Thankfully, we don’t hear news like this very often, but these instances highlight the importance of consistent pipeline corrosion protection. Metal corrosion costs the United States around $300 billion every year, but most people rarely hear about these costs unless they manifest themselves in a disaster.
In March, a corrosion problem on a natural gas pipeline in Nothern Mexico caused a rupture and massive explosion. The causes of pipe erosion are numerous, but regardless of cause, the results can be disastrous.
The carbon-steel pipeline was 30 inches in diameter and tested to withstand minimum pressures of 60,000 pounds per square inch. Per the report filed by Energy Transfer Partners along with the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Satefy Administration, the pipeline was being operated within its safety limits and there was no evidence of foul play, human error, or technical issues.
Pipe corrosion prevention efforts leading up to the incident didn’t ring any alarm bells, but perhaps the lengths between them did. The most recent test of pipeline integrity was an internal inspection done in 2015. Another test was done prior in 2008. Alarmingly, though, the pipeline hadn’t been hydro-tested since 1962.
Fortunately, nobody was injured by the explosion. It did wreak serious havoc on its surroundings. They reported the widest part of the rupture to be 94 inches, while the full circumference of the rupture measured 864 inches. Buried five feet underground, the explosion was powerful enough to roast a nearby highway and a house under construction. Officials estimated the explosion’s 621-foot blast radius caused about $1.4 million in damages.
All technical systems were in order. Four employees working during the incident were tested for drugs and alcohol and these tests came back negative.
In the world of pipelines, sometimes no real error is the cause of a disaster. Hence, pipe corrosion prevention efforts have to be diligently and regularly practiced. Pipelines cannot be treated as out of sight, out of mind or we end up with dangerous incidents like this. Luckily, this event — though disastrous — didn’t harm any human beings. Yet it remains a reminder that pipe corrosion prevention is of utmost importance.