Failure of a Buried Type 304L Stainless Steel Drain Line by Galvanic Attack
One of five underground drain lines intended to carry a highly acidic effluent from a chemical-processing plant to distant holding tanks failed in just a few months. Each line was made of 304L stainless steel pipe 73 mm (2 in.) in diam with a 5 mm (0.203 in.) wall thickness. Lengths of pipe were joined by shielded metal arc welding. Soundness of the welded joints was determined by water back-pressure testing after several lengths of pipe had been installed and joined. Before completion of the pipeline, a pressure drop was observed during back-pressure testing. An extreme depression in the backfill revealed the site of failure. Analysis (visual inspection, electrical conductivity, and soil analysis) supported the conclusions that the failure had resulted from galvanic corrosion at a point where the corrosivity of the soil was substantially greater than the average, resulting in a voltage decrease near the point of failure of about 1.3 to 1.7 V. Recommendations included that the pipelines be asphalt coated and enclosed in a concrete trough with a concrete cover. Also, magnesium anodes, connected electrically to each line, should be installed at periodic intervals along their entire length to provide cathodic protection.