Corrosion under insulation industry

Corrosion under insulation is the hidden damage costing billions

Corrosion Under Insulation (CUI) causes billions of dollars of damage and loss every single year. It is an insidious problem of grave concern to facility owners, plant operators, engineers, and workers across industry, from oil and gas to chemical and other process industries. It is estimated that up to 60% of pipe failures are caused by CUI, and without maintenance and vigilance the problem leads to shutdowns, repairs, accidents, downtime production loss, environmental damage, and more. The causes behind CUI are well documented and understood, but preventing it has proved a more difficult task.

In this article we explore the causes of CUI and one of the most effective ways to prevent it with insulation coatings. We also look at the top insulation coating products and manufacturers in the United States.


What causes corrosion under insulation

Corrosion under insulation is the name given to any type of corrosion (galvanic, acidic, alkaline, or chloride) that occurs when moisture builds up on the external surface of insulated equipment such as pipework but also vessels and tanks. The water could be rain, leakage, sweating, or another water source but the end result is the same – the trapped moisture causes rapid corrosion and costly problems. Some of the most common contributing factors to CUI are:

  1. Service temperature
    The temperature susceptibility range for CUI is between 25°F and 300°F, and this range increases or changes depending on the substrate. Though continuous operating temperatures above or below this range may appear to place surfaces out of risk, other factors can still lead to the development of CUI. Thermal cycling is a particular risk for CUI as it forms condensation.
  2. Environment/climate
    The environment and climate can affect CUI in a number of ways. Breaks in the weatherproofing or leaks are more dangerous in areas with higher rainfall, and high humidity can lead to condensation (the ‘sweating’ pipe syndrome). The ambient temperature is especially important where temperatures cycle above and below the dew point. This causes a wet and cold/dry and hot cycle where condensation forms and is then baked off. The interim period of warm and damp leads to high corrosion rates. Then of course there are the added dangers of marine environments for salt contamination. And it isn’t just the weather that can break in – steam, spillage, sprinklers, wash cycles, all of these can penetrate the insulation barrier.
  3. Insulation type
    CUI of carbon steel is possible under all types of insulation but in some cases the insulation itself can accelerate or even contribute to the problem. Some insulation materials contain salts or compounds which corrode or create a corrosive environment in the presence of water. If the insulation retains water, or allows it to permeate the material, this can also create corrosive conditions.

Insulation coatings create a barrier to CUI

However carefully insulation may be installed, the risk of CUI is still present. Using thermal insulation coatings or CUI coatings as a preventative measure has emerged as one of the best methods of combating CUI, in combination with a thorough maintenance program. The highly adhesive and resistant nature of these coatings provides an added barrier to moisture and corrosive compounds and protects the substrate moisture buildup and leaks.

There are a range of chemistries used as CUI coatings, including epoxy phenolic, epoxy novolac, silicone hybrids, inert multipolymeric matrix coatings (IMM coatings or inorganic ceramic coatings), and inorganic zinc. The choice of coating is not, however, a simple case of choosing ‘the best’ CUI coating. All the relevant factors and conditions need to be taken into account to find the right CUI coating for the specific application. Temperature ranges, thermal cycling, environment, climate, downtime, substrate type and more need to be factored in.

Modified epoxies to IMM coatings – The types of CUI coatings 

Given the broad range of conditions and environments under which CUI occurs, there is also a wide range of CUI coatings. When choosing a CUI coating it is important to ensure that it:

  • Withstands process temperatures, particularly the corrosion danger zones for the substrate
  • Withstands the exposure scenario – immersion, thermal shock, cyclic, steam-out etc.
  • Resists variable pH environments, chemical exposure, chlorides, halides, and sulfides
  • Is compatible with the substrate and is highly adhesive
  • Is compatible with maintenance and application requirements

Below is a comparison of some of the most commonly used CUI coatings and the properties they exhibit (from NACE).

