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Which consulting services do you offer? We offer a variety of consulting services to support our clients in diagnosing and mitigating microbial and corrosion problems, including MIC. These services include legal/expert witness work, materials development, and recommendations/protocols for testing, mitigation, and monitoring. For details on these services, visit the Consulting Services section of our website.
What is the cost of your consulting services? In order to determine the most cost-effective and problem-specific solutions, it is most helpful for us to speak with you to get as much information possible about your facility and its particular needs. With this information, we can determine which of our services are most appropriate and can determine cost for those services. In most cases, we will provide you with a quote for our services.
For general information on hourly charges for consulting, visit the Fees section of our website.
How do I order your consulting services? The best way to hire us as consultants is to call us toll free at 970.884.4629 to discuss your facility’s particular needs. We can then determine which of our services will best suit your facility.
We are not sure what is causing problems in our system. Which diagnostic product should we use? When causative agents are unknown, it is important to get the most complete microbiological and chemical information possible. The type of diagnostic test kit best-suited to your application depends in large part on what type of system you will be testing. In general, our MICkit Comprehensive works well for many testing applications. For facilities using cathodic protection or coatings, our MICkit® 5used along with our MICkit® 4 provides the appropriate microbiological and chemical information. We also offer industry-specific test kits such as the MICkit® Barge and MICkit® FPS, which allow testing appropriate for the unique needs of those industries. To view recommended diagnostic test kits by industry, visit our Industries section of the website. Or contact us to discuss your particular testing needs.
How soon after sample collection should samples be tested for viable bacteria and chemical factors? Tests for viable bacteria and chemical factors should be done immediately (within several minutes) after sample collection, regardless of the type of sample. If this is not done, chemical parameters—such as oxygen, pH, and sulfide—may change. Also, certain microbes—such as anaerobes and sulfate reducing bacteria—in the sample may die, while low nutrient bacteria and other aerobes may multiply. This is what led BTI Products to develop MICkits®. They are easy to use and allow on-site testing that provides accurate and reliable results.
Where should diagnostic microbial and chemical testing be performed? Critical locations for diagnostic microbial and chemical testing vary depending on the type of system and other factors, such as the configuration of the system. “Hot spots” (areas that have experienced problems such as blockages or failures) should always be included in any diagnostic assessment. Inspections should also include areas that are likely to experience problems based on the type and configuration of the system. We can assist you in identifying locations where testing should be done. Contact us for more information.
Who should perform diagnostic microbial and chemical testing? There are several options for performing diagnostic testing. We offer a variety of on-site Diagnostic Test Kits that provide all supplies and instructions necessary for field personnel to perform microbial and chemical testing. We also offer Viable Cultures Analyses which are performed on samples sent to our laboratory and On-Site Diagnostic Facility Assessments, where our personnel come to your facility and perform diagnostic and inspection testing on-site. Choosing the best testing option often depends upon your facility’s particular needs. Contact us for more information.
Does your microbiological media test for specific strains of bacteria? BTI Products’ test media identify various functional groups of bacteria (e.g., acid producing bacteria, sulfate reducing bacteria) but do not identify specific strains (e.g., Desulfovibrio desulfuricans). Many hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of species of microbes can be involved in MIC, and these species often vary from site to site without changing the fact that MIC is present or the manner in which it needs to be treated. Identifying specific bacterial strains is expensive, time-consuming, and provides little useful information since the ultimate goal is to treat systems for all types/groups of bacteria involved in sliming, deposition, and MIC, not just certain species of bacteria.
Should we use regular formulation or marine formulation media? Regular formulation media is sufficient for most samples. Most organisms, even those found in brackish waters, are terrestrial in origin—i.e., they get washed into brackish waters from soil and fresh waters. BTI Products’ regular formulation media will grow these organisms and organisms from brackish waters because the media already contains some salt.
Only true marine bacteria require marine media, which contains seawater concentrations of salt (about 30,000 parts per million salt). Contact us if you have questions about which formulation media is best suited to your application.
What is the shelf life of the media and MICkit® test kits? Most of our media and MICkits® have a shelf life of one year from the date of purchase. All expiration dates are marked on product labels. For more information, see specific products in the Products portion of this website.
