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Pulsed eddy current inspection system for pipeline health monitoring

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - PRECISE (Pulsed eddy current inspection system for pipeline health monitoring)

Reporting period: 2017-03-01 to 2017-08-31

The problem/issue addressed with in this project is inspection technologies for detecting Corrosion under insulation, composite repairs , fireproofing and weather coverings . Corrosion under insulation (CUI) remains a major problem for key process industries in Europe and globally including oil and gas production and refining, petrochemical and bulk chemical production. For outdoor processing where large networks of pipes and vessels operating at 30-120 oC conditions are right for external corrosion in carbon steel pipework, however it is difficult to detect when hidden by thick insulation, weatherproofing and any other obstructions. Standard penetrative inspection techniques, such as ultrasonic inspection, are unable to effectively penetrate these coverings and provide accurate readings of the underlying wall thickness. Other techniques employed such as radiography are cumbersome, slow and difficult to digitalise for modern preventative maintenance strategies. These limitations mean that typically industry still relies on periodic visual inspections, which require removal of covers/insulation. This is very labour and time intensive and increases the risk of additional damage to the coverings leading to further ingress of water and therefore further corrosion.

Hidden corrosion has been estimated to cause 60% of pipework leaks. These failures in key pipework can cause safety, environmental and commercial impacts, meaning detection and management of CUI is highly important for these industries. It has been estimated that the management of CUI accounts for 10% of all maintenance costs in the process industry.
Society would benefit from improvements in detection and management of CUI due to reduction in accidents, reduction in environmental damage due to loss of containment; additionally the reduction in costs for industry will improve competitiveness and improve business resilience.

With a focus on pipework this project aimed to investigate in detail the commercial feasibility of EtherNDE’s PRECISE inspection system which has been developed as a prototype. This technology is based on Pulsed Eddy Current (PEC) inspection technique using Giant Magento-Resistance(GMR) for high sensitivity sensors. The overall objective is to determine if EtherNDE should pursue commercialisation of this technology, based on understanding the size of the market and the targeting of this technology.

Following market surveys, interviews with key industry experts it has been determined that a fast inspection technique that does not require removal of insulation would be particularly beneficial for the management of CUI and there is significant market potential while the industry tries to determine the most cost effective solution for this problem.

Therefore it was conclude that EtherNDE should pursue the commercialisation of the this device.
Two surveys were undertaken to determine latest best practice in industry, focusing on the management of pressure retaining composite repairs and the technologies used for inspection of corrosion under insulation. The oil and gas and process industries were specifically targeted, the results of these surveys and follow up interviews demonstrated that the industry is still undecided on how to tackle hidden corrosion. While a number of Non-Destructive techniques are deployed, these are used inconsistently and organisations rely on labour and time intensive visual inspections to back up advanced techniques that have unreliable probabilities of detection.

A number of competitors have been identified who have existing products based on the pulsed eddy current technique, providing similar penetrating inspection performance. There is a risk these competitors could take significant market share ahead of the earliest potential launch of PRECISE. However these devices are generic inspection devices, PRECISE is designed specifically for high speed, high accuracy inspection, focusing on ease of use and minimising operator error. There is no indication of a competitor creating techniques with similar capabilities. Alternative technologies have also been noted as a threat providing different means to achieve similar inspections, each technique has a specific niche within the challenge of CUI inspection, none were identified that can compete with the potential of the PRECISE product within the specific target use cases.

Risks and barrier for market entry have been analysed through SWOT analysis and assessment of Porters five forces. Key barriers such as supplier health and freedom to operate have been assessed and a risk table has been created.

A commercialisation plan has been drafted, to bring this product to market EtherNDE needs finalised the product design to ensure it is robust enough to survive 5+years of use, including the electronics and power systems so it can be easily used in the field. To do this EtherNDE aims to operate an extended trial with a development partner. This is important to provide the final information to produce the version 1.0 design and the reference material to generate branding and marketing platform demonstrating the product effectiveness.
This work did not specifically progress beyond the state of the art as a business feasibility study. However the PRECISE device is itself a state of the art inspection technology using the latest pulsed eddy current technology and optimised high sensitive electronics and sensor to provide the greatest penetration and accuracy.

If commercialised this device would provide significantly faster inspections for CUI, both reducing the costs of inspections and reducing the number of pipework leaks that have safety, environmental and cost implications.
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