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Submitted May 2004

Magnetic Design of a Flux Leakage Assembly for Pipes
by David Mackintosh,* Mathew Schmidt,† Carlos Claveria,† Todd Carey† and Graham Moorhouse†

For good sensitivity to discontinuities in pipes, a magnetic flux leakage assembly should strongly magnetize the pipe wall. In this paper, a proposed design for a magnetic flux leakage magnetizing assembly is modeled using conventional magnetic circuit models and finite element analysis. Variations on the initial design are tested according to how strongly they magnetize the pipe wall. Some design changes, such as increasing the dimensions of the magnet and adding brushes to the pole pieces, were found through finite element analysis to give no improvement, contrary to expectations based on the circuit model. The inaccuracy of the circuit model was mainly due to the difficulty of calculating the amount of flux in the air outside the pipe. Finite element analysis results indicated that the biggest improvement to the magnetic flux leakage assembly was obtained by adding opposing magnetizing assemblies to each end of the primary assembly. Finite element analysis has proved itself an important development tool because it allows calculation of fields for configurations that are difficult to model with a conventional magnetic circuit. Keywords: magnetic flux leakage, finite element analysis, pipe testing, permanent magnet design.

This paper describes the modeling of a proposed magnetic flux leakage magnetizing assembly and discusses some results that appear to run contrary to expectations. The assembly studied in this paper was one of about 40 modeled during a recent development project and was not the assembly ultimately selected as the best design. The focus of this paper is on the process of design, modeling and optimization. Magnetic flux leakage is a method of nondestructive testing (NDT) that involves magnetizing the test object (in this case, the pipe wall) and detecting discontinuities in the magnetic field that indicate metal loss (Figure 1). A key design objective is to create a magnetizing assembly that fits inside the pipe with the required clearance and which also strongly magnetizes the pipe.

Figure 1 — Principle of magnetic flux leakage: a magnetizing assembly induces a magnetic field in the pipe wall. At areas with metal loss, some of the magnetic flux “leaks” out of the pipe wall, where it can be detected by a sensor. Note that the specifications of pipe diameter, wall thickness and clearance are important; changing any one of those values can often result in a totally different choice of magnetizing assembly configuration. What level of pipe magnetization is required? The simple answer for this study is as high as possible, given the space limitations and the grade of magnets used. Stronger magnetization of the pipe wall gives better sensitivity to discontinuities and also tends to remove indications from variations in magnetic permeability (Nestleroth and Bubenik, 1999). Designers of magnetic flux leakage tools for large bore pipes may strive for 2 T (2 × 104 G) in the pipe wall (Nestleroth and Bubenik, 1999). Atherton and Dufour (1996) achieved 1.3 T (1.3 × 104 G) in 103 mm (4 in.) pipe, using neodymium-iron-boron magnets in an assembly that was built short (156.2 mm [6.1 in.]) to negotiate tight bends. The tool studied in this paper may not produce more than 1 T (1 × 104 G) in the pipe wall for two reasons: because neodymiumiron-boron magnets, the most powerful magnets available, may not be suitable for this high temperature application; and because the assembly needs to be reasonably long to magnetize the pipe wall when in motion (longer assemblies tend to magnetize the wall more weakly). Shorter magnetic flux leakage assemblies magnetize more strongly when stationary, but may not perform well when in motion, because the magnetic flux has less time to diffuse into the pipe wall. In this study, a reasonable assembly length was selected and no attempt was made to optimize the assembly by making it shorter. Magnetic Flux Leakage Assembly Two cylindrical magnets with their central north/south axes coaxial with the pipe are placed with an iron backing bar between them (Figure 2). Iron pole pieces on the ends of the magnets are
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Design Specifications For the purposes of this paper, the following outline specifications apply: ■ magnetic flux leakage tool using permanent magnets ■ pipe outside diameter: 139.7 mm (5.5 in.) ■ pipe wall thickness: 7.72 mm (0.304 in.) ■ magnet radial clearance on inside pipe wall: 8.26 mm (0.325 in.) ■ no requirements for passing bends (operates in straight oil well casing) ■ operates without significant loss of magnetization up to 422 K (300 °F) ■ operates while traveling at 0.3 m/s (1 ft/s).
* 16537 104 Ave., Edmonton, AB T5P 0S8, Canada; (780) 913-0359; e-mail <>. † Spartek Systems, 1 Thevenaz Industrial Trail, Sylvan Lake, AB T4S 2J6, Canada; (403) 887-2443; e-mail <>.

