Why Rapid X-Ray holds the key to pipeline integrity assurance


The Nord Stream pipeline incident, last year put pipeline security in the spotlight like never before. Yet it doesn’t take suspected sabotage to cause significant disruption to operations. Even a potential pipeline flaw can impact production and lead to millions of pounds lost in unplanned downtime and risk to the environment.

Current pipeline scanning techniques can take days to identify a pipeline issue and weeks for the pipeline to be replaced if needed. Teams have to rely on limited inspection data taken from a small pipeline sample and use this to extrapolate predictions and build models.

Now, with oil and gas activity increasing, an acceleration of the energy transition, and the rise in the use of unibond flexible risers and ‘uninspectable’ Thermoplastic Composite Pipe (TCP), operators, owners and manufacturers are turning to new technology to shrink inspection times and gain a more complete understanding of pipeline integrity.

The future is high speed

AISUS is the exclusive supplier of Rapid X – new high-speed x-ray technology developed by innovative pipeline scanning technology company DXE. Here, Chris Krugel, Director of DXE explains how the technology is transforming pipeline integrity.

Pipeline inspection techniques have changed little in the last 100 years. Inspections and integrity analysis remain time-consuming and often incomplete, leaving manufacturers open to increased liability risks and operators in the dark about the total quality of their pipelines. In the fast-moving, high-stakes energy sector finding a faster, more accurate solution to spooled and continuous lengths of pipelines, umbilicals, and cables is critical.

Today, a next-generation of high-speed x-ray technology is transforming the entire process – reducing scanning and analysis time from weeks to hours and offering levels of granular insights that have never before been practical. The approach combines industry-leading experience in digital radiography with a deep understanding of physics.

With advanced digital radiography technology, operators can now effectively manage asset integrity from the initial manufacturing process, through installation and routine asset integrity management to decommissioning. Through rapid x-ray techniques, the time for inspection and analysis is dramatically shrunk from two weeks for two meters of pipe length to three meters of pipe per minute. This almost instant access to integrity data quickly alerts operators to possible failures enabling them to take immediate actions to rectify issues.

A fast, accurate solution for multiple pipe types

High-speed x-ray technology enables large volumes of multiple types of flexible and spoolable pipes, and umbilicals to be inspected quickly, at the site – including TCPs. The solution provides granular level detail through every layer – something that has never before been achievable. Potential flaws are identified before they become major risks. Manufacturers are able to provide certified quality assurance and operators can develop a complete digital record of the pipe’s integrity.

The pipeline can be inspected during the manufacturing process to validate all materials and pipeline integrity. While the asset is being spooled at the base before being deployed or offshore during deployment, rapid digital radiography technology allows the pipeline or cable to be inspected again to provide baseline assurance to the operator.

A detailed scan aligned with DNV processes provides a fully certified manufacturing quality record that the pipe or cable is fit for service.

The technology also enables pipelines to be inspected offshore enabling faster, and more cost-effective maintenance. A digital and highly visual record allows teams to easily identify maintenance issues, identify new damage, track known flaws, or damage deterioration rates and identify operations processes that may have pushed the pipe beyond the indicated design parameter set by the manufacturer.

Industry regulators are increasingly encouraging radiography for pipeline inspections. However, traditional solutions have linked x-ray solutions to the use of gamma energy sources, which for the energy sector makes it unfeasible. New solutions are employing electrically powered x-ray – a safer, more management process that can be connected to a coded system of alerts. This makes securing approval for its use possible.

Faster, more accurate high-speed x-ray solutions are providing pipeline owners with ever greater certainty while reducing risks.

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