PropertiesIMM CoatingHigh Build SiliconeAluminium-filled High Build SiliconeInorganic ZincNovolac/ Phenolic Epoxy
Max. continuous operating temp.1000°F1000°F750°F750°F400°F
Suitable for cyclic hot/cryogenic serviceYesYesYesNoYes
Can be applied to hot surfaceYes (up to 600°F)Yes (up to 450°F)Yes (up to 250°F)NoYes (up to 300°F)
Recoatable with selfYesYesYesNoYes
Max. DFT per coat125-150 microns (2 coats)100-125 microns (2 coats)200 microns75 microns125-200 microns (2 coats)
Air dries to hard filmNoNoNoYesYes
Single componentYesNoNoNoNo
Suitable for Stainless SteelYesYesYesNoNo

CUI coating products and manufacturers in the United States

There are a number of CUI coatings manufacturers operating in the US, including AkzoNobel, PPG, Hempel, Jotun, and more. Below we look at the CUI coatings they produce and the benefits and applications of each. No matter the requirements, there is a coating to suit your needs. AkzoNobel in particular have produced the “Universal Pipe Coatings” (Interbond 2340UPC and Interbond 1202UPC), designed specifically for simplifying process pipework and OEM coatings specifications. They standardize and simplify coating specifications by providing a single coating for a range of end uses. Coating manufacturers are dedicating themselves to solving corrosion under insulation.

The best coating applications are part of a system, and CUI coatings are no different. If you are having difficulties with corrosion under insulation, or would like to set up your facility with the best protection possible, get in touch! Our experts are here to help. We will connect you and your project with the right coating specialist and product to meet your specifications. Simply click the “Request a Quote” link beneath this article and tell us about your project and its requirements to get started.

CUI CoatingCoating TypeDesciptionSuitable End Uses
Interbond 2340UPCTwo component epoxy phenolic coating for high temperaturesDelivers corrosion under insulation protection for temperatures from -320°F to 450°F. It has excellent tolerance to over-application and forms a hard, damage resistant film. It cures in low temperatures down to 20°F with short minimum overcoating intervals.Carbon steel, stainless steel, insulated equipment, uninsulated equipment
Interbond 1202UPCTwo component, ambient cure, inert multipolymeric matrix coatingDelivers corrosion under insulation protection for temperatures from -320ºF up to 1200ºF. It is compliant with the performance criteria of the ISO12944-9 standard, without a primer. It has short minimum overcoating intervals and is crack resistant during transit.Carbon steel, stainless steel, insulated equipment, uninsulated equipment
Jotatemp 1000 CeramicTwo component titanium catalyzed inorganic ceramic copolymerResistant to continuous temperatures down to -320°F and up to 1800°F. On carbon steel substrates it can be used at up to 1200°F continuously and 1400°F peak. It can be applied on hot substrates up to 480°F. Ambient cure.Carbon steel, ceramic substrates, insulated and non-insulated surfaces
PPG Hi-Temp 900Two-component, ambient cured multi-polymeric heat resistant primer/coatCyclic temperature resistance from -320°F to 600°F and continuous dry temperature resistance from -320°F to 900°F. Resistant to thermal shock / cycling and intermittent immersion and boiling water. Scratch and mar resistant coating for ease of transport. Formulated to prevent chloride induced stress corrosion cracking of austenitic and duplex stainless steel. Good UV resistance.Carbon steel and stainless steel in new build applications
PPG Hi-Temp 1027One component, high build, heat resistant, inert multipolymeric matrix / inorganic ceramic coatingContinuous temperature resistance to 1200°F with intermittent temp. resistance to 1400°F. Cyclic temp. resistance from -320°F to 1000°F. Ideal for hot and cryogenic service. Can be applied directly to hot surfaces (up to 600°F). Prevents chloride-induced external stress corrosion cracking of insulated austenitic stainless steel. UV stable.Carbon steel, stainless steel, insulated equipment, uninsulated equipment
Versiline CUI 65990One component, MIO pigmented inert multipolymeric matrix coatingDelivers protection from -320°F up to 1200°F for dry or dry/wet exposure. May be applied to hot substrates up to max. 400°F. Resists temperatures up to 1200°F and thermal shock/cycling in dry or dry/wet service. Can be applied directly onto the steel substrate. Specially developed to prevent corrosion under insulation (CUI).Stainless steel, insulated equipment, uninsulated equipment

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