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ASNTs International Chemical and Petroleum Industry Inspection Technology (ICPIIT) XI Conference [Houston, TX, June 2009]: pp 71-78.

Copyright 2009, 2011, American Society for Nondestructive Testing, Columbus, OH.

How Nondestructive Test Methods are Applied to Tubular Products


for Todays Exploration and Production of Oil and Gas
Hilton Prejean
NOV Tuboscope
2835 Holmes Road
Houston, TX 77051
(713) 799-5553 / (713) 799-5212 email hilton.prejean@nov.com

ABSTRACT
The drastic change from yesterdays wells versus todays wells has pushed the pipe inspection market to developing highly
sophisticated equipment requiring greater accuracy with the discrimination of internal and external flaws along with
determining their size, shape and orientation. American Petroleum Institute (API) and International Standards Organization
(ISO) have joined forces to provide a worldwide consistency of written specifications and recommended practices used in
manufacturing tubular products. Drilling environments and highly technical drilling practices are driving tubular products
toward their limits and depend greatly on Nondestructive Test Methods to know true dimensions and to validate no defects
exist which could cause failures.
The industry has maintained its tradition requiring inspectors to be certified to SNT-TC-1A. Several test methods are employed
such as ultrasonic, electromagnetic, eddy current and magnetic particle as stand alone or in unison to complement each others
strengths. NDT tools play an important part of documenting the actual wall thickness, true effective string design, the ability
to reduce strings diameter and weight, and on the economic front a standard API product when correctly inspected will
eliminate the need for higher costing exotic products.

INTRODUCTION
Oil and gas wells traditionally have been drilled vertically, at depths ranging from a few thousand feet to as deep as 5 miles
total vertical depth. The exploration industry is targeting areas which are more remote with a much tougher drilling
environment requiring pipe to perform at extreme levels. The heart of API specifications for casing and tubing where
written back in the day when drilling a well was less complex, very simple and straight forward. Todays wells are much
more complicated using directional and horizontal technology to drill deeper with extreme extended reach capabilities.
The constant pressure in todays oilfield industry to meet aggressive goals with almost unlimited capital funding has enabled
engineers to design wells which push equipment to deeper pay zones while drilling crews are breaking records daily to
deliver product. These are a few of the many reasons Oil Country Tubular Goods have recently been focused on with
monumental specification changes.

Wells of the Day


A highly sophisticated market has benefited todays exploration and production projects by having the
most efficient punching hole to product flow times in history. Tools of the day such as Top Drives, a
centerpiece of technology for use in serious drilling applications, it generates thousands of horse power
driving the well bore to target. Its hoisting capacity of 1000 tons allows the extended depths to be
reached. Efficiency comes with the continuous drilling torque output of 63,000 ft-lbs while rotating at
speeds of 270 rpm preventing down time from such items as stuck pipe, tripping times and directional
deviations. Top Drive technology provides an intermittent torque output of 96,000 ft-lbs to make and
break even the highest torque connections also increasing efficiency. With this amount of power used
for drilling in-conjunction with balanced, under-balanced and air drilling techniques setting penetration
rates are detrimental to tubular products. As the U.S. drilling activity steadily rose to 1,998 working rigs
August in 2008, the highest count since January 1982, up from 1,816 in August 2007, (Baker Hughes
Inc.) land operated rigs accounted for 1,904 with 1,594 drilling for natural gas and 404 drilling for oil.
Directional drilling continues to increase at 389 rigs while horizontal drilling is 603 rigs. Only 94 rigs
are utilized offshore/inland waters.
Figure 1

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ASNTs International Chemical and Petroleum Industry Inspection Technology (ICPIIT) XI Conference [Houston, TX, June 2009]: pp 71-78.
Copyright 2009, 2011, American Society for Nondestructive Testing, Columbus, OH.

Figure 1: Oil and gas wells split.