Hence. Note that if the bar and pole pieces were close to saturation. manufacturing and heat processes. To estimate whether magnets with the specified diameter have adequate cross sectional area. If the load on the magnets is of low enough reluctance. ASTM standard specification A 848-01 (ASTM. Wire Brush Material Steel bristle brush material may be placed in the air gap between pole pieces and pipe to improve magnetic coupling. it might be worth considering a more expensive material such as one of the iron-cobalt high magnetic saturation alloys. The bar is made narrower than the magnets to make room for sensors and electronics.0 in. any material curve represents typical values only. among other parameters (Habermehl et al.8 to 1. R = radial/horizontal direction).Figure 2 — Two views of the magnetic flux leakage assembly studied in this paper: (a) cutaway. so the bar will likely remain unsaturated and have low reluctance. 1985). To aim for a flux density of 2 T (2 × 104 G) in the pipe wall. Magnetization Curves Material properties were modeled using initial magnetization B-H curves.0 in. because the iron components in this assembly are not near saturation and are of negligible reluctance compared to the air gaps and pipe. less powerful than neodymium-iron-boron but better suited to this high temperature (422 K [300 °F]) application. Moskowitz’s curves are useful for magnetic flux leakage modeling because. the flux density in the magnets may be close to the remnant value.. the magnets have a cross sectional area of about 9000 mm2 (14.2 T (1. The field MATERIALS Selection Magnetic iron is a good choice for the bar and pole pieces because it has high permeability and is reasonably inexpensive. they extend into full saturation (for iron. The hole down the center of the assembly allows a nonferromagnetic bolt to hold the assembly together and has a negligible effect on performance. which might happen in a smaller diameter pipe where area is more restricted. which is 330 Materials Evaluation/March 2005 .2 × 104 G). the cross sectional area of the magnets should therefore be at least twice that of the pipe wall. at about 1 T (1 × 104 G). we consider likely values of flux density in the magnets and pipe wall. the magnet material selected was samarium-cobalt. (b) section of one quadrant (Z = axial/vertical direction. B-H curves had to be calculated for this steel/air composite. In this application.2) and the pipe wall 3200 mm2 (5. temperature. The bar still has nearly twice the cross sectional area of the pipe. Using dimensions based on the design specifications. typically over 300 kA/m [3770 Oe]). 2001) gives B-H curves for magnetic iron that can be used for applications up to H = 4 kA/m (50 Oe). B-H curves for steel and iron were obtained from Moskowitz (1995). the rule of thumb requiring at least double the area of magnets is satisfied. which are single curves that do not show hysteresis effects. Some effects of hysteresis and remnant magnetism in magnetic flux leakage are discussed by Nestleroth and Bubenik (1999). There is an air gap between the pole pieces and the pipe. a ratio of 2. Modeling hysteresis effects would require that the magnetization of each element of steel depend on its past magnetic history — which would in turn require prohibitive amounts of memory and processing time to model. The grade of magnets selected for this tool have a remnant magnetism of about 1. The magnetic properties of steel vary with chemical constitution (especially carbon content). unlike curves from many other sources. stress and magnetic history. It is not so important that an accurate curve is used to represent iron. intended to provide a low reluctance path into the pipe wall. Therefore.2).

