6 myths about the extreme environments of onshore oil and gas

The extreme conditions of onshore energy facilities can be very complex and protective coatings are often underestimated. There are endless misconceptions across the industry and here we discuss some of them.

We have tackled some of these misconceptions, drawing upon insights from our experienced team, real experiences our clients have faced as well as industry studies, to provide you with honest and factual information about the challenges of extreme environments and the uses for protective coatings.

1. Corrosion is small business in the oil and gas industry

Corrosion Under Insulation (CUI) is one of the principal causes of accidents in the oil and gas sector. If we take the EU, there have been 137 major oil and gas accidents since 1984, 20% of which were associated with corrosion. These have devastating consequences that impact safety and affect the local environment and can cause so much damage to plant equipment that can lead to complete failure and in worse case scenarios, total plant shutdown. The economic impact of this is immense.

2. Higher quality coatings don’t make a difference to material life expectancy

By selecting high-quality products, the time between major maintenance can be extended, increasing plant operation time. When a plant off-line costs somewhere between 1-12 million USD per day, it becomes evident that decreasing days off-line significantly impacts profitability. While premium coatings come at a cost, compared to the loss of profit generated by shutting down production, this is minimal.

3. Coatings cannot be applied to structures when in operation

Utilizing coatings that can be implemented on substrates operating at higher temperatures means that maintenance work can be carried out on live lines.

4. Coatings are all the same

When it comes to coatings, there is no one size fits all model. Much like designing a plant, engineering coatings require consideration of a variety of factors. Any adjustments in the coating design will impact on the overall properties of the coating. Increasing the chemical resistance can lead to increased brittleness, allowing for application in colder climates to decrease the heat resistance of the product. Reducing the coating cost can make it less suited to cyclic services.

5. Exotic materials resist everything

It is often expected that a material chosen for 
the media in the process will also be resistant to external stresses, such as water, chemicals and chlorides. This need not be the case. Stainless steels, for instance, are prone to chloride induced stress corrosion cracking. High temperatures and high chloride contents combined with the mechanical stresses that are found in cyclic processes make the perfect storm for these types of damage to occur.

6. I use vapor barriers and sealants, so my insulation is free from moisture and my pipes are dry

Proper design and installation, such as using
vapor barriers, can keep moisture and water in the environment from getting under the metal sheathing of pipes and structures and entering the insulation material, at least for a time. However, moisture can also come from the condensation caused
by temperature fluctuations. Think about your bathroom mirror after you’ve taken a shower - it is full of condensation. Or a water bottle straight from the fridge, which becomes wet with condensation once placed at room temperature. Even small temperature gradients can cause condensation to occur. This condensation will occur on the pipe surface, underneath the insulation, and the moisture barrier and sealants that are so effective at keeping water out, will now keep water in the insulation, preventing evaporation.

This is further underlined by a study carried out by Force Technology where it was discovered that 60% of pipes aged 10 years or older contained corrosion inducing moisture. Despite our best efforts, wet insulation and the risk of corrosion underneath insulation is not simply a possibility, it is an inevitability.

To find out more about the extreme conditions of onshore oil, gas and chemical facilities, you can download our free ebook ‘Your guide to coatings for extreme conditions’.

For more information, please contact our customer service specialist Kevin: kevin@jotun.com.

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