If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – tried and tested advice, BUT what if it is truly broken and compromising safety or efficiency? Pyrogel insulation owes much of its early success to problem solving, responding to a frustrated call for a different outcome. The story goes like this: solve the problem, the customer identifies additional areas for application, Pyrogel delivers, pains become gains, and Pyrogel displaces the incumbent insulation.
As facilities engineers and operators know, a Corrosion Under Insulation (CUI) mitigation plan is critical to combating the problems that arise from wet insulation and CUI, such as process instability, reduced outputs, loss of containment, and personnel safety incidents.
But, it's the designer of industrial insulation systems that creates a system that stands the test of time in CUI defense. That being said, the designer has three main weapons in the fight against CUI. The first and primary defense against CUI is a high quality, immersion-grade coating. The second is a properly designed and installed weather barrier jacketing and, if operating below the atmospheric dew point, vapor barrier. The third and, arguably, least understood element is the choice of insulation material. Historically, hot insulation products have been divided into categories of wetting and non-wetting, or “hydrophobic” materials. The distinction is important because, as pointed out in NACE Standard RP0198-98:
“Because CUI is a product of wet metal exposure duration, the insulation system that holds the least amount of water and dries most quickly should result in the least amount of corrosion damage to equipment.”
A more recent European monograph states flatly:
“Insulation that minimizes water ingress and does not retain water can effectively act as a barrier to CUI.”
The weight of insulation is becoming increasingly critical for today's congested industrial sites. For some sites, turnaround and maintenance schedules can be negatively impacted by space and weight limitations—just think about the use of cranes where space is restricted as an example. In this post, we focus on the weight of thermal insulation, including when it becomes an important consideration for refinery and chemical processing engineers.
Experts agree that when pipe jacketing becomes damaged, the entire CUI defense mechanism rests on properly specified insulation and well-applied coating. In this situation, you must rely on water-repellent insulation--such as Pyrogel--to keep pipes and assets drier for longer. However, if you've selected an insulation that absorbs water, there are damaging and costly short-term effects of wet insulation to look out for:
- Heat loss that leads to increased energy consumption and process instability.
Wet insulation has a parasitic, heat and energy sucking effect on pipes and assets. So, when insulation is wet, it impacts your process stability and the energy required to run your processes optimally—costing you time and money. Since the thermal conductivity of liquid water is approximately 20 times that of most industrial insulation materials, choosing an insulation that can absorb water just doesn't make sense. The Facilities Management Team at Duke University came to this conclusion. In our article, the Duke team was faced with the option of resolving their wet insulation problem or adding additional steam capacity to compensate for the network losses. Wisely, they chose to address to parasitic losses in their steam network by replacing water-absorbing insulation with Pyrogel.
- Personnel safety hazards.
Hot or extremely cold piping and equipment presents a safety hazard to your personnel. ASTM C1055 (Standard Guide for Heated System Surface Conditions that Produce Contact Burn Injuries) recommends that pipe surface temperatures remain at or below 140°F. The reason for this is that the average person can touch a 140°F surface for up to five seconds without sustaining irreversible burn damage.
Thermal insulation is one of the most effective means of protecting workers from burns resulting from contact, but wetness greatly reduces the effectiveness of your insulation system. Think of an oven mitt. If it is water-logged, its heat protection properties sharply decline—and if you touch a hot oven rack with that wet mitt, you WILL get burned (don’t try this at home, please). When insulation is wet, jacketing surfaces can become extremely hot—increasing the risk of safety incidents or injury to your personnel. So, it is critical that your thermal insulation stay dry to protect your personnel.
If you've chosen not to insulate because of CUI concerns, perhaps it's time you try Pyrogel. It's unique properties ensure that your pipes remain drier for longer, minimizing risk to your personnel and assets.
- Unplanned shutdown for repair and replacement of piping and equipment.
When insulation becomes wet, it loses its ability to conserve energy, protect workers, and maintain system performance. Thermal resistance is decimated, and the increased risk of corrosion may endanger infrastructure. Also in our Duke University case study, we shared the story of a colleague who experienced the consequences of wet insulation in an industrial steam network he had worked on in Europe. It required him to work around periodic reduced capacity and increased condensate production; overloaded steam traps; and increased consumption of fuel, water, and treatment chemicals during winter months. A near disastrous corrosion event on a heavy fuel oil tank roof and wall caused major disruption and expensive repairs. The root cause of the tank performance was CUI—the tank had failed as the result of wet insulation.
Choose hydrophobic, breathable Pyrogel as your insulation to minimize your assets' time in contact with water. Pyrogel helps extend the life of your assets while keeping processes on track, saving you the cost of an unplanned shutdown.
- Environmental hazards.
Thermal insulation plays a significant role in protecting the environment. It reduces energy consumption, which means that less fossil fuel is burned to produce that energy. This, in turn, decreases the amount of polluting gases—such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide—emitted into the atmosphere. When insulation is wet, the energy required to operate your process increases dramatically, along with the pollutants you’re contributing to the environment.