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iPerm: Guided wave monitoring tool

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Say goodbye to leaks in Europe’s oil and gas pipelines with guided wave collars

About 40 % of the 40 major transnational oil and gas pipelines that traverse Europe have been in operation for over 40 years. An EU initiative has taken a radically different approach to detecting ageing infrastructure defects.

Industrial Technologies
Security

With such an extensive and growing European pipeline network, and an increased incidence of failure, it’s no longer feasible to rely on current intermittent manual inspection techniques to maintain safety. “Clearly, a wide-area-coverage structural health monitoring solution is long overdue,” says Martin Bourton, responsible for the EU-funded iPerm project’s technical management. “Guided wave collars that are permanently installed and one-click data collection is the way to go for cost-effective pipeline monitoring, particularly in locations that are hard to access, or need frequent inspections,” adds project coordinator Dr Kai Yang. Cutting-edge ultrasonics for structural integrity of pipelines The iPerm team developed a guided wave pipeline monitoring collar that’s permanently mounted outside pipelines. It detects time-dependent degradation that may lead to leaks, and can operate in environmentally hostile, safety-critical or difficult-to-access areas. The solution combines the long-range search capabilities of ultrasonic guided wave testing (GWT) with widely spaced, permanently installed sensors. Once installed, data may be gathered periodically by service-trained technicians to determine continued pipe integrity. Areas requiring action can be highlighted and prioritised. Such regular data collection helps to identify trends in degradation, leading to improved maintenance planning for pipework systems. The monitoring system consists of a sensor array that’s clamped to the pipe surrounded by a protective enclosure, and a portable ultrasonic unit that’s pre-programmed to collect guided wave data when plugged into the sensor array. The sensors’ low-cost non-invasive installation will result in reduced access costs for subsequent examinations. The test technician requires no specialist GWT knowledge to gather periodic inspection data. Data analysis and reporting of pipe conditions is provided by the specialist service provider that manages the iPerm system via a remote cloud-based link. Monitoring network delivers step-change improvement over existing inspection systems The innovation offers several benefits over local inspection methods. These include greater pipeline coverage, 100 % coverage of pipe wall thickness using ultrasonic guided waves, and repeatable test conditions thanks to permanently installed sensors. It also boasts defect detection capability equal to or better than one-off GWT on pipelines, with a cross-sectional area loss of as low as 5 %. To assist in the successful launch of the iPerm product and associated services, a comprehensive package of support materials has been produced, including validated technical reports, installation procedures and operating manuals. To showcase the technology, project partners installed the system at a leading Turkish crude oil processing plant with a capacity exceeding 11 million t per year, and at one of the largest oil and gas storage facilities based in the United Kingdom. Feedback from refinery technicians resulted in a series of hardware and software modifications, and improved performance in terms of inspection range, defect sensitivity and ease of use. “iPerm will help European oil and gas companies maintain pipeline integrity, reduce leaks and increase safety standards,” concludes Bourton. “A more secure and safer environment for large-scale pipeline operations and improved structural reliability will ultimately help key European pipeline actors to remain competitive in this sector.”

Keywords

iPerm, pipeline, inspection, oil and gas, guided wave, defect, GWT, pipeline monitoring, guided wave testing

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