Notice the trend of Figure 1, showing the split of oil wells 60% vs gas wells 40% in 1991, then the crossover beginning in the
mid 1990s to oil wells going down to 20% vs gas wells going up to 80% because of the different drilling techniques.
This translates to more wells being drilled at a faster pace in harsher environments.
Figure 2: New technical wells.

Figure 2 echoes the move to gas wells of Table 1 showing the growth of directional and horizontal drilling techniques relating
to pipe being forced into unconventional uses.

Figure 3 shows the diversity of well designs including horizontal


and directional drilling techniques relating to pipe usage.

Figure 3

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ASNTs International Chemical and Petroleum Industry Inspection Technology (ICPIIT) XI Conference [Houston, TX, June 2009]: pp 71-78.
Copyright 2009, 2011, American Society for Nondestructive Testing, Columbus, OH.

Pipe Inspection Specification


When purchasing tubular products for use in todays wells, care must be taken to know what inspections are required by the
specification and what is being performed. This is a Buyers Beware market; not all pipe is created equal.
American Petroleum Institute adopted the Product Specification Level (PSL) course of action several years ago to help
provide the end user with more options applicable to the type of service the tubular goods may be used in. PSL1 is covered in
Table 1 showing the NDE methods required for each grade; PSL1 is the traditional requirements, where PSL2 and PSL3 have
been added and are listed in API 5CT Annex J.
For example when an order is placed for API K55 grade pipe, its delivered with a PSL1 category inspection level
(the default). A PSL1 is only a full length visual inspection, no wall thickness measurements are required, as you see in
Table 1 no UT, EMI, EC or MPI inspections are required. It is very important to know there are three PSL categories
applied to API Casing and Tubing products by grade.
The PSL2 option for API K55 does require the wall thickness to be measured and recorded to a 25% minimum coverage
of the surface. This is typically performed with the ultrasonic method. Also the tube is to be fully tested using one or a
combination of several nondestructive inspection methods such as UT, EMI, EC or MPI for flaws in the longitudinal direction on
the internal and external surfaces using a 12.5% depth notch as the reference target. Also note ultrasonic testing of the weld
seam of welded products shall occur after the hydrostatic test has been performed for K55 PSL2 pipe.
The PSL3 option for API K55 pipe requires the wall thickness to be measured and recorded at 100% minimum coverage of
the surface, mostly performed with the ultrasonic method and must report the minimum wall thickness measured. The tube
is to be fully tested using one or a combination of several nondestructive inspection methods such as UT, EMI, EC (no MPI
allowed) for flaws in the longitudinal and transverse direction on the internal and external surfaces using a critical 5% depth
reference notch. Also a wet MPI shall be performed on the threaded ends before connections are made-up to torque value.
Note: PSL2 requirements are in addition to PSL1. PSL3 is added to all the requirements of PSL1 and PSL2.
API 5CT/ISO11960 Table 1 shows a summary of how nondestructive testing is applied to API tubular products. Product
grade designations are used to identify the chemistry and mechanical strength, for example P110 is produced to 110,000 psi
minimum yield strength.

Table 1: Summary of NDE methods for seamless pipe, coupling stock


and the body of welded pipe.

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ASNTs International Chemical and Petroleum Industry Inspection Technology (ICPIIT) XI Conference [Houston, TX, June 2009]: pp 71-78.
Copyright 2009, 2011, American Society for Nondestructive Testing, Columbus, OH.

