CLAIM: A letter to the editor published in the Wilson Times claimed a epoxy coating used to protect pipelines from corrosion is susceptible to UV degradation. The letter goes on to allege the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines pose safety risks because some of the pipe used for the projects had been stored outside for an extended period of time.
FACT CHECK: This letter is more focused on spreading fear than it is on establishing facts. Fusion-bonded epoxy or FBE is a corrosion resistant coating used in the pipeline industry to protect steel pipe from corroding once buried underground. Like many other things, this protective barrier not immune to the effects of long-term UV exposure.
According to 3M, a manufacturer of FBE, “weathering appears to have minimal effects on the performance of FBE coatings.” Even so, pipeline operators routinely take added steps to protect FBE-coated pipe from UV radiation, as noted by 3M:
Many different methods have been used throughout the industry to protect coated pipe from UV radiation. As a preventative measure, many applicators apply additional coating thickness at the time the FBE coating is applied in order to compensate for any thickness loss that may occur during the time between when the pipe is coated and when the pipe is actually installed. The typical procedure in most cases is to provide a barrier between the sun and the coated pipe. The barrier could include any of the following:
- Covering pipe stock piles with tarps.
- Applying white wash to the UV exposed upper layer of the stock pile.
- Applying an overcoat of an aliphatic polyurethane to the entire coated surface
- Applying an overcoat of polyester powder coating. (Separate spray booths are required due to the incompatibility of epoxy and polyester systems)
With this in mind, the facts simply do not support the notion that the Atlantic Coast or Mountain Valley pipelines are somehow less safe because of long-term pipe storage.