A consortium of organizations has set out to tackle one of the more enduring challenges in the North Sea: the nondestructive testing (NDT) of corroded pipes under insulation and engineered temporary pipe wraps.
The group—which includes TRAC Oil & Gas; the University of Strathclyde; and CENSIS, the Scottish Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems—will methodically audit the tools, capabilities, and approaches currently used by industry to look at the steel surfaces of assets often obstructed by layers of material.
While there are several NDT technologies on the market, many are ineffective when used on pipes that are protected by insulation. They tend to average out wall thickness where corrosion scabs have formed, failing to pinpoint specific areas of vulnerability.
Taking and interpreting these readings is further complicated by the varying dimensions, materials, locations, and accessibility of different oil and gas assets. While insulation can be removed, it requires significantly more time in challenging conditions, making the task more dangerous to the technician undertaking the inspection and ultimately more expensive to the company.
After assessing the limits of what is available, the consortium will explore how improvements can be made, including the development of new techniques for accurately identifying and measuring areas of corrosion. The first phase of the project is a feasibility study, the results of which will be shared with wider industry and its stakeholders, including the Health and Safety Executive.
Bill Brown, technical manager at TRAC Oil & Gas, said, “Inspection is becoming more important as the UKCS (UK continental shelf) continues to mature. Estimates suggest that a high proportion of assets are approaching or, indeed, have exceeded their original design life. We’re at the point now where, against the backdrop of a sustained low oil price, if a platform has to shut down for maintenance, it may never start producing again. We, therefore, need as much accurate data as possible to make informed decisions.
“By taking regular readings on an asset’s condition,” he said, “we can determine whether they are fit for purpose and operations can keep oil flowing, all within as safe an environment as possible. To do this effectively, we need to take stock of all the technology available, verifying its capabilities and limitations. From there, we’ll be able to look at potential new methods for inspecting the integrity of assets, using nondestructive techniques.”
Gordon Dobie from the University of Strathclyde’s Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering added, “Decades of oil, gas, water, and chemicals passing through pipes has taken its toll on a range of assets, requiring regular inspection and increasing the importance of the data we get back from tests. Despite a greater need than ever before for accurate inspection and condition-monitoring technologies, minimal funding is available for maintenance of infrastructure.
“Working with TRAC’s team, we’re examining what companies currently do to measure wall thickness, repeating it in the lab on specimens, and trying to develop a standardized approach to getting more accurate information from NDT. We’re validating what the instrumentation is saying about the thickness of walls with a view to filling a real and significant gap in the technology already available.”
CENSIS brokered the relationship between TRAC and the University of Strathclyde and will provide project management support as the initiative progresses.
Rachael Wakefield, business development manager at CENSIS, said, “Being able to accurately analyze corrosion under insulation is the holy grail of NDT. We’ve already learned a great deal from working with TRAC about the technical and economic challenges facing the industry. This project demonstrates that there’s a real opportunity for oil and gas companies to enhance their offering and tackle some of the biggest problems facing the industry—not only in the North Sea, but across the globe.”
Don't miss our latest HSE content, delivered to your inbox twice monthly. Sign up for the HSE Now newsletter. If you are not logged in, you will receive a confirmation email that you will need to click on to confirm you want to receive the newsletter.
11 - 14 Nov 2019
- Abu Dhabi, UAE
Providing an unrivalled global platform for oil and gas professionals
18 - 20 Nov 2019
- Islamabad, Pakistan
Reserve your place today!
3 Oct 2019
- Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Being Human - reserve your place at this one-day course
3 - 4 Oct 2019
- Calgary, Alberta, Canada
For a better understanding of geomechanical factors, attend this course
16 - 18 Oct 2019
- Baku, Azerbaijan
Make plans to attend this premier event
9 - 11 Nov 2019
- Abu Dhabi, UAE
The programme combines expert input, case studies, and immersive scenarios from the E&P and other industries to embed your learning and enable you to progress to the next level of your career.
10 Nov 2019
- Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Safety Leadership focuses on the ‘Human Factors’ (HF) which complement technical training to optimize reliability, safety, compliance, efficiency and risks within a team-based environment.
HSE Now is a source for news and technical information affecting the health, safety, security, environment, and social responsibility discipline of the upstream oil and gas industry.
©2003-2019 Society of Petroleum Engineers, All Rights Reserved.