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Overview of Concrete Corrosion

Concrete Corrosion refers to the degradation of concrete due to exposure to certain corrosive substances; usually sulfur compounds. Although concrete corrosion can also be caused by other factors as well, such as salty or acidic water, microbes, chlorides, nitrates, or fluorides. 

Sulfuric acid can form when sulfur, which is common in certain industrial processes, comes into contact with moisture. Sulfuric acid is highly corrosive and can break down the various calcium compounds in the cement part of the concrete, causing the concrete to become soft and give way.

Concrete corrosion is especially dangerous due to the fact that concrete is porous; it has tiny interconnected holes that run through it’s structure. This allows the corrosive materials to soak into the material and cause damage from within.

The concrete itself though isn’t the only thing that’s at risk from concrete corrosion. Most concrete structures are reinforced via an embedded grid of steel bars, which provide most of the structure’s strength. If the acid corroding the concrete reaches the steel inside, these bars can begin to corrode as well, greatly weakening the structure.

How quickly the corrosion occurs depends on a number of factors such as the amount of corrosive materials, any moisture in the environment, if the material is flowing, and how well the material has been constructed. Corrosion can easily be identified with a visual inspection by identifying discolored areas in the concrete or areas where the concrete has begun to show signs of damage.

Thankfully, when it comes to concrete corrosion there are several methods of prevention, including specialty cements with reduced calcium, this will give sulfuric acid less material to work against. Another approach is to utilize surface treatments or paint applications using varnish, oil, or lacquer-based paints to help protect against corrosion.


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Articles about Concrete Corrosion
  • September/October 2017 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Tata L.N. Murthy at Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation Ltd

    Ensuring the integrity of oil and gas assets is a challenge for oil and gas operators. This article discusses several “pillars” of asset integrity management on which successful O&G operations rely, including Material Selection, Process Safety, Inspection, and more.

  • Blog
    April 13, 2015

    Concrete corrosion occurs when concrete is exposed to a sulfur compound, causing it to weaken continuously over time and lose functionality.

  • September/October 2011 Inspectioneering Journal
    By Pieter VanderWerf at Building Works

    Deterioration of concrete structures has plagued petrochemical production facilities. As a result of sulfur compound exposure, concrete corrodes and weakens continuously over time. The proper operation of the structure deteriorates with it until management undertakes repair or replacement of the affected sections. While the concrete degrades, productivity can be lost and product quality can suffer. The repairs undertaken can be costly. The production downtime during repairs can cost even more.

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