News & Views

Laser based pipeline weld inspection system

By Alex Channell on Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

 In recent years, laser inspection of inner diameter pipeline welds has become a requirement from major oil and gas producers. The current technique of ultrasonic inspection yields an unacceptable number of false positives.  Each false positive costs between $20 and $100k.

Approximately two years ago, Alex Channell (primary investigator, designer), Connie Reichert (software programmer) and Tim Mikel (electrical design) delivered two prototype systems for onshore testing and qualification trials. The pipeline company ran extensive testing on these systems. The systems received approval from a major gas and oil producer, the contracting company. The pipeline company subsequently requested four more systems. These four systems, along with a redesigned control center, were hardened for offshore deployment and integrated with an Internal Line Up Clamp (ILUC). To integrate the inspection system with the ILUC, EWI partnered with a member company. EWI gave support to this member company for redesign of the laser scanner to incorporate it in the ILUC. This partnership also places the member company as the main contact for warranty and support. The four offshore systems have been tested extensively onshore for the last year and have been qualified for offshore use.

This spring I will be completing BOSIET training, which includes preparation for firefighting, sea survival and helicopter crash. I will then travel to Angola to help with installation and runoff of the systems aboard a J-Lay barge.

EWI successfully brought a laser-based inspection system to the off-shore platform ahead of other competitors.

Our partner company has more focused marketing of the oil and gas pipe line industry, as well as capability to provide worldwide warranty support, training and large volume manufacturing. EWI and the member company are moving forward with a partnership and currently discussing details.

The pipeline and related companies, despite being required by the oil and gas company to adopt laser inspection, could potentially save millions. Cutting out a weld is estimated at a cost $20k-$100k per weld. Not only can the scanner reduce the errors from false positives given through ultrasonic inspection, it also has the benefit of looking at the root pass of the weld immediately, instead of having to wait until entire buildup is complete as with ultrasonics. Being able to scan the root pass immediately makes the cutout and repair process significantly faster since the joint buildup was not yet performed.

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