Materials - Effects & Economic impact of Corrosion

What is Corrosion Allowance?

By knowing the expected general corrosion rate and the anticipated plant or service life of a part, the designer can calculate the extra thickness required for corrosion resistance of the process equipment being designed.

After determining a wall thickness that meets mechanical requirements, such as pressure, temperature and weight of equipment, an extra thickness called "corrosion allowance" is added to the wall thickness to comensate for the metal expected to be lost over the life of the equipment. Then, because the penetration depth cab very, a corrosion allowance is assigned a safety factor of two.

The World Corrosion Organization
NACE International

A tank wall required a 5 mm wall thickness for mechanical considerations. The designer has determined that the corrosion rate will be 0.4 mm/yr and the expected life of the tank will be 10yr. The total corrosion allowance is the corrosion rate per year (0.4 mm x 10 yr = 4 mm).
The corrosion allowance is doubled to 8 mm as a safety consideration.

Calculation of Corrosion Allowance

Corrosion allowance is not only determined by the designer, but also and especially by a state or local agency. The latter often have years of experience with local conditions and especially the weather conditions in a relevant area.

Uniform Corrosion

Humidity, temperature, rain, wind, impurities and metal wet times have an effect on the corrosion rate. Corrosion occurs when the relative humidity of the air is 70 to 80%. Corrosion reaction is possible generally when the temperature is above 0°C and the relative humidity is over 80% (the surface is wet). Air impurities that dissolve in condensed water or rain water may accelerate corrosion. Settling of dust and dirt on the metal surface accelerates atmospheric corrosion.

Corrosion rates are expressed in terms of mm per year of surface wastage and are used to provide a corrosion allowance in the design thickness of equipment such as vessels and pipework.

Operators will often use data based on historical experience from plant operations to aid them in determining appropriate corrosion allowances. Alternatively corrosion charts are widely available that give corrosion rates for many combinations of materials of construction and process fluids and normally a range of values will be provided for various process temperatures.

In some instances, particularly where there is a mixture of chemicals present, appropriate data may not exist and corrosion tests may be necessary in order to determine the suitability of equipment. Operators should be able to demonstrate the use of corrosion allowances in equipment specification and design. The sources of data used should be traceable.

As far as I know, there is no corrosion allowance exactly specified in ASME B31.3. Corrosion allowances are normally established by the end user and are somewhat based on personal preferences and industry tradition. 1.5 mm for piping is a common standard, but you are free to set a corrosion allowances you wish, unless a state or local agency has adopted and superceded B31.3. To specify the pipe, add the corrosion allowance to the minimum design thickness and select a pipe schedule that is equal to or greater than the minimum + corrosion allowance.

Below are two tables with guidelines for corrosion allowance

Corrosion allowance for steel pipes mm
Superheated steam 0.3
Saturated steam 0.8
Steam coils in cargo tanks and liquid fuel tanks 2.0
Feed water for boilers in open circuit systems 1.5
Feed water for boilers in closed circuit systems 0.5
Blow-down systems for boilers 1.5
Compressed air 1.0
Hydraulic oil 0.3
Lubricating oil 0.3
Fuel oil 1.0
Thermal oil 1.0
Fresh water 0.8
Sea water 3.0
Refrigerants referred to in Section 13 0.3
Cargo systems for oil tankers 2.0
Cargo systems for ships carrying liquefied gases 0.3


  • For pipes passing through tanks, an additional corrosion allowance is to be considered in order to account for the external corrosion.
  • Note 2: The corrosion allowance of pipes efficiently protected against corrosion may be reduced by no more than 50%.
  • Note 3: When the corrosion resistance of alloy steels is adequately demonstrated, the corrosion allowance may be disregarded.
Corrosion allowance for non-ferrous metal pipes mm
Copper 0,8
Brass 0,8
Copper-tin alloys 0,8
Copper-nickel alloys with less than 10% of Ni 0,8
Copper-nickel alloys with at least 10% of Ni 0,5
Aluminium and aluminium alloys 0,5


  • The corrosion allowance for other materials will be specially considered by the Society. Where their resistance to corrosion is adequately demonstrated, the corrosion allowance may be disregarded.
  • Note 2: In cases of media with high corrosive action, a higher corrosion allowance may be required by the Society.

Interesting articles

Design and lay-out for corrosion prevention.
Use of the corrosion allowance has more likely lead to more problems than it has solved.

Corrosion Allowance general

The corrosion allowance is a measure which is used in the maintenance applications.
A corrosion allowance of 3.0 mm means that e.g. a wall thickness without any problem may be decrease with 3.0 mm.
Mind you, that does not mean than the minimum wall thickness is achieved and the object has reached its end of life.

Example: a piece of equipment has a wall thickness of 10 mm with a corrosion allowance of 3.0 mm. With a wall thickness of 7.0 mm action is required because the specified corrosion allowance is completely consumed.

Some attention points when the corrosion allowance almost of completely is consumed.

Remark(s) of the Author...

My opinion about Corrosion Allowance

  • A gentleman named Allen Hazen, a brilliant chemistry student at MIT in 1888, says:
    "It is my feeling that it will not generally pay to increase the thickness of steel plates very greatly because of this consideration (viz., that thickening the plates will not cure the trouble but will merely prolong the life of the metal), but that the money will be better spent in better coating and in more careful inspection of the steel plates, or, in other words, by preventing the pitting instead of trying to make the plate thick enough so that the pitting will not go through it."
    This statement of Mr. Hazen is to think about corrosion allowance...or not?
  • Only after years life testing, I think it is possible to approach the reality.
    Calculations depend on hundreds of factors, in my opinion gives no assurance that proper corrosion allowance will be applied.
    I have worked on a process plant with a minimum life-time of 15-20 years.
    After 7 years (probably earlier) were the first seriously corrosion problems identified, while one of the largest and most experienced engineering companies the plant has been designed.
    Ok, engineering companies are highly experienced and will be carry out the best surface treatment, but...If the correct paint specification is found, there are unfortunately many other problems that still cause corrosion occurs.
  • How a engineering company can guarantee, that during the construction of a new plant, all field-welds get the proper surface treatment? No Guarantee !
  • How a engineering company can guarantee that after the completion of a new plant, all insulation is waterproof? No Guarantee !
  • How a engineering company can guarantee that...etc. etc..

We humans can be much, but are powerless against Mother Nature.

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