observed where the cathodic
protection system is operating.

Care is taken to ensure that the equipment
used is suitable for the coating system that has been
Pearson Surveys may be ineffective in
certain circumstances when stray current or
frequencies are present or in very high-resistivity soils
where satisfactory earth contact is difficult to
achieve, e.g., desert locations.

Close interval surveys may be carried out
with the cathodic protection system periodically
switched on a regular cycle accurate to a fraction of a
second. Specialized switching units are normally
placed in the DC circuits of all the relevant cathodic
protection installations and synchronized with each
other. They are set to a switching cycle that is
generally of the order of seconds with an on/off ratio
that will not allow excessive depolarization of the
structure. When this type of survey is carried out,
potentials are recorded in both the ON condition and
immediately the power is switched OFF (i.e., after 100
milliseconds). This instantaneous OFF potential is a
better criterion of the system performance because it
eliminates the IR drop contribution present in ON
potential measurements, especially in high-resistivity
media or when the magnitude of the cathodic current
density is very high. The OFF potential is generally
referred to as the polarized potential.

The selection of operatives for Pearson
Surveys is given careful attention. No permanent
record is available following a Pearson Survey and
the experience and expertise of the operators are
Both operators ideally would be
experienced but one primary operator may be used
providing he is responsible for determining the
locations of all holidays located.
9.2 Close Interval Potential Surveys
Cathodic protection test stations are normally 100 metres
to 1,000 metres or even more apart and readings taken at
them assume that the conditions in between are similar.
Close interval surveys are used to determine pipe-to-soil
potentials at very close intervals along the pipeline so that
the potential is known at virtually every point, giving
complete confidence in the corrosion protection of the

9.3 Corrosion Coupons

Corrosion coupons may be used on
unprotected or protected pipelines but have a
particular application where stray DC earth currents or
particular polarization features are present.

This procedure may detect coating holidays under some

circumstances but is not as effective as the Pearson
Detector for this purpose.

Corrosion coupons are ideally made of
pipeline material and coated to the same standard or
alternatively purpose made to simulate pipeline
conditions. Coupons are produced such that a
specific portion of the surface is devoid of coating and
subject to polarization effects.

This is a technique, which may only economically be

carried out by specialist contractors with purpose-built
equipment and trained personnel under the guidance of a
corrosion specialist.
Equipment used for close interval potential
surveys comprises:

Corrosion coupons may be installed along
the subject pipeline and connected to it via a test
point facility that allows electrical isolation of the
coupon without interruption of the cathodic protection

High Impedance Corrosion Voltmeter

High Impedance Corrosion Multimeter or
High Impedance Recording Corrosion Voltmeter
High Impedance Data Logger or similar device
Reference electrodes, which have been matched
Cable System utilizing recoverable cable or
disposable wire

Tests carried out on corrosion coupons may
be undertaken with the coupon connected and
disconnected from the pipeline and the test
procedures as adopted for polarized potential surveys

Close interval potentials are recorded either
continuously or at short spacings along the route of
the pipe. A reading interval greater than the depth of
burial of the pipe probably involves a loss of

Coupons are available for use with propriety
electrical resistance corrosion monitoring systems.
The rate of general attack (but not of pitting) of such
coupons may be monitored without excavating or
otherwise disturbing them.

9.4 Attenuation Tests

voltmeter or data logger so that the full effects of the

stray current can be identified.

Attenuation tests may be undertaken to determine the

overall effectiveness of a coating/cathodic protection
system. Such surveys employ specialized equipment
which is designed to compare site measurements against
known criteria for analysis procedures.

Several recordings are necessary at various test

locations in order for these to be analysed for stray
current flow purposes.
Corrosion coupons may be used in areas
where stray earth currents are present in an attempt
to create a stable reference in order that polarization
can be determined.

9.5 Earth Currents

Stray earth currents may be experienced on certain buried
pipelines and the effects of these do not allow normal
monitoring procedures to be followed. Stray earth
currents do not allow stable pipe-to-soil potentials to be
recorded or reliable polarization data to be collected.
Such currents may be induced by local man-made
sources (especially DC traction systems and HVDC
distribution systems) and by geomagnetism (Telluric

Normal monitoring techniques of pipe-to-soil
potential measurement are not reliable and are not
used as indicators of the applied cathodic protection
On long welded lines (i.e., electrically continuous)
Telluric effects can give rise to large fluctuations in
measured potential values, sometimes of the order of
several volts positive or negative. In such cases
(which are most unusual in the UK) specialist advice
is sought either to monitor and suitably correct the
measured values or to choose a survey period when
geomagnetic activity is at a minimum.