When purchasing API pipe beware of the project pipe design requirements and the pipe specification. Dont assume a full
quality inspection is performed on each pipe for flaws and wall thickness measurements. By just accepting Mill Inspections
the pipe ordered may not meet the quality level desired, increase the risk of premature pipe failure. Nondestructive testing
is the correct tool needed and plays an important part of the process for documenting pipe wall thickness, types of defects
detected and logging the acceptable pipe.
As previously stated, Annex J in the API 5CT specification is a summary of the PSL2 and PSL3 applications per grade.
Specification API 5CT/ISO 11960
Summary of Product Specification Level (PSL) inspection requirements :
Table 2: PSL 2 Inspection Summary Table
PSL 2
Grades J55 K55

The wall thickness measurement will be 25% coverage as a minimum [API clause H.17.1].
Flaw detection for longitudinal internal and external defects using a 12.5% depth notch as reference [H.18.1.1].
For K55 only: ultrasonic testing of the weld seam will occur after the hydrostatic test [H.18.2].

PSL 2
Grade M65

The wall thickness measurement will be 25% coverage as a minimum [API clause H.17.1].
Flaw detection for longitudinal and transverse, internal and external defects using a 10% depth notch (no MPI is
accepted) [H.18.1.2].
Ultrasonic testing of the weld seam will occur after the hydrostatic test [H.18.2].

PSL 2
Grades N80 Type1
N80Q

The wall thickness measurement will be 25% coverage as a minimum [API clause H.17.1].
Flaw detection for longitudinal and transverse, internal and external defects using a 10% depth notch (no MPI is
accepted) [H.18.1.2].

PSL 2
Grade L80 Type 1

The wall thickness measurement will be 25% coverage as a minimum [API clause H.17.1].
Flaw detection for longitudinal and transverse, internal and external defects using a 5% depth notch [H.18.1.3].

PSL 2
Grade L80 9Cr

The wall thickness measurement will be 25% coverage as a minimum [API clause H.17.1].

PSL 2
Grade L80 13Cr

The wall thickness measurement will be 25% coverage as a minimum [API clause H.17.1].
Flaw detection for longitudinal and transverse, internal and external defects with a 5% depth notch [H.18.1.3].

PSL 2
Grades C90 C95
T95 P110 Q125

The wall thickness measurement will be 25% coverage as a minimum [API clause H.17.1].

Table 3: PSL 3 Inspection Summary Table


PSL 3
Grades J55, K55
M65

Wall thickness measurement with 100% coverage, report the minimum wall thickness [H.17.2].
Wet MPI of threaded ends required before make-up [H.18.3].
Flaw detection for longitudinal and transverse, internal and external, defects with a 5 % depth notch
(no MPI accepted) [H.18.1.4].

PSL 3
Grades N80Q C95
L80 Type1 P110

Wall thickness measurement with 100% coverage, report the minimum wall thickness [H.17.2].
Wet MPI of threaded ends required before make-up [H.18.3].
Surface hardness test of each pipe body, upset end and coupling [H.14.1].
Flaw detection a mandatory ultrasonic test plus one other method [H.18.1.5].

PSL 3
Grade L80 13Cr

Wall thickness measurement with 100% coverage, report the minimum wall thickness [H.17.2].
Wet MPI of threaded ends required before make-up [H.18.3].
Flaw detection using an ultrasonic test plus EMI for the outside surface [H.18.1.5].

PSL 3
Grades C90 T95

Wall thickness measurement with 100% coverage, report the minimum wall thickness [H.17.2].
Wet MPI of threaded ends required before make-up [H.18.3].
Hardness test of both ends of each pipe [H.14.2].

PSL 3
Grade Q125

Wall thickness measurement with 100% coverage, report the minimum wall thickness [H.17.2].
Wet MPI of threaded ends required before make-up [H.18.3].
Surface hardness test of each pipe body, upset and coupling [H.14.1].

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ASNTs International Chemical and Petroleum Industry Inspection Technology (ICPIIT) XI Conference [Houston, TX, June 2009]: pp 71-78.
Copyright 2009, 2011, American Society for Nondestructive Testing, Columbus, OH.