How quickly are test kit results available? Chemical test data are available immediately. Preliminary viable bacteria test data are available as soon as two days after sample processing. Final viable bacteria results are obtained fifteen days after sample processing.
What types and levels of bacteria should be of concern? Numbers and types of bacteria that should be a cause for concern depends upon several factors, including: the type of facility being tested, the type of sample (e.g., liquid, soil), and whether or not the facility is being treated specifically for bacteria. To discuss levels of concern for your particular application, please Contact us.
Why perform microscopic analysis along with viable bacteria tests? Microscopic analysis can provide important clues about the types, numbers, and health of bacterial cells and communities in the sample—even in old, dried-out, or biocide-treated samples, which may contain no live microbes. The total microbial count data can be compared with the number of viable (live) bacteria, obtained using BTI Products’ MICkits®, to determine if biocide treatments are working.
Why perform chemical analysis along with viable bacteria testing? Chemical analysis can provide essential information about chemical factors—such as oxygen, chloride, hardness, etc.—that greatly influence the occurrence and rates of corrosion and aid in properly diagnosing problems affecting the system. This information is also useful in determining which cleaning and treatment agents will be effective.
When should visual inspection of a system for MIC be done? Visually inspecting and documenting conditions in piping and system components is most effectively done after diagnostic microbial and chemical testing has been performed. Once results from such testing are available, it is possible to determine where in the system MIC is likely occurring and the potential severity of MIC at these locations. With this information, system inspections can be done on those areas most likely to be experiencing problems, which saves time and money.
What are the benefits of visual system inspection? There are several benefits of visual system inspections. First, they provide confirmation that a particular problem is, in fact, occurring in the system. In the case of MIC, inspecting piping and other system components for telltale signs of MIC helps to confirm suspected cases of MIC. Second, inspections provide information that helps to determine distribution of the problem (i.e., where in the system problems are occurring). Third, they help in determining severity of the problem (i.e., how bad the problem is). All of this information is critical to designing a simple, effective, and cost-saving mitigation plan that targets the problems affecting the system.
Where in the system should inspections be done? Critical locations for system inspection vary depending on the type of system and other factors, such as the configuration of the system. “Hot spots” (areas that have experienced problems such as blockages or failures) should always be included in any inspection. Inspections should also include areas that are likely to experience problems based on the type and configuration of the system. We can assist you in identifying locations where inspections should be done. Contact us for more information.
Who should perform system inspections? There are several options for performing system inspections. We offer an on-site test kit, the MICkit® Pipe Inspection Kit, that provides all tools and instructions necessary for field personnel to perform system inspections. We also offer Materials Lab Analyses services which are performed on samples sent to our laboratory and On-Site Diagnostic Facility Assessments, where our personnel come to your facility and perform diagnostic and inspection testing on-site. Choosing the best inspection option often depends upon your facility’s particular needs. Contact us for more information.
Is a degree or experience in MIC testing required to use your products? No special schooling or experience is required to use our products. All of our products are designed specifically for on-site use by field personnel. All our diagnostic, treatment, and monitoring products come with complete, step-by-step instructions. And, if you ever need help, Contact us and our experienced personnel will assist you.
How should the test materials be disposed of after they’ve been used? Please see the Product Disposal section of the FAQ's which addresses this question.
We would rather have experienced personnel test our systems than do it ourselves. Can BTI Products help us? Yes. Our On-site Diagnostic Facility Assessments are often the preferred option for clients who want our experts to perform system testing. We also offer On-Site Personnel Training for those clients wishing to train their field personnel in on-site testing, mitigation, and/or monitoring. Contact us to discuss your facility’s particular needs.
Why do we need to test our system if we already know it has problems? Because a variety of industrial problems have similar symptoms, it is important to determine underlying mechanisms in order to treat the problem effectively. Diagnostic testing is a relatively inexpensive way of pinpointing mechanisms involved. This, in turn, helps determine which mitigation options will be effective in treating the actual problems affecting the system. Testing can also be used to determine where in the system problems are occurring so that mitigation can focus on those problem areas. For these reasons, diagnostic testing often saves considerable time and money in the long run.
Why should we test our system if it hasn’t had any problems? Most people define not having problems as “not having had failures.” Just because a system hasn’t experienced any failures to date does not mean mechanisms responsible for such failures (such as MIC and other types of corrosion) are absent from the system. If left unchecked, these mechanisms often will progress to the point of failures.
