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Non-Destructive Testing Development and Uses

Non-destructive testing, or NDT as it is more commonly known, is one of the key tools for the inspection and maintenance of pipelines. This paper will give a brief overview of selected methods of NDT, how they work, their uses and effectiveness.

ondestructive testing or Non-destructive testing (NDT) is a wide group of analysis techniques used in science and industry to evaluate the properties of a material, component or system without causing damage. The terms Nondestructive examination (NDE), Nondestructive inspection (NDI), and Nondestructive evaluation (NDE) are also commonly used to describe this technology. Because NDT does not permanently alter the article being inspected, it is a highly-valuable technique that can save both money and time in product evaluation, troubleshooting, and research. Common NDT methods include ultrasonic, magnetic-particle, liquid penetrant, radiographic, remote visual inspection (RVI), eddycurrent testing, and low coherence interferometry. NDT is a commonly-used tool in forensic engineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering, systems engineering, aeronautical engineering, medicine, and art. NDT methods may rely upon use of electromagnetic radiation, sound, and inherent properties of materials to examine samples. This includes some kinds of microscopy to examine external surfaces in detail, although sample preparation techniques for metallography, optical microscopy and electron microscopy are generally destructive as the surfaces must be made smooth through polishing or the sample must be electron transparent in thickness. The inside of a sample can be examined with penetrating electromagnetic radiation, such as X-rays or 3D X-rays for volumetric inspection. Sound waves are utilized in the case of ultrasonic testing. Contrast between a defect and the bulk of the sample may be enhanced for visual

examination by the unaided eye by using liquids to penetrate fatigue cracks. One method (liquid penetrant testing) involves using dyes, fluorescent or nonfluorescing, in fluids for non-magnetic materials, usually metals. Another commonly used method for magnetic materials involves using a liquid suspension of fine iron particles applied to a part while it is in an externally applied magnetic field (magnetic-particle testing). Thermoelectric effect (or use of the Seebeck effect) uses thermal properties of an alloy to quickly and easily characterize many alloys. The chemical test, or chemical spot test method, utilizes application of sensitive chemicals that can indicate the presence of individual alloying elements. Some common uses of NDT are as follows: Flaw Detection and Evaluation Leak Detection Location Determination Dimensional Measurements Structure and Microstructure Characterization Estimation of Mechanical and Physical Properties Stress (Strain) and Dynamic Response Measurements Material Sorting and Chemical Composition Determination The most common methods of NDT are as follows: 1. Visual 2. Liquid Penetrant 3. Magnetic 4. Radiography 5. Ultrasonic 6. Eddy Current


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Visual Inspection Notable events in early industrial NDT

1854 Hartford, Connecticut: a boiler at the Fales and Gray Car works explodes, killing 21 people and seriously injuring 50. Within a decade, the State of Connecticut passes a law requiring annual inspection (in this case visual) of boilers. 1880 - 1920 The Oil and Whiting method of crack detection is used in the railroad industry to find cracks in heavy steel parts. (A part is soaked in thinned oil, then painted with a white coating that dries to a powder. Oil seeping out from cracks turns the white powder brown, allowing the cracks to be detected.) This was the precursor to modern liquid penetrant tests. 1895 Wilhelm Conrad Rntgen discovers what are now known as X-rays. In his first paper he discusses the possibility of flaw detection. 1920 Dr. H. H. Lester begins development of industrial radiography for metals. 1924 Lester uses radiography to examine castings to be installed in a Boston Edison Company steam pressure power plant. 1926 The first electromagnetic eddy current instrument is available to measure material thicknesses. 8 1927 - 1928 Magnetic induction system to detect flaws in railroad track developed by Dr. Elmer Sperry and H.C. Drake. 1929 Magnetic particle methods and equipment pioneered (A.V. DeForest and F.B. Doane.) 1930s Robert F. Mehl demonstrates radiographic imaging using gamma radiation from Radium, which can examine thicker components than the low-energy X-ray machines available at the time. 1935 - 1940 Liquid penetrant tests developed (Betz, Doane, and DeForest) 1935 - 1940s Eddy current instruments developed (H.C. Knerr, C. Farrow, Theo Zuschlag, and Fr. F. Foerster). 1940 - 1944 Ultrasonic test method developed in USA by Dr. Floyd Firestone. 1950 The Schmidt Hammer (also known as Swiss Hammer) is invented. The instrument uses the worlds first patented non-destructive testing method for concrete. 1950 J. Kaiser introduces acoustic emission as an NDT method. This is the most basic and common inspection method. The tools include fiberscopes, borescopes, magnifying glasses and mirrors. Portable video inspection unit with zoom allows inspection of large tanks and vessels, railroad tank cars, sewer lines. Robotic crawlers permit observation in hazardous or tight areas, such as air ducts, reactors, pipelines. Such robotic crawlers include pigs where the video signal is typically fed to a truck where an operator reviews the images and controls the robot. Push cameras are also used towards this end. Push cameras (snake type) are used for pipeline, duct, drain, pipes inspection for plumbers, repair work. These excellent inspection cameras consist of a long insertion probe with a flexible goose-neck video camera probe for getting around corners. LED lights give excellent illumination and a cctv-type camera on the tip captures clear images and allows image and video saving.

