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6 Conferncia sobre Tecnologia de Equipamentos

FIELD EXPERIENCE OF LONG RANGE ULTRASONIC TESTING

M Pereira*, P J Mudge**, C W Brown** and I J Freire*** Long range ultrasonic testing was introduced commercially by Plant Integrity Ltd in the form of the Teletest technique in early 1998 for the in-service monitoring of pipes and pipelines. It was designed primarily for detection of corrosion and other metal loss damage. It is now becoming widely accepted as a valid means of assessing the condition of pipes and pipelines, particular where access for inspection is difficult or expensive. The Teletest technique has now been extensively used in the field for evaluating the condition of pipes in the diameter range 2 inches to 48 inches and has performed well in detecting corrosion. As with any new technology, a crucial stage in gaining acceptance by industry as a front line inspection or monitoring tools is the generation of adequate evidence of the performance achieved. This paper describes the principles of the Teletest technique and the evidence available of its performance from fieldwork, including both application trials and contract testing.

Keywords: Long range ultrasonic testing, Teletest, plant assessment, pipeline, pipework, nonintrusive inspection.

* TWI, Cambridge, UK, phone:+44(0)1223891162 fax:+44(0)1223893303 ** P i Ltd, Cambridge, UK, phone:+44(0)1223893994 fax:+44(0)1223893944 ** SGS do Brasil, RJ, Brazil, phone: +55(0)2125808786 fax:+55(0)2125801375

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Introduction Long range ultrasonic testing (LRUT) represents a new rapid screening tool for pipework. It cam examine large volumes of material from a single location and therefore has the following benefits: Reduction in the costs of gaining access to the pipes for inspection, Avoidance of removal and reinstatement of insulation or coatings (where present), except for the area on which the transducers are mounted, The ability to inspect inaccessible areas, such as at clamps and sleeved or buried pipes, The whole pipe wall is tested, thereby achieving a 100% examination. This paper describes the performance achieved by the technique in a number of tests and case studies. Whilst this may initially be addressed by controlled laboratory tests, the existence of a large body field test data is a vital element in gaining the confidence of plant and pipeline operators, industry regulators and inspection contractors in the capabilities of the technique. Here, a number of results are presented from both controlled studies and field work which provide a clear basis for performance verification. A fuller description of the technique itself is given in reference 1, whilst the equipment is shown in Fig.5b and 6a.

Background to the technique The impetus for the use of long range ultrasonics is that ultrasonic thickness checks for metal loss due to corrosion or erosion are highly localised, in that they only measure the thickness of the area under the transducer itself. To survey a large area requires many measurements and access to much of the surface of the component being examined. Where access is difficult or costly a detailed survey becomes unattractive economically, with the result that often limited sampling only is carried out. Similar restrictions also apply to other methods of measuring wall thickness, such as radiography, eddy currents etc.. Partial inspection of this type is not likely to be effective in reducing the numbers of significant defects which may cause leaks or failure being present in pipes as the probability of detection of defects in uninspected areas is zero. The benefit of using long range testing to examine 100% of the pipe wall along the length tested is therefore considerable. Evidence for this is provided by a study carried out by the UK Health and Safety Executive(2), which reported that over 60% of the reportable hydrocarbon release incidents from offshore platforms in the UK North Sea sector were related to pipework. The adoption of adequate inspection and maintenance practices for pipework therefore has a considerable effect on the incidence of both unscheduled plant down-time and leaks of potentially hazardous materials. The use of long range ultrasonics to ensure that the whole pipe wall volume is tested provides a commercially attractive means of improving coverage.