the designer also needs to estimate how much of the flux generated by the magnets will actually reach each component. 4. Note that the flux density in Figure 4 appears to be smaller at the center of the bar than at the outside. In basic circuit models. One practical downside of finite element analysis is that it can often be as time consuming as actually carrying out a physical experiment. Some of the flux exits the pipe wall to the parallel path in the air outside the pipe (as well as a much smaller amount in the annulus between the pipe wall and magnetic flux leakage assembly). Some minor leakage paths are not shown on the circuit diagram. Materials Evaluation/March 2005 331 . the effective axial length of each air gap was taken to be its physical (axial) length plus twice its thickness in the radial direction. Results of the circuit analysis are presented later in this paper in comparison with finite element analysis results. since the flux spreads out wider than the physical width of the gap. Knowledge of the relationship between B and H is obviously needed for each component. the average flux density through the brush (Bavg) is given by: Bavg = xBS ( H ) + (1 − x )µ 0 H where x = the packing density of steel. B and H are assumed to be uniform in each component. material curves. Repeat steps 1 to 5 until the sum in step 5 equals zero to within a reasonable accuracy (note that H in the magnets is negative). (a) (b) Figure 3 — Magnetic circuit: (a) the path line chosen to reflect typical flux paths and component dimensions (the dotted line shows a path through the air outside the pipe). The software allows the plotting of field contours and the extraction of such values as B. The user inputs. Some flux exits the magnet and takes a shortcut to the opposite pole of the same magnet. Calculate the sum of (Hn·Ln) from all n components. (b) model. For a given value of H. Calculate the product Hn·Ln (magnetic field times path length) for each component. Then. The principle used is that H will be the same whether the path line passes through a bristle or through air. either as a permeability value or as a B-H curve. Before beginning calculations. boundary conditions and mesh coarseness for each zone. Estimate φmagnet. the total flux in each magnet. The lines of magnetic flux plotted in Figure 4 show that not all of the flux from the magnets reaches the pipe wall adjacent to the center of the tool. among other things. 5. The numerical calculations were carried out as follows. 2. It is also important to accurately estimate the effective width of each air gap. 6. since these two components are in parallel and of the same length. but should be taken into account for better accuracy. 3. FINITE ELEMENT ANALYSIS Finite element analysis software divides a system into a mesh of triangles and solves at each node. The above equation allows a B-H curve for the brush to be determined from the B-H curve for steel. the dimensions of the components and solution area.was assumed to be mainly parallel to the bristles. The circuit is an assumed path of magnetic flux through the components (Figure 3). determine the magnetic field Hn in each component. without passing to the other end of the magnetic flux leakage assembly. In this model. Estimate the flux density Bn in each component (where n denotes the nth component). the flux density in air Ba = µ0H and the flux density in steel Bs(H) is determined from the B-H curve for steel. as is discussed later. This is because the model is axisymmetric and an increment of radius near the center of the bar MAGNETIC CIRCUIT MODEL The purpose of a magnetic circuit model is to estimate the magnetic field and flux density in each component. From Bn and the material properties of the nth component. H and φ. 1. Finite element analysis is usually more accurate than circuit models and allows virtual prototyping and detailed plots of flux in and around components. this is not always an easy task.