Liquid Penetrant Inspection

This method is suitable for detection of cracking and porosity in welded joints. A liquid with high surface wetting characteristics is applied to the surface of the part and allowed time to seep into surface breaking defects. The excess liquid is removed from the surface of the part. A developer (powder) is applied to pull the trapped penetrant out the defect and spread it on the surface where it can be seen. Visual inspection is the final step in the process. The penetrant used is often loaded with a fluorescent dye and the inspection is done under UV light to increase test sensitivity. Less than one hour is usually required as an inspection time. The method is a lot cheaper compared to radiography or ultrasonics, but can only detect external defects.

Magnetic Particle Inspection

Magnetic particle method can be used for identification of surface or near-surface defects. The principle is that the sample is magnetized by dusting magnetic particles over it. A surface defect will form a magnetic anomaly, attracting and holding magnetic particles and thus giving a visual indication of the defect. The evaluation time is typically few minutes. The sample must be ferromagnetic and therefore this technique cannot be used on most stainless steels. This method also is a lot cheaper compared to radiography or ultrasonics, but like the dye penetrant, it only can detect external defects (Figure 1).

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Figure 1.

Radiography is the most commonly used non-destructive testing method for pipeline inspection. The principle is that a source of radiation is directed toward the inspected object. A sheet of radiographic film is placed behind the object. The setup usually takes a few minutes, the exposure 1-10 minutes and film processing about 10 minutes. Advantage of this method is its reliability. Nowadays digital images can also be used and information saved and transported by computers. Disadvantage is the radiation danger. The radiation used in radiography testing is a higher energy (shorter wavelength) version of the electromagnetic waves that we see as visible light. The radiation can come from an X-ray generator or a radioactive source. SafeRad Radiography Radiography method, where no radiation danger is present, has been developed and patented in UK. This eliminates the personnel evacuation and does not cause any work disruption. The method is otherwise similar to the before-described radiography but it uses together a flexible radiation attenuating material to block the radiation and a special exposure container where the radiation beam can be controlled in such a way that only the area of the sample under examination is exposed to the radiation. This way the radiation controlled area can be reduced to as little as 1 meter from the exposure container. The method is a bit more expensive than the conventional radiography, but on the other hand there is no need to evacuate and therefore cost savings could be achieved. As a slight disadvantage could be seen the extra time needed to wrap the pipes with the radiation attenuating material.

than an hour and scanning time varies from a few minutes to hours depending on the size of the sample and the desired resolution. Advantages are that there are no health risks for the environment, and it is possible to define very accurately where the defect is located and how big it is. On the other hand the suitability for thin objects, like pipes, is restricted. Ultrasonic inspection also requires that the inspecting technicians must be very experienced in order to get reliable results.

