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Corrosion in Soils

Raymond F. Mignogna, MS, PE


Metallurgical Engineer

ECONOMICS OF CORROSION
In the United States alone, the cost of corrosion to the economy has been variously estimated at between 10 and 15 billion dollars annually. Worldwide, that figure balloons to over 45 billion dollars. Corrosion of metals in soils represents a substantial portion of that cost.

THE SOIL CORROSION PROBLEM


Whenever metals are in contact with soils, the potential for corrosion of one or more of them exists. In many cases, the corrosion can be severe, leading to catastrophic failure of structures or components. This presentation will describe the 6 factors that lead to corrosion of metals in soils, outline the basic mechanism of soil corrosion and select which strategy engineers should use to mitigate or avoid metal corrosion when designing facilities or equipment that will be in contact with soils.

ISSUES RELEVANT TO SOIL CORROSION


1 There are 6 factors that affect the corrosion of metals in contact with soils. 2 The relative corrosivity of soils can be described as a function of level of aeration, water retention, dissolved salt content, soil resistivity, acidity, and presence of ionic species. 3 The process of galvanic action when metals are in contact with soils. 4 The two primary soil corrosion mitigation strategies used in modern engineering practice. 5 Two metals are most commonly used as sacrificial anodes in soil corrosion protection.

OUTLINE
Affected Facilities Factors Affecting Corrosion Soil Corrosivity Corrosion Mechanisms Corrosion Control Methods Sacrificial Anodes References Additional Questions

Affected Facilities
Buried Structures:
Underground Storage Tanks Transmission & Distribution Pipelines Foundations Cables

Any structure in full or partial contact with the earth

Corrosion Damage
Reduced Life of Structures
I-35 Bridge Collapse

Direct Environmental Degradation


i.e. Oil Spills

Cost to Domestic Economy


(>$10 Billion/year)

Cost In Lives and Environmental Damage


Incalculable

Factors Affecting the Corrosion Process


1 - Aeration 2 - Water retention 3 - Dissolved Salt Content 4 - Soil Resistivity 5 - Soil Acidity 6 - Presence of Ionic Species

Aeration
More Air = Less Corrosion Drier Environment Reduces Galvanic Action
Order of Increasing Corrosion: Gravels Coarse Sands Fine Sands

Water Retention
More Water = More Electrolyte = More Corrosion

Dissolved Salt Content

More Dissolved Salt = Higher Conductivity

Higher Conductivity = Greater Corrosivity

Soil Resistivity

Greater Resistivity = Less Current Flow

Less Current Flow = Lower Corrosion Rate

Resistivity vs Corrosivity
Soil Resistivity,(ohm-cm) Corrosivity 0 500 500 - 1000 1000 2000 2000 10,000 > 10,000 Very corrosive Corrosive Moderately corrosive Mildly corrosive Negligible corrosivity

Soil Acidity
Steels greater corrosion in acid soils -- passive in neutral/alkaline soils

Aluminum passive in neutral soils -- greater corrosion in strong acid or alkaline soils

Ionic Species and Microbes


Halide ions (i.e. Chloride) and Active Bacteria Produce an Acid Environment

Active Bacteria are fed by Sulfate Ions (SO4-)


Sulfate Concentration,ppm >10,000 >1500 10,000 >150 1500 < 150 Corrosivity Severe Corrosive Moderate Negligible

Corrosion Mechanism
Galvanic Action is the primary corrosion mechanism in soils

Stray-current corrosion is a significant secondary form, unique to buried structures

Galvanic Corrosion
Dissimilar materials are in contact
Two different metals or alloys Same nominal alloy in different environments

Copper alloy valves/steel piping


Result is accelerated steel corrosion

Steel alloy in soil having a conductivity gradient

Dissimilar Metal Corrosion in Neutral Soils and Water

Copper (V = -.2)

Zinc (V = -1.1)

Cathode

Ion Flow

Anode

CHEMICAL REACTION
Zn Cu + 2 eZn +2 + 2 eCu -2

Corrosion Cell on Buried Metal Surface

SOIL

Electric Current Flow Cathode

Anode Ionic Current Flow Poor Aeration Region

Good Aeration Region

Stray-Current Corrosion
External Induced Electrical Current
Independent of environmental factors

Currents follow paths other than their intended circuits due to:
Poor electrical connections Poor insulation

Corrosion Control
Cathodic Protection Applied Current

Sacrificial Anodes

Impressed Current Protection


Anode

Cathode

Impressed Current Requires a power supply and buried anode Makes structure into the cathode of an electric circuit

AIR

Power Supply

GROUND

Structure (cathode)

Anode

SACRIFICIAL ANODE

SOIL
Structure (Steel)

Wire
Anode (Zn or Mg)*

Ion Flow

* Zn = Zinc; Mg = Magnesium

ANODE PLACEMENT
Remote Anodes 50-100 yards or more from structure. Uniform current flow. Close Anodes within a few yards. Higher current to localized region.

Linear Anodes ribbon/wire. Used primarily for pipelines.

Modern Practice
Cathodic Protection used in conjunction with coatings on structures. Provides a reduction of power and equipment costs to 5/10% of cost of cathodic protection alone. Generally results in complete protection.

SUMMARY WHAT WEVE DISCUSSED


The Soil Corrosion Problem Factors Affecting the Process Corrosion Mechanisms Corrosion Control Methods Sacrificial Anodes Current Practice

REFERENCES
1 Corrosion: Understanding the Basics; J.R. Davis, ed., ASM (2000) 2 Handbook of Corrosion Engineering; Pierre R. Roberge, McGraw-Hill (1999) 3 Practical Handbook of Corrosion Control in Soils; Sam Bradford, CASTI (2001)

QUESTIONS?

COMMENTS?
NEED MORE INFORMATION? Please email me at raymond@mignogna.org or visit www.mignogna.net