Principles of the technique Long-range ultrasonic methods use so-called guided ultrasonic waves. These are similar to the Lamb waves which may be generated in plates and in common pipe thicknesses are necessarily of much lower frequency than that used for normal ultrasonic tests in order to generate the appropriate wave modes. Typically frequencies around 50kHz are used compared with around 5MHz for conventional thickness testing. These waves have the property that they can travel many metres with minimal attenuation and therefore offer the potential of testing large areas from a single point using a pulse-echo transducer bracelet wrapped around the pipe. The principle is shown in Fig.1. Any changes in the thickness of the pipe, either on the inside or the outside, cause reflections which are detected by the transducer. Hence metal loss defects from corrosion/erosion inside the pipe or corrosion on the outside of the pipe can be detected. The detection of additional mode converted signals from defects aids discrimination between pipe features and metal loss.

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Transducer flange

wa

or

region inspected

pipe

Fig. 1 Principle of operation of long range ultrasonic testing of pipes. An important point to note is that the long range techniques currently available are screening tools and do not provide the same kind of resolution as local thickness measurements. The aim is to provide a rapid method of screening so that more appropriate test methods may be directed at areas requiring further attention in an efficient manner. Most importantly, long range UT does not provide a direct measurement of wall thickness, but is sensitive to a combination of the depth and circumferential extent of any metal loss, plus the axial length to some degree. This is due to the transmission of a circular wave along the pipe wall which interacts with the annular cross-section at each point. It is the reduction in this cross-section to which the long range technique is sensitive. This is illustrated in Fig. 2. Earlier work(3) showed that the smallest area of metal loss which long range UT can detect is approximately 3% of the pipe wall cross-section. The reporting level which is normally used is a signal amplitude equivalent to 9% area. This is to ensure that false call rates are kept to an acceptable level. However, if clear and unambiguous indications are detected below the reporting level, they are identified as minor defects.

Fig. 2 Teletest is sensitive to flaw area as a proportion of the pipe wall cross-section, as shown. It is equally sensitive to internal and external flaws. The effect of multiple flaws is additive

Performance An opportunity arose to determine whether these thresholds were capable of being met through involvement in the joint European RACH project, which was managed by University College London(4). A major part of this was the gathering of NDT data from controlled corroded pipe

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specimens using eight different methods in order to their determine detection and evaluation performance. The trials were conducted 'blind' without knowledge of the defects present and the results were evaluated by an independent team from Bureau Veritas, Paris. Figure 3 shows the results from the Teletest technique on 36 individual defects. The plot is in terms of depth and circumferential extent of the defects and indicates whether each was detected or not. The lines representing 3% and 9% defect area for the 6" diameter pipes tested are also included.

90%

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Detected Not Detected 9% Area

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Fig. 3. Detection results for Teletest from the RACH project(4) The figure shows that under blind trials conditions the Teletest technique performs as expected from the development work. The limit of detection is clearly at the 3% level, with virtually no successful detections below this size. The data show the classic probability of detection characteristics, with an increasing likelihood of detection with area above the 3% level. All flaws examined which were around or greater than the 9% reporting level were detected. These results are important as they demonstrate that the performance of the technique, determined from 'open' tests on known specimens, could be reproduced when testing real corroded pipes with unknown (internal) flaws. Thus these tests provide valuable evidence of the performance level which may be expected in the field.

Case Study 1 - 14" Ammonia line This line was the feed to a reactor vessel in a chemical complex and was normally insulated. It emerged from the reactor around 2m above ground level, ran vertically for around 7m then horizontally for a further 10m. Visual inspection was not easily carried out owing to the insulation and access was not feasible to the elevated section without scaffolding. External corrosion under insulation (CUI) was suspected. The Teletest transducer was attached near the base of the vertical section, with the aim of examining the vertical and elevated horizontal legs. An example of the Teletest A-Scan output is shown in Fig.4a. The two lines are distance amplitude correction (DAC) curves, the upper representing the amplitude from butt welds in the pipe and the lower being the reporting level. The large peak at around 5m from the transducer is a weld at the elbow where the pipe turned to the horizontal. A number of defects were reported in the region 13 to 19m from the

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transducer ( marked '+' on the plot). On removal of the insulation for cleaning and visual inspection, these were confirmed as areas of CUI attack. Some of these are shown in Fig.4b.

