Corrosion of steel by alternating current was investigated as far back as the early 1900’s. These early studies and others in the 1950–60’s indicated that AC corrosion of steel was only a fraction of an equivalent amount of direct current (i.e. less than 1% of a like amount of DC) and in addition was controlled to negligible levels with cathodic protection applied to industry standards. In 1986 however, an investigation into a corrosion failure on a high pressure gas pipeline in Germany indicated that the sole cause of the failure was AC corrosion. This corrosion failure on an otherwise well protected pipeline resulted in several laboratory and Held studies which indicated, that above a certain minimum AC current density, standard levels of cathodic protection will not control AC corrosion and AC mitigation is required to prevent further corrosion. Several other corrosion anomalies were discovered at coating holidays during the follow-up investigations in Germany. The authors have investigated several corrosion occurrences on pipelines in Ontario during the last 2–3 years which appear to be caused by AC corrosion. This presentation traces the literature record on AC electrolysis from the past to the present and discusses the key parameters which determine the likelihood of corrosion attack. Several case histories of suspected AC corrosion will be discussed and guidelines on how to assess whether or not a pipeline is susceptible to AC corrosion will be offered.

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