Eddy Current

Ultrasonics is used as an NDT-method to evaluate the integrity of automatic welded pipeline girth welds. The principle is to employ high frequency acoustic waves to probe the inspected sample. As the acoustic wave penetrates the sample, the wave is attenuated and/or reflected by any change in the density in the material. By observing the returned signal many of the characteristics of the material can be determined. Setup takes less

In eddy current testing, a time varying magnetic field in induced in the sample material by using a magnetic coil with alternating current. This magnetic field causes an electric current to be generated in conducting materials. These currents, in turn, produce small magnetic fields around the conducting materials. The smaller magnetic fields generally oppose the original field, which changes the impedance of the magnetic coil. Thus, by measuring the changes in impedance of the magnetic coil as it traverses the sample, different characteristics of the sample can be identified. The testing time is usually a few hours. Eddy current method has a limited depth of penetration, 48 mm only. In pipe industry it is however a widely applied inspection method. It is suitable for detecting for example porosity, cross and seam cracks and checking seams and butt welds. The testing method is relatively simple and costs moderate.

Leak Detection
Discovering leaks, especially too late, is a pipeline operators nightmare. All inspection done is to ensure


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that leaks do not take place, be it on large scale or small scale. There have been some technological advances in leak detection in recent times. One of such advances is Pure Technologies SmartBall. For pipelines larger than 4-inch (100 mm) diameter, SmartBall offers high leak sensitivity and accurate location capability. It is easy to deploy and can be used to complement existing pipeline integrity programs or as an integrity check on non-piggable lines. The device consists of an instrumented aluminum core in a urethane shell. The device contains a range of instrumentation, including an acoustic data acquisition system that listens for leaks as the ball travels through the pipeline. SmartBall differs from conventional inspection pigs, in that is it not a full-diameter instrument. The ball is smaller than the pipe diameter. It rolls silently through the pipeline and the absence of mechanical noise allows unsurpassed acoustic sensitivity. The device can detect pin-hole size leaks of less than 0.03 gallons per minute (0.15 l/min). This is exponentially more sensitivity than CPM-based leak detection systems; and the advantage increases along with pipeline diameter. Leak location accuracy is within 10 ft. (3 m) and given additional reference points can be even further tightened. The device can be deployed and retrieved using existing pigging facilities. In non-piggable lines, the device can be launched using off-the-shelf fittings. Travel time is 28 hours for up to 4-inch (100 mm) lines and up to 110 hours for larger lines. Pure Technologies has conducted two inspections of a 12-inch mutli-phase product pipeline in eastern Brazil, owned by Petrobras. Pure utilized its 10 Polyurethane coated SmartBall leak detection tool to detect a total of three simulated leaks during two separate runs on this pipeline. While the first inspection detected a simulated leak at 800 mL/min, Pure created two simulated leaks during the second run, at 240 mL/min and

400 mL/min, illustrating to the client that our leak detection capabilities with the SmartBall Oilball can detect leaks even at these levels. This was Pures first inspection of a low pressure, lowflow pipeline that is fed directly from the wellheads drilled in the oilfield. The multi-phase product in the pipeline comes directly from the oilfield without any intermediate pump stations, so whatever the wells are producing is the resulting pressure and flow rate. Pressure during the two inspections ranged from 6-10 bars (90-150 psi). The pressure was at 10 bar at the insertion point and 5 bar at the retrieval point. The product also causes variance in the flow rates of the pipeline, varying from 0.3 0.6 m/s.

The product is made up of approximately 4% water, 20% natural gas, and 76% light/medium crude oil and low levels of wax. The multi-phase product creates challenges to the tracking as the gas pockets in the line will often cause you to completely lose signal with the SmartBall at tracking points for periods of time. Tracking the position of the SmartBall in the pipeline is critical for locating important acoustic anomalies such as leaks and gas pockets. To track the position of the SmartBall device as it traverses the pipeline SmartBall Receivers (SBRs) are positioned periodically along the pipeline, which detect ultrasonic pulses that are emitted from the SmartBall, which are used to track the location of leaks.

What and When

It is important to use the right inspection techniques, based on requirements, at the right time for NDT testing to be effective, both performance and cost wise. A number of service providers such as Rosen, T. D. Williams, PICA and Acuren provide a wide range of NDT services as it takes a lot of technical expertise and experience to determine the right tools for the job.

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