Note that the area under the curve for each component (the integral of H·dl.) represent the highly magnetized pipe wall adjacent to the magnets. some of the flux exits the pipe into the air. where l is the length vector along the contour) is the magnetic equivalent of a voltage drop across an electrical resistor. The simple circuit model (gray line in Figure 5) is based on the assumption that all the magnetic flux generated by the magnets passes through the pipe wall. but there is correspondingly more flux in the air outside the pipe and. as calculated by two different circuit models and finite element analysis (b = bar. CIRCUIT AND FINITE ELEMENT ANALYSIS MODELS: COMPARISON OF RESULTS Figure 5 shows the magnetic field H calculated by each model. which does not include a component for the air outside the pipe.2 and 20. Hence. as Figure 4 indicates. Without finite element analysis for comparison. H extracted from the finite element analysis model (solid black line in Figure 5) represents the component of H parallel to the path line shown in Figure 3a. The simple circuit model results in a gross overestimation of the magnitude of the field H in both the magnets and pipe wall. it would be very difficult to determine the effective cross sectional area of the outside air component. since. which show a comparison of magnetic flux density B calculated by the various models. Circuit models may therefore not be appropriate for this application. no increase in the flux in the pipe wall. p = pipe). . represents a smaller cross sectional area than the same increment near the outside of the bar.5 in. the estimation of the fraction of flux that actually reaches the useful area (in this case the pipe wall) “is perhaps the most troublesome problem facing the magnet designer.26 and 0. Figure 4 — Lines of magnetic flux plotted by finite element analysis software. hence. Figure 6 — The simple circuit model. which makes the adjusted model more accurate than the simple model. e = pole. The two humps in the finite element analysis curve at 0. 1996).” VARIATIONS IN DESIGN Finite element analysis results in Figure 7 show the effects of increasing the axial length of the magnets and the diameter of the magnet/pole piece component. but only when the effective diameter of the outside air component is manually adjusted to give good agreement. But there is a catch: in the adjusted model. the flux density in the pipe wall. perhaps because the longer assembly provides a greater area for the lines of flux to curve into the air outside the pipe. The optimum outside diameter of the cylindrical outside air component ended up being 16 pipe diameters — a value which would likely change with different assembly configurations. increasing the length of the magnets (Figure 7b) actually decreases the flux in the pipe wall. Making the magnets bigger successfully increases the flux in the magnets. circuit models may 332 Materials Evaluation/March 2005 not be appropriate for this application. m = magnet.52 m (10. g = gap. In fact. The plot shows that some of the magnetic flux avoids the pipe wall. As McCaig and Clegg (1987) point out. The flux is in fact approximately evenly distributed in the bar (Atherton and Dufour. The adjusted circuit model gives Bpipe values close to those from finite element analysis. the effective cross sectional area of the outside air was manually adjusted to give results close to finite element analysis. This conclusion is reinforced by the data in Figure 6.Figure 5 — Values of magnetic field H parallel to the path line shown in Figure 3. either by taking a shortcut to the opposite pole of the magnet or by passing into the air outside the pipe (magnets are shaded in gray). The adjusted circuit model (dashed line in Figure 5) includes the component representing air outside the pipe (shown in Figure 3b). grossly overestimates Bpipe.

A change in flux in the magnets does not necessarily cause a corresponding change in the flux in the pipe wall. Performance of each is plotted in Figure 9. but no increase in the total flux in the pipe wall adjacent to the center of the assembly (φpipe). may not perform well in motion. Bpipe = 1. there is an increase in φmagnet. however.94 T (9.4 × 103 G) where Bpipe represents the flux density in the pipe wall corresponding to φpipe. the increase in flux shows up only in the air surrounding the pipe and not in the pipe wall itself). mainly because the increase was seen only in the total flux in the air outside the pipe. The only feasible assembly that improves on the standard design is opposing. but φpipe increases because the opposing assemblies confine the flux to the area around the primary assembly. ■ Opposing: additional. Materials Evaluation/March 2005 333 . ■ Magnet bar configuration: the iron bar is replaced with a solid magnet. lighter opposing assemblies could be designed.(a) Figure 8 — Variations on the standard configuration that were modeled. likely because removing the pole pieces shortened the overall configuration. (b) the total flux in the magnets increases with magnet axial length (unfortunately. This shorter assembly. (b) Figure 7 — Finite element analysis results: (a) the total flux in the magnets increases with the diameter of the magnet/pole piece component (unfortunately. This configuration could be used if weight was not a concern. Magnet material is shown in light gray. the increase in flux shows up only in the air surrounding the pipe and there is actually a small decrease in the flux in the pipe wall itself). but no increase in φpipe. φair. but φpipe is higher. There is an increase in φmagnet.08 × 104 G). The value of φmagnet decreases. ■ Standard: this is the main configuration studied in this paper.) Again. Bpipe = 0. Figure 9 — The different flux and flux density values for the configurations in Figure 8. φmagnet and φair are smaller than in the standard assembly. OTHER CONFIGURATIONS Figure 8 shows some of the variations on the initial magnetic flux leakage configuration that were modeled. Alternatively. There is an overall reduction in flux compared to the standard model because the magnet is not as good a conductor of flux as iron. (Note that this would not be done in practice because solid iron pole pieces would cause the tool to get stuck on obstructions. ■ Brush gap: the pole pieces are fitted with brushes for better coupling to the pipe wall. ■ No pole: the pole pieces are removed altogether.08 T (1. Figure 9 shows the φ and B values achieved by each variation. ■ Iron gap: the pole pieces are fitted with solid iron for better coupling to the pipe wall. opposing magnetic flux leakage assemblies are added at each end of the primary assembly. as discussed previously.

