Pipe Dream

Preventing corrosion in oil and gas lines isn't only necessary. It's also a profitable and growing niche

Peter Murphy for TIME

William Schutt, president of Matcor.

Annoyed with that smidgen of rust in your car's wheel well? Then put yourself in the shoes of the nation's oil and natural gas pipeline operators, who monitor nearly 600,000 miles of high-pressure steel pipelines--every square inch susceptible to corrosion-induced failures, the kind that can lead to leaks or explosions. And very ugly ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER headlines. Not everyone's complaining, though. The industry's nightmare has been a boon to companies that prevent and repair pipeline rust, typically through a process called cathodic protection.

The process is a no-brainer. Corrosion happens as a result of a pipeline throwing off a naturally occurring electrical...

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