Testing a system for microbial and chemical parameters that indicate the potential for MIC and other forms of corrosion can aid in identifying problems before they progress to more advanced stages. Mitigating such problems early on is less expensive and less time-consuming than waiting until problems are advanced.
Can we tell if our system has MIC by simply inspecting the system for physical signs? While it’s true that many symptoms of MIC are visible to the naked eye, these physical signs are often only apparent once MIC has progressed to more advanced stages. Since economical and effective treatment is more easily achieved in the earlier stages of MIC development, which is often not easily detectable using the naked eye, it is important to identify MIC in its early stages. One of the most effective ways of doing this is by using BTI Products’ MICkit® and MIPkit™ test kits to test samples from the system for microbial and chemical indicators of MIC activity.
Which laboratory analyses services do you offer? We offer a variety of laboratory analyses services to support our clients in diagnosing and mitigating microbial and corrosion problems, including MIC. These services include chemical testing, materials analyses, microbiological and microscopic testing, and viable culture testing. For details on these services, visit the Lab Analyses section of our website.
What information needs to be provided when sending samples to your laboratory for analysis? When sending samples to BTI Products, please include the following information:
Sample name or site designation
Date sample was collected
Date sample was shipped
Type of sample
Contact’s telephone and fax number
Contact’s e-mail address
Purchase Order # or Credit Card # along with expiration date, name on card, and 3 digit v-code (only MasterCard or Visa accepted)
Type of analyses to be performed on sample
Any other information you think is pertinent (e.g., location from which the sample was taken, whether or not the system is being treated, types of problems the system has experienced or is currently experiencing)
If you are sending completed MICkit® or MIPkit™ test kits for analysis, please fill out and return the Analytical Requests Sheet included in the instructions provided with your test kit.
How should samples be packaged when sending them to your laboratory for analysis? If sending test kits, place the media tray in the original kit box. To prevent the media bottles from dislodging and breaking during transit, place the white accessory kit box on top. Tape up the box. You may also use tightly balled-up paper or bubble wrap if you do not have the accessory kit box.
If sending raw liquid or slurry samples, collect the sample in a sterile plastic screw-top container (such as a centrifuge tube). Use a container that is at least 50 milliliters (ml) in volume. When collecting the sample, make sure to fill the collection container to overflowing so that no air remains in the container. Ensure the cap is screwed on tightly to prevent leakage during transit. Taping the cap with electricians tape and placing the container in a ziploc plastic bag is also helpful. Package the container in a shipping box, and use packing materials to ensure the sample container is well-cushioned and will not be crushed or broken during transit.
If sending solid samples, collect the sample in a sterile plastic screw-top container (such as a centrifuge tube). Use a container that is at least 50 milliliters (ml) in volume. When collecting the sample, fill the collection container with as much solid sample as possible. Ensure the cap is screwed on tightly to prevent opening during transit. Taping the cap with electricians tape and placing the container in a ziploc plastic bag is also helpful. Package the container in a shipping box, and use packing materials to ensure the sample container is well-cushioned and will not be crushed or broken during transit.
If sending pipes, coupons, or other materials for materials analyses, package the sample such that deposits and corrosion sites (if any) will be preserved during transit. For larger pipes, this usually means taping plastic bags or duct tape over the ends. For smaller pipes, coupons, gaskets, etc., this may entail placing these items in ziploc plastic bags or screw-top plastic containers. Marking on the sample the orientation of the sample as it was in the system (e.g., top/bottom, if applicable) is also helpful. Package the sample in a shipping box, and use packing materials to ensure the sample is well-cushioned and will not be crushed or broken during transit.
If sending pipes, coupons, or other materials for viable bacteria testing or microscopic analyses, follow the instructions in the paragraph above, but take extra precautions to ensure the sample is kept as free from outside contamination as possible (i.e., use only sterile containers to package or wrap the sample and avoid contaminating the samples by touching with unsterile objects or hands).
How should samples be shipped? If sending samples for viable bacteria, chemical, and/or microscopic analyses, it is preferable that you ship your sample by overnight delivery to ensure the least change in microbial and chemical parameters prior to testing.
