Telespection Services

Seeing is believing
Remote visual inspection is playing an increasingly important role in preventative maintenance and troubleshooting across a broad spectrum of industries. The technique uses remotely controlled video cameras, video probes or fibre-optic probes to obtain detailed visual information from inaccessible locations.

Recent developments in camera technology are allowing the technique to be used in a growing number of areas and in many cases, the inspection forms part of a wider investigative program. This may involve debris retrieval, corrosion assessment or routine repairs and, where applicable, video images can be used to support data from other techniques such as crack detection. Although it is possible for companies to perform inspection work themselves, Stockport based Telespection Services Limited, who have over 25 years experience in remote inspection, firmly believe there are significant reasons why it makes sense to employ the services of a professional and experienced inspection company. As Ken Lambert, Technical Manager at TSL points out: “Although it may seem straightforward to hire the cameras and equipment, actually carrying out the work effectively and safely, is far from simple. Without the experience and use of purpose built accessories for positioning cameras, companies who carry out their own inspections usually end up with low quality images which often do not provide sufficient useful information. In addition, interpreting the results and carrying out further work based on the data requires considerable expertise. We know full well that inexperience can cause great frustration and lead to expensive mistakes.” 1

Remote Inspection can be divided into internal and external applications. assembly is achieved by reversing the process. Internal inspection is ideal for use in closed structures such as pipes. This includes applications in designated hazard areas. Initially Shell tried using a camera proved attached to a remote controlled miniature helicopter. To solve the problem. On-site health and safety restrictions prohibit human access above a height of 27 metres and therefore the only way to carry out a thorough assessment of the condition of the structure is to use remote cameras. where high temperatures are involved and where inspections have to be carried out above permitted working height restrictions. Carrying out effective inspections of the stacks and the support structure in order to assess life expectancy presents a number of challenging problems. 93 metres high. The flare support structure at Shell’s Stanlow refinery supports four stacks. A prime example of where the multi-function capabilities of video inspection are effective is in the oil and gas industries. 2 . For maintenance or replacement purposes. who have devised an ingenious method of fitting a camera to one of the flare stacks itself. Cameras are typically used for external inspections in areas where health and safety issues prevent direct human inspection. with the vibrations causing the images to lack sufficient clarity. boilers and gas turbines. each stack can be dismantled section by section and lowered to the ground via guides on the support structure. The stacks are made up of three sections. Flare stacks are a common sight at oil refineries and perform a vital part of the overall process. However this unsatisfactory. The final section is lowered to the horizontal position. Shell called on the services of TSL.

which is fitted to a remotely operated boom assembly. Remote inspection is also very effective for checking the condition of the flare heads and burners. thereby allowing the flarestack to be lowered without damaging the camera. blockages and build-up of process product. In addition. The drive arrangement uses an electric motor. The camera has extensive remote-operated zoom and focus facilities allowing the operator to focus in on key parts of the structure. checks are often carried out after work has been 3 . allows a detailed inspection of the individual components to be carried out. ‘Debris’ may include material left after construction or repair work or parts that have broken off. valve seat conditions. In the event of power failure or fault condition. It is not uncommon to find objects such as steel beams. engineers knew that material had been left behind on the support structure but had no clear idea of what was there and its precise location. The high resolution. causing the manipulator arm to fall to the horizontal position. In addition. An important associated part of remote inspection is debris retrieval.TSL designed and built a special assembly so that a TV camera can be fitted to the top section of the flare stack. the boom can be moved so that the camera can be positioned inside the support structure. mounted on a crane at a safe distance from the flame. At Stanlow. The inspections carried out recently by TSL have identified where the debris is and plans are now underway to effect a method of retrieval using electromagnets in conjunction with a camera mounted suspended from a mobile crane. nuts and bolts. The use of a camera with a high quality zoom lens. it will automatically de-energise. high sensitivity camera is mounted to the boom via a manipulator arm which provides pan and tilt remote control. With this section bolted in position. driving through a remote-operated electromagnetic clutch. Work in pipes typically involves routine inspections of welds. tools. the high quality colour images make it is possible for engineers to view the tip whilst changing flare operation settings to obtain detailed information on flare control. The camera. is then lifted up with the top section.

more complex situations. resulting in the vessel having to return to dry dock for several more days. increase the possibilities for remote inspection. which was over five metres 4 . cradles usually propelled either by flexible rods or a remote controlled. Waterproof cameras are available for underwater inspection and a wide range of accessories including lateral view heads. on completion tube of the into work. they were asked to extract a spanner. short length inspections up to six metres. For larger and longer inspections. Using a small camera attached to a flexible rod. In these applications. These remote crawlers give greater flexibility and are used in longer distance. essential to providing clear and usable images is ensuring correct lighting and focus. the an engineer hydroplane accidentally dropped the spanner down a leading compartment. Filming inside pipes and similar enclosed spaces requires a mixture of the right equipment. For small diameter. before embarking down this onerous route. fibre optic endoscopes or video probes are used. Luckily. There was no way they could risk leaving it there and at first it appeared that the problem would require extensive (and expensive) work. headlamps. Although most of the inspection work TSL carry out is of a routine nature. great operator skill is required to ensure that the crawlers do not become stuck or lose contact. they contacted TSL. and aircooling jackets for high temperature applications. sometimes they are called in to solve more awkward and tricky problems. a video camera mounted in a multilegged centralising cradle allows pipe lengths up to The 300 metres are to be inspected. they managed to locate the spanner.carried out to ensure no tools or other objects have been left behind. ingenuity and skill. which had fallen down a 50 mm inspection tube on a nuclear submarine. As with all professional photography. The vessel had been in dry dock for a complete refit and just after being refloated. In one such case. motorised carriage.

with much holding of breath and crossing of fingers. Cheshire SK3 0XX Tel: 0161 491 2222 Fax: 0161 428 0127 www. providing specialist support services.much to the delight of the errant engineer and his colleagues. we offer a highly professional service with all the relevant health and safety. As Ken Lambert concludes: “It is clear that remote inspection provides a very powerful tool. We operate an ISO 9001: 2000 QA system and apply a strict health and safety policy.telespection.down from the deck. guided by the images from the Eventually. Cheadle Heath Stockport.” Telespection Services Limited AVTECH House Birdhall Lane. QA and insurance certification. Our experience has shown that combining this technology with practical ideas and sound mechanical engineering methodology significantly extends its capabilities. We advise clients to discuss their application with us before they try to carry out any work themselves. 5 . the TSL engineer. managed to hook the spanner and slowly withdraw Telespection Services is part of the IONIX group of companies. As part of AV Technology and Shell Services.