Asset Intelligence Report

A Primer on Sulfidation Corrosion

February 13, 2017

High temperature sulfidation is one of the most well-known corrosion mechanisms in the oil refining industry because it occurs in large sections of the refinery.

This Asset Intelligence Report on Sulfidation Corrosion serves as a primer to increase your familiarity with one of the most well-known corrosion mechanisms in the oil refining industry. The report contains the following sections:

  • An overview of the damage mechanism
  • Areas susceptible to sulfidation corrosion
  • Methods of prevention/mitigation
  • Effective inspection techniques
  • Codes, standards, and best practices
  • Further reading

Intro from the AIR. Click below to read the full version.


High temperature sulfidation is probably the most well-known corrosion mechanism in the oil refining industry because it occurs in large sections of the refinery. Sulfidation corrosion (also known as sulfidic corrosion) is a result of naturally occurring sulfur (S) compounds found in crude oil. In the absence of hydrogen, corrosion due to sulfur compounds in the crude is thought to occur at temperatures above 500F (260C). Up to that temperature, corrosion rates due to sulfidation are relatively low, even for carbon steels, unless there is naphthenic acid present in the crude. The Modified McConomy Curves used for selecting materials and also for predicting in-service resistance to sulfidation corrosion have historically served the industry well.

Sulfidation corrosion results in the thinning of the pressure containment envelope, affecting such components as piping and pipe fittings, heater tubes, and pressure vessels. Most industry incidents have occurred in piping, due to lower nominal wall thicknesses as compared to other equipment types. Sulfidation corrosion can be localized or general in nature for a given component, though the majority of cases exhibit general thinning. When the damage is general and thinning occurs over a large area, ruptures are possible and can lead to the potential release of large quantities of hydrocarbon streams.

Corrosive thinning of piping walls and equipment due to sulfidation depends on many factors, such as sulfur content of the oil, temperature, flow rate, and H2 concentration, making it hard to predict accurately. However, one predictor of higher sulfidation rates is low silicon content in carbon steel components.

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A Primer on Sulfidation Corrosion

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