A fusion bonded epoxy coating is a thermoset polymer that has been widely used in the pipeline industry for more than 30 years. This type of coating is typically applied to pipeline steel to provide corrosion protection. In recent years, there has been an increased focus on the long-term performance of FBE pipe segments. As a result, several exploratory inspections have been conducted to assess the condition of these assets. The data derived from these inspections has provided valuable information regarding the historical performance of FBE coatings and has yielded insight into the future service life of these assets. The results of these inspections have indicated that FBE coatings can provide superior pipeline protection when used in conjunction with cathodic protection. Consequently, this information can be used to inform decision-making about pipeline asset management.
The pipeline industry has long relied on FBE pipes to protect against corrosion. FBE is a thin film applied to the pipe’s surface and acts as a barrier to corrosion-causing agents. Although records of the FBE pipe manufacturer indicate that this mid-1970s FBE coating formulation has gone through several subsequent revisions to give better corrosion protection and mechanical properties, this older generation of FBE installed more than 30 years ago is still performing well. There are no indications of significant coating degradation, and there are many years of remaining life on the FBE system. This is good news for pipeline operators, as it means that they can continue to rely on this tried-and-true method of pipeline protection.
Integrity management programs that include exploratory excavations and pipeline inspections can provide valuable information about the long-term performance of early-generation FBE coating systems. Many changes and developments have occurred in FBE coating technology since the 1970s, so evaluations of earlier generations of FBE can provide additional performance validation that may yield a greater degree of confidence with current formulations. The development of new formulations and improved application techniques has resulted in FBE-coated pipe that exhibits much better long-term performance in terms of both corrosion resistance and mechanical properties. The use of these newer coatings on pipelines can greatly extend their service life and reduce the risk of pipeline failure.