Stray earth currents can be identified and
measured so that the source can be found and the
problem rectified.
Stray earth currents are monitored at a static
location with a suitable high-impedance recording


Cathodic protection personnel are to take sensible safety

precautions while undertaking monitoring surveys.

aboveground) run more-or-less parallel to a high-voltage

electric grid system there is a danger of AC voltages being
induced into the pipeline. Under grid fault conditions the
induced voltage can reach hundreds or occasionally
thousands of volts for a few milliseconds and under
unfavourable conditions this could be lethal to an operator
who happened to be reading potentials at that instant.
Grid faults are more severe on 400 KV lines and most
likely during thunderstorms, so operators observe
discretion at such times.

Possible sources of risk include:

10.1 Electric shock from electric mains at transformerrectifiers.
10.2 Collapse of ladders.
For the above two reasons it is desirable that two
operators are available when working at transformerrectifiers.

10.4 In a few locations, where high induced voltages can

occur in populated areas it may be advisable to provide
test facilities with shielded terminals which are not
accessible to the general public.

10.3 Electric shock from pipeline induced voltages.

Where well-coated pipelines (whether buried or


It is not the intention of this state-of-the-art report to deal

with the subject of interaction. Reference should be made

to British Standard Code of Practice No. 1021, 1973 titled

Cathodic Protection.


A summary of criteria for cathodic protection as defined by

authoritative bodies are detailed as follows:

2.2 LEAD
-650 mV

1.0 NACE STANDARD RP0169-831



-500 mV to 650 mV

a. 850 mV with respect to saturated copper/copper

sulfate reference electrode*: determination made with
protective current applied.


b. Minimum negative (cathodic) potential shift of

300 mV produced by the application of protective
current to structure not in contact with dissimilar
metals, (i.e., potential shift from the corrosion


Positive limit 950 mV

Negative limit 1,200 mV

Steel pipelines: - 1,000 mV to 2,000 mV range

4.0 NACE STANDARD RP0675-754 (Offshore Pipelines)

c. Minimum polarization decay of 100 mV when CP

system switched off, when the current is interrupted
there is usually an instantaneous potential shift in the
noble direction. The polarization decay is to be
measured from the point of the instantaneous shift.

a. 850 mV:
no value specified for buried steel where anaerobic
(sulfate reducing bacteria) conditions may exist.

d. A cathodic potential shift at least equivalent to the

start of the Tafel segment of the E-log I curve.

b. Minimum negative (cathodic) shift or swing of 300

mV when protective current applied.

NB: No specific value given for protection against

SRB in anaerobic environments.

c. Minimum polarization decay of 100 mV when

protective current switched off.


5.0 NACE STANDARD RP0176-835 (Fixed Offshore


- A minimum negative (cathodic) potential shift of 150

mV produced by the application of protective current.
- Polarization decay of 100 mV when CP current
switched off.
- Negative limit 1,200 mV.

-850 mV
TNA7036 (Fixed Offshore Installations)



- Polarization decay of 100 mV when CP current

switched off.
- Polarize down to protection potential for most
reactive (anodic) material.
2.0 BRITISH STANDARD CP 1021: 19732

Positive limit
Negative limit

- 850 mV
- 1,100 mV aerobic conditions


Positive limit
Negative limit

- 950 mV
- 1,100 mV aerobic conditions

c. Very high strength steels, ultimate tensile

strength greater than 700 Nmm-2 (45.3 tsi)




Positive limit
Negative limit

850 mV in aerobic environment

- 850 mV
- 1,000 mV

b. 950 mV in anaerobic (sulfate reducing bacterial)


* All potentials in this report are referred to Cu/CuSO4 reference electrode.

from the data in Appendix I.