Any samples requiring analyses other than viable bacteria, chemical, or microscopic can be shipped using the delivery method of your choice. Please take into consideration that we process and analyze samples in the order in which they are received. Therefore, if you are requiring a faster turnaround on your sample analyses, you may want to ship your sample using a faster delivery service.
We sent samples to your laboratory for analysis. How long will it be before we receive a report? All samples are analyzed in the order in which they are received by BTI Products. Therefore, the turnaround time for analysis of your samples depends, in part, on the number of samples in the cue before yours.
If you have sent test kits for analysis and to receive a MICkit® or MIPkit™ Test Kit Report, we will issue the report 15 days from the date of kit inoculation in order to allow the media to incubate for the proper length of time.
If you have sent samples for viable analysis, samples will be inoculated into our test kits upon receipt and then will be allowed to incubate for 15 days. Reports on viable analysis are issued 15 days from the date of kit inoculation in order to allow the media to incubate for the proper length of time.
If you have sent samples for microscopic analyses, samples will be processed and reports issued in the order in which they are received. Turnaround time for microscopic analyses results is usually 7 to 14 business days from the date of sample receipt.
If you have sent samples for materials analyses, these will be processed and analyzed in the order in which they are received. Turnaround time for materials analyses reports is usually 14 business days from the date of sample receipt.
What is MIC, and why is it a problem? Microbiologically influenced corrosion (MIC) is a term coined by BTI Products founder, Daniel H. Pope. MIC is any form of corrosion influenced by the presence and activities of microbes.
MIC almost always occurs concurrently with, and is virtually impossible to separate from, other corrosion mechanisms. This is due, in large part, to microbes helping create conditions under which other corrosion mechanisms (e.g., crevice corrosion, oxygen concentration cell corrosion, under-deposit corrosion, and acid attack corrosion) can occur.
MIC is a problem in industrial systems because the by-products of microbial activities(e.g., biofilms/slimes, deposits, acid production) cause plugging of system components, reduced porosity, souring or fouling of materials, and a form of severe corrosion (under-deposit corrosion pitting) that can cause rapid deterioration and failures of system components.
Which other forms of corrosion can accompany MIC? The types of corrosion that may accompany MIC depends upon the microbial and chemical conditions at the location in question. Given the proper environment, various corrosion mechanisms—including crevice corrosion, oxygen concentration cell corrosion, under-deposit corrosion, and acid attack corrosion—can all occur alongside MIC and are often difficult to distinguish from MIC.
Which problems are experienced by systems affected by microbial problems and MIC? One or more of the following problems can occur in systems affected by MIC: biofouling, souring, taste/odor/staining issues, reduced porosity/production rates, restricted fluid flow, plugging of system components, damage to coatings, reduction of cathodic protection efficacy, deterioration of system components, reduced component life span, improper system functioning, and system failure.
Which factors influence the rate and severity of MIC? Environmental conditions, including the presence, availability, and activity of water, salts, oxygen, pH, microbes, nutrients, acids, and gases can influence the rate and severity of corrosion reactions, including MIC.
Which types of materials are affected by MIC? With the exception of titanium, all metals commonly used in industrial systems are susceptible to MIC. These include, but are not limited to: steels (including stainless and galvanized), copper, brass, and ductile iron. While other materials such as PVC and plastics do not suffer from MIC, per se, in that they don’t corrode or pit, MIC-related activities can cause sliming and fouling in these type systems.
Which types of microbes are involved in MIC? Many different types of microbes are involved in MIC. Most damage to system components is caused by the action of microbial communities composed of several different groups of bacteria working together. The bacteria most often involved in MIC of industrial systems belong to the following groups:
Aerobes (AERO) - Aerobic bacteria grow and live in the presence of oxygen, and are a diverse group that include slime-formers and low nutrient bacteria (see below). Aerobes are important to MIC because they produce extracellular polymers (“slime”) that bind cells to the surface and trap particulates, forming deposits. Aerobic slimes also regulate what permeates the deposit. Aerobes use oxygen, preventing it from reaching the underlying surface which creates an ideal site for anaerobic bacterial growth (such as APB and SRB) and involvement of these bacteria in MIC.
