Corrosion Control in Storage Tanks

March 25, 2013

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Corrosion is always an ongoing battle with respect to industrial structures. When it comes to storage tanks, this is especially true since the failures may not be immediately evident. Leaking tanks can cost companies significant amounts of money, not just in direct losses but also through indirect losses (government fines, lawsuits, etc.). In addition, leaking storage tanks have the potential to degrade and pollute the environment as well as contributing to potential health issues. For these reasons,  corrosion control is one of the most important maintenance issues with respect to storage tanks. 

Corrosion occurs when the environment interacts or reacts to materials used in construction. Most commonly, especially in storage tanks, that material is steel or some other metal. The chemicals being stored, the natural process of oxidation (think rust) and other issues cause the breakdown of the steel. When left unchecked, this process can lead to leaking, contamination and ultimately in catastrophic failure. However, corrosion does not have to continue unabated. It can be controlled. There are very effective corrosion control methods available today.

There are multiple methods used to control corrosion in tanks. The first line of defense is the materials utilized in the initial construction. The use of corrosion resistant materials in the construction phase helps keep corrosion from starting in the first place. Add to that the use of cathodic protection, which helps control corrosion by channeling the corrosion at the electron level so that a sacrificial metal is corroded (the anode). Another level of protection can be added through the use of lining or liners within the tank.

By far the most common method utilized for preventing corrosion is the application of paints or coatings. Regular cleaning and inspections, along with storage tank painting as needed is a necessity to inhibit corrosion. In fact, with today’s technologies and coatings it is not always accurate to describe the process simply as painting. It is better to think of the process in terms of coating (since some coating products are even closer to being a lining than merely a coat of paint).

Because of the potential costs of ignoring corrosion control, careful planning and proactive actions need to be taken with respect to tank corrosion control. Intentional corrosion control programs need to be developed and implemented. These would include regular inspections by trained or qualified individuals, as well as scheduled, ongoing maintenance procedures. Early signs of corrosion must be recognized and corrected swiftly. Failure to do so will likely cost far more than the maintenance itself.

Corrosion affects every industry facility, not just those with storage tanks. What are you doing to control its effects?

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