Suitable conversions to other reference electrodes can be made



a. In the construction of Pourbaix diagrams, it is

assumed that if the metal ion concentration of the
surface of the metal is less than 10-6 g ions/l (gramsions per litre) then from a practical standpoint,
corrosion has been stifled.

a. Nearly 40 years ago Robert J. Kuhn showed that

the optimum potential for cathodic protection of steels
in soils was 850 mV with respect to copper/copper
b. Cathodic protection of steel in five corrosive soils
investigated, critical potential found by point of
intersection of potential-pH curve for steel in air-free
soils and potential-pH curve for the hydrogen
electrode to be about 850 mV copper/copper sulfate,
experiments showed negligible weight loss for steel
specimens maintained at this potential in a 60 day
test. Unprotected samples corroded severely in the
same test.9

Thus if aFe2+ = 10-6 is inserted into the Nernst



= -440 +

= -440 - 177 = -617 (SHE)


log a

Fe 2 +

log (10


c. Laboratory studies indicated that potential

required for full corrosion control of iron in contact
with sulfate reducing bacteria may be about 950 mV
copper/copper sulfate.10

Thus the theoretical protection potential is: -617

320 = -937 mV vs. Cu/CuSO4
b. The protection potential is calculated from an iron
or steel surface saturated with Fe(OH)2 at pH 9:
Solubility product Ksp of Fe(OH) 2

Thus a


1.64 X 10


-5 2

= (a 2- ) (a - ) = 1.64 X 1014

= 1.64 X 10 -4

Inserting this in the Nernst equation as before gives E

= -552 mV (SHE) giving Eprot = -552 320 = -872 mV

d. Toncre11 in a major review of cathodic protection

criteria has pointed out several sources of error in
field measurements that can make the traditionally
accepted 850-mV criterion inadequate; these errors
include IR drop, and half-cell temperature coefficient.
In addition there are requirements to mitigate
bacterial, pitting, crevice, and stress corrosion. Thus
he proposes a revision of the 850-mV criterion to
1,000 mV to provide a cathodic protection safety


1. Placement of reference electrode in cathodic

protection monitoring is important when ON potentials are
being measured to minimize IR drop errors.

Thus the 300-mV shift may be effective in reducing the

general corrosion rate but may be relatively ineffective
against localized corrosion attack.

2. Measurement of instantaneous OFF potentials when

the cathodic protection current is interrupted should in
general give values which are free from IR drop errors.
Placement of half-cell would also be expected to be less
critical. The current interruption technique is only realistic
for impressed current cathodic protection systems.

4. E-log I curves are rarely used for determination of

protection potentials on actual pipelines.13
5. Discrete values or range of values for the least
negative potential that will not cause hydrogen
embrittlement and cracking are rarely found in published
literature, the reason for this is that safe potentials would
be a function of the steel metallurgy, the nature of the
environment, and time.

3. The 300-mV shift criterion appears to have its origins

in the USA where, in the early days, cathodic protection
was applied to bare steel pipelines. It is often rationalized
on the basis that polarization of large areas of bare steel
to 850 mV was uneconomic and that a 300-mV shift
provided adequate (if not complete) cathodic protection to
critical areas or hot spots.

6. Very negative potentials can produce coating

breakdown through hydrogen blistering and/or alkali
degradation where coatings are used in conjunction with
cathodic protection. Breakdown values are often quoted
in the literature and are usually based on laboratory
testing of coated steel panels in aqueous (synthetic
seawater-type) electrolytes.

A theoretical analysis of the Nernst equation demonstrates

that if the applied protective potential (before full protection
is reached) is made more negative by equal increments
starting from the corrosion potential, the first increment will
result in the greatest reduction in corrosion rate.12

For example, one source14 suggests that no coating

should be subject to a cathodic protection potential more
negative than 1,000-mV copper/copper sulfate. Another
source15 provides a list of breakdown potentials. These

have been converted to a copper/copper sulfate reference

electrode scale and are summarized below:
Chlorinated rubber
Coal tar epoxy

The moisture penetration and the vapor-transfer rate of

coatings on pipelines buried in soils will generally be
different; thus the coating breakdown values in soils are
expected to be different from those determined from
laboratory or field tests in aqueous media.