Anaerobes (ANA) - There are both obligate anaerobes, which cannot grow in the presence of oxygen and may be killed by oxygen, and facultative anaerobes, which are capable of growing in the presence or absence of oxygen. Anaerobes include slime and acid-formers and help create conditions under which other MIC-related microbes, such as sulfate-reducing bacteria, can flourish.
Acid-producing bacteria (APB) - There are both obligate APB, which cannot grow in the presence of oxygen and may be killed by oxygen, and facultative APB, which are capable of growing in the presence or absence of oxygen. APB feed on organic nutrients and excrete organic acids that are very important in MIC and contribute to rapid and severe under-deposit acid attack/pitting. The presence of APB is the best indication of “mature” MIC communities and possibly advanced pitting corrosion.
Iron-related bacteria (IRB) - IRB are microbes capable of converting iron to insoluble deposits. IRB gain their energy from oxidizing Fe2+ to Fe3+ and, thus, contribute to the formation of discrete deposits. The IRB belong to many other functional groups (e.g., aerobes and anaerobes) and, therefore, can be present under a wide variety of environmental conditions.
Low nutrient bacteria (LNB) - LNB are microbes that grow in environments with very low concentrations of nutrients and aerobes (see above) in that they thrive in oxygenated environments. LNB are the most common group of microbes found in fresh waters (potable waters, well waters, surface waters, condensate). LNB start the process of MIC by forming slimes and deposits which provide places for other MIC bacteria to grow and contribute to MIC. While LNB belong to other functional groups (e.g., aerobes, slime-formers), they are distinguished from these groups by their aptitude in thriving in low nutrient environments.
Sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB) - SRB convert sulfate to sulfide and are obligate anaerobes (they must grow in the absence of oxygen). While SRB are important in MIC of soils, pipelines, and other environments high in organic materials, they are often not found in environments such as FPS and potable water systems due to the lack of organic nutrients and sulfate in these systems and because of exposure to oxygen. SRB are indicators of “mature” MIC communities and possibly advanced pitting corrosion. SRB are often easily detectable because of the “rotten egg” smell that results from their production of sulfide, which combines with hydrogen to form hydrogen sulfide.
Where do the microbes involved in MIC come from? The microbes involved in MIC can be found in a variety of environments and in a variety of materials. MIC bacteria exist in waters (including the water phase of petrochemicals and in ultrapure waters), soils, sediments/particulates, dust, air, cutting oils, and certain antifreeze solutions (glycol). MIC bacteria are typically introduced into a system by one or more of these vehicles.
Which chemical factors influence the occurrence of MIC and other forms of corrosion and help to diagnose MIC? The following chemical factors can greatly influence the occurrence of MIC and other forms of corrosion and are helpful in diagnosing MIC:
The amount of water available is very important since it is required for microbial growth and activities and corrosion reactions. Without water, microbial growth and corrosion reactions cannot proceed.
Oxygen (O2) is very important to the growth and activities of many MIC bacteria and drives several important corrosion reactions at accelerated rates. Reducing or eliminating oxygen can greatly reduce corrosion rates, including MIC.
The pH of the environment can have a dramatic effect on the type of corrosion and corrosion rates. Lower pH (increased acidity) tends to promote corrosion while elevated pH (more alkaline) tends to reduce some corrosion rates. Raising the pH of water in a system will not, by itself, stop MIC.
Alkalinity is a measure of the amount of substances, primarily carbonates (CO3 2-) and bicarbonates (HCO3-), in the water capable of neutralizing acid (also known as “buffering”). Alkalinity does not refer to pH but instead refers to the ability of the water to resist change in pH (also known as its “buffering capacity”). Therefore, waters with higher alkalinity values have more buffering capacity than waters with lower alkalinity values. Alkaline materials, such as carbonates, combine with calcium and magnesium (water hardness), especially at alkaline pH, to promote scaling. Elevated alkalinity and scale may help to protect metals from general forms of corrosion but cannot, by themselves, prevent MIC.
Water hardness is an indication of the amount of calcium (Ca2+) and magnesium (Mg2+) present. Waters with high hardness values are referred to as “hard,” while waters with low hardness values are “soft.” Calcium and magnesium react with alkaline materials (such as carbonate-type compounds), especially at alkaline pH, to form scale. Hardness and scale may help protect metals from general forms of corrosion but cannot, by themselves, prevent MIC.