Pipe Reference Sample


The reference sample is created and used for the adjustment of an NDT instrument to obtain or establish a known reproducible
response for periodic checks. To create a sample, reference notches are machined into a pipe having the same characteristics
of the order being processed such as outside diameter, wall thickness, grade, weight, etc. The notches are then positioned in
a static mode to begin balancing signal response on each transducer or channel of the detection shoe, repeated for the whole
inspection system. Tolerances for machining reference notches such as maximum length, maximum width and maximum depth
are provided in the API specification to ensure consistent signal response. For example P110 requires an internal transverse
notch, an internal longitudinal notch, an external transverse notch, an external longitudinal notch at 5% depth of the specified
wall thickness. The notches shown are 1 in. in length .020 in. in width .027 in. in depth for a .545 in. specified wall to
provide a consistent target for the detection of critical defects (see Figures).
API also allows for the option of other notches that may more represent the types of
anticipated defects by a particular manfacturing process. It is considered to be a premium
inspection service when using up to six additional notches for maximum orientation coverage.
These notches are machined to the same length, width and depth as the longitudinal and
transverse reference notches, only the orientation is changed to off axis degrees of 11LH,
11RH, 22LH, 22RH, 45LH, 45RH referred to as oblique angles. (See photo.)

Figure 3

Figure 4
Once the inspection system is standardized, a chart is recorded to document the inspection process as written in the systems
standard operating procedures.

Pipe Post Mill Inspections


The majority of new pipe is ready for service as shown from a random sample of inspection reports; out of 648,840 pipes
Post Mill inspected, 619,967 were found to be acceptable to the specification, 28,873 were found not acceptable to the
specification for many different defects. This shows a 4.45% rejection rate for a small sample containing mixed grades,
mixed sizes, mixed wall thicknesses, mixed manufacturers but provides a good industry overview. Damaged to the threads
and mashed ends were found to be the largest group of rejects consistent with machining, handling and transit activities.
It can not be mentioned enough to Beware of your tubular needs.
In spite of the best efforts by the pipe manufacturers quality control program - New Pipe continues to contain processing
defects. API specified defects such as bad connections, laps, thin walls, seems, gouges, no drifts, pitting, mill grinds, mid-wall
inclusions, cracks, slugs, roller marks, bent tubes, dents, cuts, quenching cracks and plug scores to name a few are routinely
found during post mill inspections. Pipe mills perform the required inspections in table E.62 to cull out the defective pipes

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ASNTs International Chemical and Petroleum Industry Inspection Technology (ICPIIT) XI Conference [Houston, TX, June 2009]: pp 71-78.
Copyright 2009, 2011, American Society for Nondestructive Testing, Columbus, OH.

and as a major part of the quality control process to verify the mill size changes and production runs are with in tolerance.
Post Mill Inspections are viewed as quality assurance performed solely to search for defects in the product with a greater
focus on the process for zero defects allowed.
Additional challenges are securing any pipe with the design requirements while dealing with low availability and long lead
times and seems to be becoming the norm when purchasing casing and tubing strings. The pipe market in recent years has
opened up to a full range of products with some having the highest quality level while on the other end of the spectrum bare
minimum quality level creating such a large window of risky products being delivered, accepted and used.
Even with doing everything possible to provide good pipe, todays exploration and production is so demanding, fast pace
and seeing some of the harshest environments, uncontrolled situations do arise causing the strongest pipes to fail. API is
desperately attempting to keep pace with inspection specifications for this forever demanding industry. A constantly changing
market and the explosion of new technologies in the past five years have driven the PSL specification changes.

