Pipeline Owners and Operators are always on the lookout for new technologies and techniques that will help them address the need for increased reliability and integrity of their pipelines, through more efficient and effective testing and inspection methods.
It is an exciting time in the world of pipeline inspection and testing, as a number of companies in the industry are working very hard to develop new or improved inspection systems that will increase the efficiency, accuracy, and repeatability of the pipeline inspection data. These improvements will ultimately lead to the increased reliability and integrity of these pipelines, usually at a reduced initial cost and even greater long-term savings.
The traditional field pipeline external anomaly measuring techniques use the application of a pit gauge, and are performed manually by a Technician in the field. It can be suggested that these techniques are challenged by their accuracy, repeatability, and in many cases, depending on the size of the anomaly area, the effort required to efficiently acquire the data for that area, especially when the critical reference point of the outside diameter has corroded away. These manual techniques are highly dependent on the ability of the Technician to correctly acquire the field data. In addition, the field data requires a number of “hand-offs” before it is in a position to be properly analyzed. Typically, a Technician must physically measure and record the anomaly data in the field and then he or she must transfer the data, usually by entering the data into a computerized Excel file, which must then be transferred to the responsible Pipeline Engineer for additional actions that lead to the final analysis. Each of these steps can introduce an opportunity for errors.
One area that has seen a tremendous growth and evolution is the application of pipe OD surface mapping systems used to document OD wall-loss anomalies. Mears inspection personnel recognize the need for this type of inspection equipment and have acquired a number of the 3D Laser Scanners for use in documenting pipeline external corrosion and mechanical damage. The 3D Scanner is a portable laser scanner that creates a “dynamic referencing system” that allows the laser to self-position on the pipe. With this ability, the laser scanner does not have to be attached to the pipe, as with the earlier generation of laser scanners.
Each Laser System includes three primary components: the hand-held scanner, the computer, and the analysis software. The scanner is light-weight and ergonomic, while the computer system is state-of-the-art. The analysis software itself is composed of three modules: Corrosion, Mechanical Damage, and ILI Correlation.
The inspection process has been reduced to three primary steps that are briefly described as Scan, Analyze, and Report. The laser creates a digital reconstruction of the pipe surface that results in the permanent capture of a high-resolution dataset of the anomaly area. The data analysis occurs at the “click” of an Icon and results in feature detection, automatically applied defined interaction rules, and estimated burst pressure calculations. It should be noted that the software delivered with the Laser System is highly adaptable, meaning that it can be configured by the Technician to perform various analysis scenarios. The Reporting function outputs to an Excel report that includes user-defined outputs such as worst-case profile, predicted failure path, or a CSV file that can be entered into a selected data management system, such as the Mears TCAT.
Each software analysis module is unique in its application. The Corrosion Module allows for the analysis and reporting of wall-loss types of anomalies located on the exterior surface of a pipe. The Mechanical Damage Module allows for the analysis of dents on the pipe surface. A recent addition to this software module allows for the identification and measurement of wall-loss that occurs within a dent. This is normally a very difficult measurement to accurately make utilizing a traditional pit gauge.
The ILI Correlation Module allows for the input of previously-acquired ILI data that can be matched against the recorded laser data. The system will quickly create a visual representation of the ILI data overlaid with the laser scanned data, along with Unity Graphs and a list of correlated and non-correlated anomaly data.
In a nutshell, these new laser systems will lead to more efficient inspections (faster) and an improvement in the quality (accuracy, repeatability) of the data, which will lead to increased reliability and integrity of pipelines. To us, the future appears to be “laser sharp”.