Understanding Corrosion in Water Pipelines: A Guide for Pipeline Designers


Stray Current

Last updated: December 4, 2017

What Does Stray Current Mean?

Stray current refers to the electricity flow via buildings, ground or equipment due to electrical supply system imbalances or wiring flaws. It refers to an existence of electrical potential that can be found between objects that should not be subjected to voltage.

Often, small voltages are gauged between grounded materials that exist in distant places because of ordinary current flow within the power system. On the other hand, large voltages can be a sign of a faulty electrical system.


Corrosionpedia Explains Stray Current

Electrical systems are usually underground at irregular intervals, both on ground and neutral wire or stages. Power in this case is delivered via hot phases, with various voltages available depending on the location. Electrical currents that are not utilized return to the source via the phase or neutral wires. Electrical codes in different areas need an individual ground wire connected to a specific rod.

If an electrical system is not installed or maintained properly, the current can disperse directly to the ground through the equipment or building itself. In such cases, stray current can exist in small amounts and serve as a minor nuisance. However, it can be fatal when it is present in dangerously high levels. Apart from electrocution, stray current is also capable of causing damage by causing metals within the ground to corrode.

The following are measures to mitigate the negative effects of stray current:

  • Drainage connections that exist between pipelines and railway systems which allow stray currents to turn back galvanically
  • Protection systems that are cathodic in nature equipped with rectifiers that give off currents to balance stray currents in high variables
  • Pipeline network isolation by mounting insulation joints in order to decrease conductivity and separate the system, preventing stray voltage from dispersing in larger distances
  • Stray current galvanic discharge that makes use of limiters and AC arresters
  • Stray currents can be assessed and recorded in a precise manner with the aid of high-end metrology technology. The existence of stray current can accelerate the corrosion of metal, so it should be corrected to prevent destruction of metals and other structures.


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