Inspection Methods Overview


This overview is on the sophisticated manor of a total detection package where in a single pass the full tube is examined
for defects that may occur on the outside surface, inside surface or volumetrically throughout the wall thickness. The
combination of ultrasonic, electromagnetic and eddy current test methods constructed in four separate inspection stations for
optimum defect detectability in multiple orientations: longitudinal, transverse, oblique, wall thickness measuring and pipe
grade monitoring.
The preliminary setup of the inspection system is adjusted and/or fitted for the size of pipe to be inspected. All adjustments
and/or fitted equipment will be in compliance with system design specifications. When the static standardization process
begins the pipe sample is jogged through each inspection station with all pinch rollers clamped to perform the final
mechanical adjustments. Inspection speeds, shoe rotation direction, shoe rotation speed and linear motion of the pipe shall
be followed as written in the operation manual to insure greater than 100% inspection coverage of the pipe surface. These
settings shall stay constant during all performance checks and all inspection performed on the product. Each length
of pipe is assigned a sequential number painted on the pipe surface at the location required in the specification to individually
identify each length of pipe.
The ultrasonic inspection station is standardized for the detection of longitudinal, transverse and oblique-type defects using
the shear wave technique. The shear wave is propagated into the pipe wall using water as the couplant. There are four rotating
shoes containing forty channels of data processing each channel at .040 in. pulse density. For example on 9.625 in. outside
diameter pipe with the four shoes rotating at 350 rpm there is a circumference surface speed of 176 in. per second being processed at the pulse density of .040 in. per pulse equaling 4410 pulse repetition rate per second on each channel multiply that
times 40 channels is 176,400 system pulses per second. This system will be processing a 40-foot pipe length with a 9.625 in.
OD (30.23 in. cir) at a through put speed of 100 feet per minute equaling 24 seconds travel time at 176,400 pulses per second
totaling 4,233,600 data points evaluated for threshold violations. If a threshold is violated the defect location from the pipes
leading end is reported, along with the flaws amplitude, circumferential clock position, all channels reporting violation, and
inside/outside surface location for each pulse violating the threshold. For detecting wall thinning areas and measuring actual
wall thickness the compression wave technique is used propagating sound from the external surface through to the internal
surface at the .040 in. pulse density.
Figure 5 shows the sound propagating within the pipe being tested.

(a)

(b)

Figure 5: (a) Straight beam/compression wave testing.

(b) Angle beam/shear wave testing.

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ASNTs International Chemical and Petroleum Industry Inspection Technology (ICPIIT) XI Conference [Houston, TX, June 2009]: pp 71-78.
Copyright 2009, 2011, American Society for Nondestructive Testing, Columbus, OH.

Two electromagnetic inspection stations are used for the detection of defects. One is used to focus on longitudinal orientation
type defects and the second EMI station is focused on transverse orientation type defects.
For detection of longitudinal defects, an active magnetic field is induced into the pipe
by way of North and South Pole pieces as it enters the electromagnetic inspection
station. (See Figure 6.) For reference, it is known as the amalog station. Two rotating shoes containing 16 channels of data mounted 90 degrees to the pole pieces scan
the pipe length for flux disturbances caused by internal and external seams, laps,
gouges and other longitudinal orientation type defects. When the static standardization
performed with the pipe sample to adjust magnetizing current, (gain control for each
individual channel, discrimination filters, alarming thresholds and all other controls) is
complete, the final dynamic passes to verify repeatability may then be carried out.

Figure 7

Figure 6
For detection of transverse defects, an
active magnetic field is induced into the
pipe by way of large magnetic coils. For reference, it is known as the sonoscope
station. Eight non-rotating shoes positioned 45 degrees apart containing 4
channels each for data, scan the pipe length in an overlapping configuration for
flux disturbances caused by internal and external pits, rolled-in slugs, cracks and
other transverse orientation type defects. Once the static standardization using
the pipe sample to adjust magnetizing current, (gain control for each individual
channel, discrimination filters, alarming thresholds) and all other controls is
complete, the final dynamic passes to verify repeatability may begin.