94 T (9. Habermehl. February 1999. Permanent Magnet Design and Application Handbook. Gas Research Institute. ASTM International. Pennsylvania. and National Research Council Canada. This configuration likely represents the maximum that could be obtained using this grade of magnets in this pipe. Diameter Pipes. Malcolm and Alan G. The arrows show that when the gap is filled with iron to create the iron gap model. of Calgary. REFERENCES ASTM International.B. S.L. Creating these advanced circuit models seems impractical because they would likely be different for each proposed magnetizing assembly. it is possible that the performance of some magnetic flux leakage assemblies available in industry has been overestimated because oversimplified circuit models were used to calculate Bpipe.44 T (1. Clegg.. Krieger. the simple magnetic circuit model turned out to be inaccurate. the flux function is the product of magnetic vector potential and radius. CONCLUSION A proposed design for a magnetic flux leakage magnetizing assembly has been modeled using magnetic circuits and finite element analysis. D. Note that the arrows join lines of the same numerical value of the flux 1985. the designer should also measure the flux passing into the air outside the pipe to estimate B inside the pipe wall. A 848-01: Standard Specification for Low-carbon Magnetic Iron. it is clear that some promising changes did not in fact increase the flux in the pipe wall — mainly because the increase in flux usually appeared in the air outside the pipe instead of in the pipe wall. Taking a physical measurement of B in the gap between magnets and pipe is not an adequate check of model accuracy. The biggest improvement was obtained by adding opposing magnetizing assemblies at each end of the primary assembly. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The authors gratefully acknowledge support for this research by Pure Energy Services.A. 1987.battelle . This paper has outlined and discussed some of the techniques used to model and optimize magnetic assemblies for magnetic flux leakage. Ltd. 1909-1911. For better results from magnetic circuit models. No. MAG-21. Due to the difficulty of estimating the amount of flux in the air outside the pipe. Atherton. Dufour. “A Magnetic Flux Leakage Detector for 4 In. In fact. Florida. McCaig. pp. 17. pp..4 × 103 G) in the standard model to 1.) 334 Materials Evaluation/March 2005 .html>. 5. and they would likely be based on research using finite element analysis — in other words. London. Vol. Magnetic Flux Leakage (MFL) Technology for Natural Gas Pipeline Inspection. finite element analysis already does the job. No.44 × 104 G). From the results above. 5-7. indicating an increase in the total flux in the outside air. Teller. Permanent Magnets in Theory and Practice.” CSNDT Journal. D.” IEEE Transactions on Magnetics. advanced models of the flux spreading into the outside air would have to be developed. 2001. with no air gaps..08 × 104 Gauss) in the opposing model. Pentech.■ All magnet: the tool is replaced by a plug of magnets that totally fills up the pipe. second edition. Jiles and M. Nestleroth. Lester R. Moskowitz. Conventional methods of improving the assembly design. did not increase the magnetization of the pipe wall.C. the flux lines move outward. Figure 10 shows that adding iron to the pole pieces (to create the iron gap model from the standard model) pushes each line of flux in the outside air further out. 1995. iron gap model = black lines). which raised the flux density in the pipe wall from 0. Bpipe = 1. according to finite element analysis. and T. “Influence of Heat Treatment and Chemical Composition on the Magnetic Properties of Ferromagnetic Steels. West Conshohocken. Figure 10 helps to visualize the results in Figure 9. Vol. such as increasing the size of the magnets and adding iron pole pieces. Figure 10 — Lines of magnetic flux from two models are superimposed (standard model = gray lines. Finite element analysis has thus proven an important development tool because it models configurations that are difficult to model with conventional magnetic circuits. Canada. and D. (In an axisymmetric model. <www. The configuration studied in this paper was not the final design selected in the project. Bubenik. J.C. 2. 1996.08 T (1.