Fig. 4a Teletest result from a 14" Ammonia line containing CUI.

Fig.4b View of the region marked '+' in Fig.4a after removal of insulation and cleaning.

Case Study 2 - 24" Slurry line This line carried a water-based slurry. It was not insulated and was at ground level, so that access for inspection was not difficult. However, the main concern was local high levels of erosion

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internally where eddies in the flow caused turbulence and consequent high impact of particles in the slurry on the inside of the pipe wall. Since service history had shown that these occurrences were difficult to predict, spot thickness measurements were ineffective in detecting thinned areas before leaks had occurred. Application of Teletest overcame this problem as 100% of the pipe wall is examined. During initial trials, a test was carried out on a section where a small leak had occurred. The result is shown in Fig.5a. In this instance, the signal at approximately 12m from the datum is from a but weld in the pipe. The very large signal which follows it at 14m (marked '+') coincided with the location of the leak. This suggested extensive metal loss and it was found by subsequent examination that there was a band of erosion almost through the wall for the majority of the pipe circumference. The pipe was therefore at the end of its service life. The Teletest equipment may be seen in Fig.5b.

Fig. 5a. Result from test on a 24" slurry line and 5b. the equipment set up on the line. Case Study 3 - 10" Buried Line This work was carried out on a network of water injection lines at an oil processing facility. These were partially above ground, but the majority were buried. The concerns were external corrosion around the soil to air interface and where the coating had been damaged in the underground sections. Tests were carried out either from above ground sections or from 'bell hole' excavations. An example of the Teletest equipment set up on an above ground section is shown in Fig. 6a. Figure 6b shows the Teletest result from a buried section of the line, which was totally inaccessible at the time of inspection. The scale has been enlarged to show the feature of interest, which is at around 26m from the transducer. There are welds at 11.5 and 25.5m. The first is shown off-scale; the steepness of the DAC curves indicates the higher levels of attenuation which are generally observed on buried lines with protective coatings. It should also be noted that the scatter on the baseline (similar to ultrasonic 'grass') is greater for such lines.

Fig. 6a Teletest Equipment set up on an above ground section of pipe, examining the buried portion, and 6b, Result showing defect marked '+' on the plot.

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Immediately beyond the second weld is an additional signal at 26m from the transducer, with associated mode converted components, which are plotted in colour (marked '+' on the plot). This region was reported as a moderate to severe defect and the area was excavated. The pipe was found to be heavily corroded at that point and a repair was put in place immediately. The section removed is shown in Fig.7. The weld can be clearly seen with the heavy corrosion adjacent to it. It is unlikely that this defect would have been detected by any other means before it had caused a failure of the line.

Fig. 7 Corroded section of 10" line removed following detection by Teletest

Concluding Remarks The growing body of evidence for the performance of long range ultrasonic testing in general and Teletest in particular, as illustrated here, is supporting the wider application of this novel technology. LRUT has already crossed the technology transfer threshold from a curiosity to a usable and highly effective tool, and the range of applications continues to grow.

References 1. Mudge P.J. and Hipkiss A. 'Rehabilitation of a 3km 12 inch pipeline at a UK refinery'. Insight - The Journal of the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing, Vol 42, No. 2, February 2000. 2. Patel R. and Rudlin J. 'Analysis of corrosion/erosion incidents in offshore process plant and implications for non-destructive testing', Insight - The Journal of the British Institute of Non-Destructive Testing, Vol. 42 No.1, January 2000. 3. Mudge, P.J. and Lank, A.M. Detection of corrosion in pipes and pipelines, ASNT International Chemical and Petroleum Industry Inspection Technology Topical Conference V, Houston, Texas, 16-19 June 1997. 4. Reliability Assessment for Containment of Hazardous Materials RACH), European Commission Project OG 112/FR/UK, Final Report, 1999.