The eddy current grade monitor station is used as a comparative magnetic field, balancing the known pipe sample reference
with each length processed to verify the characteristics are consistent. If a length is out of balance it will be segregated for
further evaluations.
As mentioned above, the system dynamic standardization check is performed utilizing the pipe sample created containing known
reference notches as per API specification. The sample shall be passed through the inspection system making four passes at
production speed, once with reference notches at each of the following circumferential positions: 12, 3, 6 and 9 oclock. Each
reference indicator shall be detected clearly and identified to be considered a suitable dynamic standardization pass. Upon the
successful completion of the four pass dynamic standardization check, the inspection system shall be ready for production.
Once the order commences a single pass, periodic dynamic check is required after 50 lengths have been consecutively
inspected. Additional dynamic standardization checks shall be performed at the beginning of each inspection shift, after meal
breaks, prior to equipment shutdown, prior to resuming operation after repairs or power interruption.
NOTE: Failure to detect any of the reference notches during a standardization check will require partial or total
re-standardization, and all lengths inspected since the last acceptable check should be re-inspected.
After each length is scanned, the inspected pipe is dispositioned as acceptable or non-acceptable. If non-acceptable, an
investigation is performed to determine or prove-up the cause of rejection and document its final disposition.
In addition to the inspections described above for the tube body, a magnetic particle inspection is performed on the pipe
ends for mechanical and EMI end area effect reasons require supplementary inspections. The MPI magnetizing equipment
is utilized in separate stages to induce longitudinal and circular magnetic fields into the pipe end areas. Magnetic particle
inspection is performed on the inside and outside surfaces of the end areas, including the threaded connections, to detect
defects of various orientations. Exposed threads and seals are cleaned and examined for visual defects and mechanical
damage. The wet fluorescent magnetic particle inspection method in greatly used for new pipe inspection commonly known
as black light. The higher sensitivity is required for locating smaller flaws.

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ASNTs International Chemical and Petroleum Industry Inspection Technology (ICPIIT) XI Conference [Houston, TX, June 2009]: pp 71-78.
Copyright 2009, 2011, American Society for Nondestructive Testing, Columbus, OH.

Figure 8: Typical defects detected while performing post mill inspections.

(a) External overlap

(b) Mashed end

(e) Internal transverse

(c) Internal longitudinal gouge

(f) Seam in threads

(d) External overlap

(g) Internal rolled-in slugs

CONCLUSION
The engineers ability to know the actual dimensions of his string may allow some flexibility for a diameter options or
weight options since pipe availability has become in short supply also for deeper wells where string weight and stability are
concerns. For example, if his calculations for interment casing called for 9.625 in. OD, 49.00#/ft., P-110 grade material, he
would typically look in the API 5CT specifications to find a 47#/ft. or 53.50#/ft. option. With NDT as a tool he can choose to
order 47#/ft. have it inspected using the ultrasonic compression wave method to a very tight will tolerance of 95% remaining
wall, meaning no pipe will be accepted for the order below the specified wall thickness. The manufacturing process will roll
the 47# material on the thicker than nominal side allowing for the required strength with a larger internal diameter and lighter
total string weight. Such options as more detailed inspections are being explored to know each pipes true dimension versus
the specified dimension with a large tolerance window creating unusable fit for service assessments.
Fitness for service assessment is a multi-disciplinary engineering analysis of pipe, in this case to determine if it is fit for the
intended service until the end of a desired period. Common reasons for assessing the fitness for service of pipe include the
discovery of a flaw or a locally thin area or crack or failure to meet current design standards or plans for operating under
more severe conditions than originally expected. Some or all of these reasons are leading the decision to provide higher
degrees of inspection services or create a new tighter tolerance on inspection criteria. The next generation of required
inspections will be designed with fitness for service assessment methods in mind delivering precise acceptable flaw sizes,
cross sectional areas, ovality, wall mapping with analysis programs determining exact material types to use.

REFERENCES
1.
2.
3.

IPTC 11463 Advanced Technology Solutions for Next Generation HPHT Well Designs, M.L. Payne, P.D. Patillo,
R.K. Miller, and C.K. Johnson.
National Oilwell Varco website for Top Drive values.
Baker Hughes Inc. website for past and present rigs counts.

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