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Pipe Marking & Pipe Corrosion Control

By Jordy Byrd

The Silver Eagle Refinery explosion released a tidal wave of broken glass.

Homes were pushed off their foundations and countless workers were burned in the Utah-based petroleum refinery when a 10-inch pipe ruptured at the bottom of a reactor. The result was a hydrogen explosion and fire that would shake the sleepy city of Woods Cross.

The accident was caused by a rupture in a pipe that had become dangerously thin from corrosion, according to a 2014 report from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. The accident could have been prevented were proper inspection strategies put in place.

Annual pipe inspections are integral to providing a safe workplace environment. While potentially expensive and time consuming – especially in large facilities – a comprehensive plan and routine maintenance schedule should be established. When examining pipes, safety professionals should examine not only the structure quality of the pipe, but its pipe markings.

Understanding Corrosion

Pipe corrosion occurs everywhere, in nuclear and fossil power plants, petrochemical plants, oil refineries and more to cause billions of dollars in damage each year. Corrosion is a natural process which causes the gradual destruction of materials – usually metals – by a chemical reaction.

Rusting, or the formation of iron oxides in the presence of oxygen and water or moisture, is the most common form of corrosion. Rusting effectively turns the original metal pipe into oxides or salts, jeopardizing the integrity of the pipe.

Corrosion can be caused by:

  • Salts and osmosis
  • Water permeability
  • Adhesion problems
  • Surface preparation
  • High temperature deterioration
  • Crevice corrosion in confined spaces
  • Microbiologically-influenced corrosion

Corroded material be chemically removed with materials like phosphoric acid, but preventative measures – including surface treatments and applied coatings – are more commonly used. Enamel applications, painting, and plating and galvanizing are the most common anti-corrosion treatments, which provide a barrier of corrosion-resistant material between the damaging environment and the pipe.

What is Pipe Marking?

Pipe markers ensure workers are not only aware of pipe contents, but potential hazards, and the direction of flow associated with the materials inside the pipe. Bold, simple, and consistent labeling methods convey this information to reduce hazards, and ensure OSHA pipe marking compliance and ANSI pipe marking standards are met.

Industrial pipe marking standards exist and requirements vary between local authorities. The most common standard, ANSI/ASME A13.1, provides a frame of reference for most pipe marking projects.

Effective pipe marking programs and pipe marking best practices help improve facility efficiency and increase safety through visual communication. Effective programs combine ANSI pipe marking color codes, label sizes, printed text and arrows, and marker positioning to create clear consistent messages for compliance and safety.

Inspecting Your Facility

Combine resources and time by creating an integrated pipe marking and corrosion walk through in your facility to ensure your marking labels are complete and your pipes are in safe condition.

Pipe check data acquisition and analysis software uses 3D scanning technology to address pipe corrosion, depth, and mechanical damages. Piping and Instrumentation Diagrams (P&IDs) – or the document of record – are also used to ensure successful repairs and pipe maintenance is performed.

Labeling assistant applications aid with pipe marking, allowing users to take photos, add notes, and reference exact labeling locations with automatic geo-tagging. When examining markers and labels look for:

Existing markers

  • Check for damage, fading, discoloration, and readability.
  • Are the labels accurate?
  • Do they comply with your current marking color scheme?

Pipes without markers

  • Look out for new equipment, or old equipment that has recently been altered.
  • Have markers been removed or lost? What caused that removal?
  • If a pipe or fitting has no identification, why not? The answers may lead you to a better understanding of your facility’s unique needs.

Markers that can’t be clearly seen

  • Are existing labels sized appropriately and visible from an ordinary viewing position?
  • Would a different viewing position make it difficult to see the labels?
  • Would a hanging tag or sign be a more effective way to mark a given pipe or fitting?

As you conduct your facility inspection, refer to a pipe schematic or facility plan. Make sure that all the pipes that appear in the plan are actually present in your facility, and vice versa. A pipe system must include all sources, distribution, mixing, and discharge pipes, as well as all of the fittings, valves, and tanks that they connect, and ensure to include locations of shut-off valves.

Each item should be accurately recorded on your schematic. As the project continues, you can use the schematic to create a list of any new markers that need to be created, and old ones that need to be updated.

For further pipe marking assistance, including a complimentary webinar, visit GraphicProducts.com or call 1.888.326.9244 to speak with a customer service representative.