-850 mV to 1,050 mV
-1,150 mV
-1,150 mV
-1,150 to 1,250 mV
-1,650 mV
-2,050 mV



NACE Standard RP0169-83: Recommended Practice

Control of External Corrosion on Underground or
Submerged Metallic Piping Systems.


NACE Publication 2C157, Some Observations on

Cathodic Protection Criteria. L.P. Sudrabin and F.W.
Ringer, Corrosion, 13(5), May 1957, p. 351-357.


CP 1021. 1973, Code of Practice for Cathodic

Protection, BSI, 1973.


R.J. Kuhn, Proc API, Sec 4, 153, 1933.


British Gas Engineering Standard BGC/PS/ECPI,

Code of Practice for Cathodic Protection of Buried
Steel Pipework, Nov. 1979.


W.J. Schwerdtfeger and O.N. McDorman, Jour. Res.

Nat. Bur. of Stds. 447(2) Aug. 1951, p. 104-112.

10. F. Wormwell , T.F. Nurse, and H.C.K. Ison, Chem.

and Ind. 30, 972, 1952.


NACE Standard RP0675-75: Recommended Practice

Control of Corrosion on Offshore Steel Pipelines.


NACE Standard RP0176-83: Recommended Practice

Control of Corrosion on Steel, Fixed Offshore
Platforms Associated with Petroleum Production.

12. D.A. Jones, Corrosion, 28(11), Nov. 1972, p. 421-23.

Det Norske Veritas: Technical Note Fixed Offshore

Installations. Cathodic Protection Evaluations, TNA
703, REV 1, 1.9.81.

14. C.G. Munger and R.C. Robinson, Mater. Perf., July



11. A.C. Toncre, Eurocorr 77, London 1977, p. 365-71.

13. B. Husock, Mater Prot., May 1971, p. 35-38.

15. E. Elkers, Jnt. Corrosion Conf., IMF, I Corr T, I Mar B,

London 1973, p. 21-25.

Potentials of Reference Electrodes with Respect to Standard

Hydrogen Electrode (SHE) at 25 C


Copper/Copper Sulfate
Saturated Silver/Silver Chloride/Potassium Chloride
Silver/Silver Chloride
Standard Saturated Calomel


+250 (approx.)


All cathodic protection potential readings involve the use

of a reference electrode or half-cell, the purpose of which
is to make a reproducible connection between the meter
and the electrolyte.
For land-based pipelines the
copper/copper sulfate half-cell is universally adopted.


Clean Copper Electrode

During use the surface of the copper electrode becomes

oxidized and dirty. At intervals of 3 to 4 months the
copper is cleaned by rubbing with emery cloth to give a
bright surface.

The copper/copper sulfate half-cell has the merits of being

robust, easily made, cheap and sufficiently accurate for
cathodic protection purposes, but it is not immune to
errors which can be caused by contamination or lack of
maintenance. Simple occasional care can avoid this and
is important for obtaining reproducible results.


Contaminated Solution

The principal contaminant to be avoided is chloride, which

can diffuse in from the soil. To avoid this, the cell is wiped
clean of earth after each reading and the solution should

be renewed when the electrode is cleaned. The solution

is made up with distilled or deionised water and laboratory
reagent quality copper sulfate crystals. It is most
important that it is saturated and that there are excess
crystals present in any stock solution and in the half-cell
itself. Any stock solution is kept in a dark bottle.

resistance will develop and, in the case of the wooden

plug in particular, can take some time to re-wet. Halfcells are normally supplied with a rubber or plastic
end cover and this should always be replaced to stop
water evaporating from the plug.

High Resistance

Potential Checks

A group of half-cells can be checked for potential

differences between themselves or against another
standard electrode. Any variation between individual
electrodes is not more than about 10 mV and it is
necessary to reject a cell giving a 20-mV difference. A
freshly made up cell can normally be relied upon to give a
correct potential and can be used as a reference for
other cells, but a more positive check is to refer the cells to
a laboratory standard electrode (e.g., a calomel electrode).
Most works laboratories will have a suitable electrode and
a modern high-impedance cathodic protection meter is
sufficiently accurate for making the comparison

A copper/copper sulfate cell normally has a fairly low

resistance and thus does not introduce an IR error into
the readings, but a high resistance can develop.
3.1 A solid plug of fine interlocking copper sulfate
crystals can develop in the cell and this has a high
resistance. The excess crystals are fairly large and
3.2 The contact between the cell electrolyte and the
soil is normally either a wooden plug or a porous
ceramic tip. If these are allowed to dry out a high