Salts, especially those containing chloride (Cl-), accelerate corrosion by causing corrosion products to flake off metal surfaces, leaving new metal exposed to the corrosive environment. Chloride also reacts with weak acids formed by bacteria (like the acetic acid in vinegar) to form hydrochloric acid (HCl), which is a strong acid. This strong acid drops the pH from slightly acidic to strongly acidic and greatly accelerates corrosion rates. Chloride promotes pitting corrosion, causing much more rapid penetration of metals than would be the case for general corrosion.
Sulfides (S2-) may be present in deposits. Sulfides are an indication of microbial activity and, therefore, are important in diagnosing MIC. The bacteria most often involved in sulfide production are SRB. Since SRB are involved in more mature MIC communities, the presence of sulfides can be an indicator of advanced MIC. Because sulfides form a toxic gas (hydrogen sulfide) upon contact with acid, it is very important to know if sulfides are present before choosing cleaning or treatment methods.
Particulates and other substances found in oils, dirt, dust, and water of poor quality provide nutrients and, in most cases, protective habitats for microbes. This allows the microbes to grow and cause MIC at a much faster rate. These substances can often be detected by inspecting samples from the system.
Iron (Fe) is a very important nutrient for bacteria. It also comprises a large percentage of deposits and corrosion products in irons and steels. Iron is an important indicator of corrosion in iron or steel systems.
Build-up of gas may be an indication of microbial breakdown of chemicals (e.g., glycol, corrosion inhibitors/biocides) or other materials used in the system.
Zinc (Zn) is an important indicator of corrosion in galvanized systems.
Copper (Cu) is an important indicator of corrosion in systems containing copper.
What are the physical indicators of MIC? Slimes, discrete deposits, under-deposit pitting, and pinhole leaks are telltale signs of MIC in industrial systems.
What are the different stages of MIC? When relevant MIC factors (e.g., susceptible metal, water, MIC-related bacteria, nutrients which are present in water and sediments, oxygen which is present in water and air) exist in a system, MIC occurs in the following stages:
MIC-related bacteria live on metal surfaces and form communities of bacteria containing many different types of interdependent bacteria. These bacterial communities produce biofilms (a.k.a., slimes), among other things. These biofilms can cause fouling or souring of materials and plugging of some system components, as well as reduced production rates. Biofilms often prevent corrosion inhibitors and biocides from reaching corrosion sites, they help protect microbes (thereby making their elimination more difficult), and trap debris and help scale and deposits to form.
The growth of bacteria and their by-products results in the formation of discrete deposits (a.k.a., tubercules, carbuncles). Discrete deposits can impede liquid flow and can plug system components, causing them to fail. In addition, discrete deposits allow for the build-up and concentration of bacterial by-products (such as acids, alcohols, and gases), which changes the underlying metal surface in many ways. Discrete deposits are even harder than biofilms to penetrate with biocides and chemical treatments and they reduce cathodic protection efficacy, which makes eliminating MIC-bacteria and protecting the metal beneath deposits very challenging.
MIC-related bacteria create conditions that promote very rapid localized pitting corrosion beneath the discrete deposits (under-deposit pitting corrosion). MIC-related bacteria do this principally by producing acids and consuming oxygen. Under-deposit pitting deteriorates the integrity of system components, often lessening their life span.
Under-deposit pitting often results in pinhole leaks, which sometimes occur within months of system installation. Leaks resulting from under-deposit pitting cause improper system functioning and system failures.
How do we know if our system has MIC or other microbial problems? When causative agents are unknown, it is important to get the most complete microbiological and chemical information possible. Even in situations where there appear to be definitive signs of MIC (e.g., deposits or pinhole leaks), it is important to identify the extent of microbial involvement and whether or not other corrosion mechanisms are potentially contributing to the problem. Diagnostic testing is one of the fastest and least expensive ways to determine microbial involvement in problems and to identify which types of corrosion may be occurring and the locations in the system that are most likely affected. Once this information is obtained, more detailed investigations can be done on targeted areas. BTI Products’ On-Site Diagnostic Facility Assessments and Diagnostic Test Kits can aid in determining which problems are affecting the system.
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