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Stray currents are currents
flowing in the electrolyte from
external sources. Any metallic
structure, for example a pipe
line, buried in soil represents a
low resistance current path and
is therefore fundamentally
vulnerable to the effects of stray

Stray current tends to enter a buried

structure in a certain location and leave
it in another. It is where the current
leaves the structure that severe
corrosion expected.
Overprotection might also occur at a
location where the high current density
of stray current enter a structure.
There are a number of source of
undesirable stray currents, including
foreign cathodic protection installations,
dc transit systems such as electrified
railways, subway systems, and
streetcars, welding operations, and
electrical power transmission systems.

Stray currents, can be

classified into three


1. - Direct currents
2. - Alternating
3. - Telluric currents



Direct stray currents come from

foreign cathodic protection
systems, transit systems, and dc
high voltage transmission line.
Direct stray current can cause :
1. Anodic interference
2. Cathodic interference
3. Combined interference

Anodic Interference
It is found in relatively close proximity to a
buried anode.
At location close to anode the pipeline will pick
up current. This current will be discharged at a
distance farther away from the anode.

In the current pickup region, the

potential of the pipeline will shift
in the negative region. It receives a
boost of cathodic protection current
locally. This local current boost will
not necessarily be beneficial,
because a state of overprotection
could be created. Excess of alkaline
species generated can be harmful to
aluminum and lead alloys.

Cathodic Interference

Cathodic interference is produced in relatively

close proximity to a polarized cathode.
Current will flow away from the structure in
region in close proximity to the cathode. The
potential will shift in the positive direction
where the current leaves this structure, and
this area presents the highest corrosion
damage risk.
Current will flow onto the structurew over a
large area at farther distance from the

Combined Anodic and

Cathodic Interference

Current pickup occurs close to an anode,

and current discharge occurs close to a
cathodically polarized structure.
The degree of damage of the combined
stray current effects is greater than in
the case of anodic or cathodic
interference acting alone.
The damage in both the current pickup
(overprotection effects) and discharge
regions (corrosion) will be greater.

Controlling Stray Current


In implementing countermeasures against

stray current effects, the nature of stray
currents has to be considered. For
mitigating dc interference, the following
fundamental steps can be taken:
Removal of the stray current source or
reduction in its output current.
Use of electrical bonding
Cathodic shielding
Use of sacrificial anodes
Application of coatings to current pickup

Use of a drainage bond

Cathodic shielding

Use of

Stray Current Associated

with DC Transit System

Stray current due to electrified transit system

might be illustrated from the following figure:

The rail has been grounded, however

remote from the substation, due to the
voltage drop in rail itself, the rail will
tend to be less negative relative to
earth and stray current flows onto the
Close to the substation, the rails are
highly negative relative to earth, and
stray current will tend to leave the
pipeline and induce corrosion damage.
The presence of stray currents can
thus can thus usually be identified
when fluctuating pipe-to-soil potential
are recorded with time.



There are two dominant

mechanisms by which stray
currents associated with
powerlines transmssion can be
produced in buried pipelines:
1. Electromagnetic
2. Transmission line faults

A voltage is induced in a buried structure

under the influence of the alternating
electromagnetic field surrounding the
overhead transmission line. The effect
is similar to the coupling in a
transformer, with the overhead
transmission line acting as primary
transformer coil and the buried
structure acting as the secondary coil.
The magnitude of the induced voltage
depends of the factors such as the
separation distance from the power line,
the relative position of the structure to
the powerlines, the proximity to other
buried structures, and the coating

Such induced voltages can be

hazardous to anyone who comes in
contact with the pipeline or its

The second mechanism is one of

resistive coupling, whereby AC
currents are directly transmitted to
earth during transmission line faults.
Usually such faults are of very short
duration, but due to the high currents
involved, subtantial physical damage to
coated structures is possible.


The stray current are induced by transient

geomagnetic activity. The potential and
current distribution of buried structures can
be influenced by such disturbances in the
earths magnetic fields. Such effects, often
assumed to be greatest significance in closer
proximity to the poles, has been observed to
be more intense during periods of intensified
sun spot activities. In general, harmful
influences on structure are of limited
duration and do not remain highly localized to
specific current pickup and discharge areas.
Major corrosion problems as a direct result of
telluric effects are therefore relative rare.