There are situations when buried pipelines either pass

through concrete structures such as anchor blocks, pits,
etc. or are laid very close to concrete structures. These
concrete structures are often backfilled with ordinary soil.
In the course of pipe-to-soil potential surveys, the
knowledge of their presence along the pipeline route is
very essential for correct interpretation of the pipe-to-soil
potential measurements. It is also necessary to establish
if the pipe section in or near the concrete is isolated or not,
since the electrochemical potentials of steel in concrete
are different than those for steel in soil.

Cathodic protection of steel with properly designed and

constructed concrete, reinforced or otherwise, is seldom
required because of the protective properties of concrete.
Cathodic protection is required, however, to prevent
corrosion of structures that have been damaged,
subjected to stray current interference, or otherwise
exposed to corrosive conditions. Criteria for cathodic
protection of steel in concrete are different from those
generally applied to bare or organically coated steel
structures and ranges between 550 mV and 1,100 mV.1
Corrosion of steel in concrete exposed to a high-chloride
environment can be prevented when applied protective
current polarizes the steel to a minimum potential of 550
mV (referred to copper sulfate electrode). This potential is
approximately 300 mV less negative than the minimum
potential of 850 mV that is generally used for cathodic
protection of steel structures in soil.



The static potential of steel in concrete varies widely,

ranging from the theoretical maximum of +130 mV
(Cu/CuSO4) to about 110 mV (Cu/CuSO4) in watersaturated concrete in environments of low oxygen content.
On the other hand, the potential for thermodynamic
immunity at pH 12.5 is about 1,130 mV (Cu/CuSO4).
However, the potentials of steel in concrete related to
corrosion activity may be summarized as below.
Concrete Condition

Aerated dry concrete

Wet concrete
Wet, chloridecontaminated
Water-saturated, low
Concrete with
cathodic protection

mV (Cu/CuSO4)

+100 to -250
-400 to -500
-350 to -500

-700 to -1,000
-550 to -1,000


A minimum cathodic protection potential of 550 mV

(referred to copper sulfate electrode) in concrete
represents a potential shift of approximately 450 mV from
an average potential of 100 mV (referred to copper
sulfate). The cathodic protection criterion of 850 mV
(Cu/CuSO4) may result in over protection for steel in
concrete. NCHRP of America recommends the use of an
overall potential of 770 mV (Cu/CuSO4) as a criterion for
cathodically protected steel in concrete. Regardless of the
minimum potential required, however, the maximum
potential should not exceed 1,000 mV (referred to copper
sulfate electrode) to avoid excessive current requirement
and evolution of hydrogen gas which will ultimately
damage the concrete.2


Active, high
Active, low

Quite obviously where steel enters or leaves concrete, or

is laid very close to it, the effects on potential will be noted.

The situation will occur where the potential of bare or

organically coated steel buried in soil will not be recorded
at 850 mV. When measuring potentials in such an
environment, therefore, a potential plot should be carried
out at 1-foot intervals away from the concrete until a stable
steel-in-soil situation is achieved at satisfactory levels. It
will normally be the case that a protected potential of say
1,000 mV (referred to copper sulfate) in soil will reduce to
500 mV (referred to copper sulfate) where it enters the
concrete over a distance of up to approximately 100 feet,
dependent upon site conditions. Similarly, a natural
potential of say 500 mV (referred to copper sulfate) will
reduce to 100 mV (referred to copper sulfate in the same

protection in a switching mode such that potential shift and

polarized levels may be determined.
Particular reference is made to such conditions and tests
in all reports, operation and maintenance instructions, and
other documentation to ensure that subsequent test
results are placed in context.

In all cases the criteria for protection is determined by the

potential shift as previously indicated. It is essential,
therefore, that such tests are carried out with the cathodic





Criteria for Cathodic Protection of Steel in Concrete

Structures. D.A. Hansmann, Material Protection,
October 1969.


Electrical Potential Requirement for Cathodic

Protection of Steel in Concrete. J.B. Vrable and B.E.
Wilde, CORROSION/79.