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The Application of Guided Wave Ultrasonic Technique for the Inspection of Corrosion Under Insulation (CUI) of Pipes and Pipelines
By Dr Tat-Hean Gan
Corrosion under Insulation (CUI) is a multi-billion dollar problem that destroys expensive industrial infrastructure. It is difficult to detect due to the insulation that covers the location of the corrosion or erosion. There are methods used today for inspecting CUI. One of these techniques is known as Guided Wave Ultrasonic (GWU). The GWU technology developed by TWI (known as the Teletest Focus) screens pipework for metal loss features such as corrosion and erosion. These inspections are carried out using multi-mode (flexural and torsional) wave focusing approach. This technique provides 100% inspection coverage and has the ability to inspect inaccessible areas such as clamps, pipe elbow and cased or buried pipes. Originally developed for the inspection of corrosion under insulation, the Teletest Focus is suited for application to pipelines and process pipe work, including road crossings, bridge piers and hardly accessible pipe work generally. Various case studies on CUI inspection are presented in this paper. This paper also presents a new and novel permanently installed tool-head called Teletest Perm-A-MountTM. This device consists of a transducer array attached directly to the pipe surface. Perm-A-Mount is a low-cost, long-life tool installation intended for regular monitoring of piping systems in environmentally hostile, safety critical or difficult to access areas.

Historical perspective and problems

The need for pipeline non-destructive testing (NDT) grew very rapidly with the increase of offshore gas and oil exploitation in the 1970s, which arose from a gross inflation in OPEC prices of oil from traditional land sources. New pipelines for offshore supplies brought new and sometimes unexpected corrosion and CUI problems. The presence of sediment and chemicals in offshore risers often caused corrosion and erosion of the risers, leading to wall thinning at several times the expected rate. The consequence of this was that expensively laid pipelines would fall short of their design lives. Very substantial investments were made in the 70s in the development of both pipeline pigs for electromagnetic and ultrasonic detection of wall thinning, and X-ray crawlers for weld inspection in long runs of pipe. The Figure 1: A pig used perceived economic importance of to clean natural gas these techniques at the time is evident pipelines. from the publicity they received. The first smart pig was developed in 1964 using Magnetic Flux Leakage (MFL)



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technology to inspect the bottom portion of the pipeline (Figure 1). The first X-Ray crawler was used for weld inspection during pipe laying. A crawler that could fit pipes as small as 8 inches was developed by OIS. Pigs and crawlers excelled at the time in being the only means of inspecting for erosion, corrosion and other types of defect in pipes buried inaccessibly below ground or on the sea bed and/or encased in concrete or other protective coatings to protect outer pipe walls from corrosion. Both approaches have the capability to inspect long lengths of pipes and pipelines in a short period of time. These pipes and pipelines do not need to be emptied for the inspection. However, not all the pipelines can be inspected in this way. Entry and exit points may not be present for the pig. Pipe bends or steep gradients may occur, which prevent the pig passing through. There are therefore very large proportions (perhaps as high as 75%) of pipelines that cannot be inspected with the pig. Hence long runs of pipe have to be taken out of service and bypassed to allow inspection. The problem of inspecting these non-piggable pipelines has been the subject of significant research in recent times. One technique that has been demonstrated as a viable solution is guided wave ultrasonics (GWU), although it is recognised that other techniques offer alternative solutions. In cases where the pipes are accessible (i.e. when running overland and not having protective coatings or not buried behind other objects) inner wall corrosion and other defects are inspected by ultrasonics and weld defects by double wall through transmission radiography. A variety of external pipe crawlers and magnetically adhering robot vehicles have been used in an attempt to deploy the inspection sensors more rapidly on long runs of pipe. However, ultimately, the time taken to achieve total coverage is still of serious economic concern, even with the present state of the art of external robotic

deployment. Most pipelines in process and manufacturing plant are inaccessible for external inspection by the above techniques, along most of their length, because of their proximity to other pipes and structures (Figure 2). In summary, traditional methods of pipeline corrosion inspection have the drawbacks of being cumbersome and time consuming, and they can not inspect efficiently runs of pipe that possess one or more of the following features: (i) Corrosion under insulation - protective coatings, the removal of which is undesirable as part of the inspection process; (ii) An inner diameter too small for internal crawlers or pigs; (iii) Bends of small radius; (iv) Proximity to other pipes or other structures which do not allow access to place an external crawler and sensors.

A novel solution: GUIDED WAVE ultrasonics (GWU) for global inspection

The above problems have been overcome using GWU. Over the past 10 years, TWI has been pioneering the GWU for corrosion and erosion under insulation detection and monitoring, which, in principle, allows inspection of long runs of pipe from just one access point. One of the main applications of this technology has been the inspection of non-piggable pipelines, although other applications of GWU are equally valid, where conventional inspection methods are already accepted. The GWU [1]: Dispenses with the need for pigs or internal and external crawlers and all the expense and running time that these entail (2) Allows instantaneous inspection of long pipe runs (3) Allows inspection of pipes inaccessible to other approaches through the reasons (i) to (iv) specified earlier. 1) In this technique a pulsed guided wave mode is propagated in a pipe wall from a family of equally spaced ultrasound probes supported by a collar wrapped round the pipe. The wave is reflected from the pipe end, circumferential welds and defects in the wall, and the reflected echoes (usually mode converted) are received by the transmitting probes. Therefore, all defects in the entire run of pipe are detected simultaneously, provided they are large enough to produce an echo amplitude above the random noise level. The promise of the technique as a global monitoring tool stems from the fact that low frequency guided waves have

Figure 2: Typical examples of pipelines in process and manufacturing plant that are inaccessible for inspection by internal pigs and crawlers or external crawlers.



a very long range in pipes because (i) Absorption in the pipe material is low at low frequencies. (ii) For pipes in air, leakage of waves out of the pipe is very low because of the high acoustic impedance mismatch at the solid-air boundaries. Therefore, all the energy propagates down the pipe with little attenuation of the energy density (wave amplitude). (iii) A wave mode with low dispersion (frequency dependence of phase velocity) can be selected so that the rate at which the wave pulse spreads out in time is small. The pipe acts as a wave guide, an effect that can be demonstrated at audible frequencies by someone whispering from one end down a long length pipe to be heard at the other. With this combination of conditions the wave amplitude incident on a defect decreases only slowly with wave propagation range and correspondingly the minimum detectable defect increases only slowly with propagation range. The test range can be defined as the range at which a defect which requires detection gives a detectable echo. So the probe collar need only be repositioned along the pipe at intervals equal to the twice the test range, with a small allowance for overlap to achieve total inspection coverage of an indefinite length of pipe. Depending on many factors such as pipe diameter, wall thickness and bend radius, as well as considerations (i) to (iii) above, the test range can be as much as 100 metres for an uncoated pipe in air.

Figure 3 shows a typical A scan display showing an echo from a corrosion defect of 3% CSA (cross-sectional area) located 12 metres from the transducers and 1 metre in front of a weld.

Figure 4: First generation MK1 Teletest system

Figure 5: Second generation MK2 Teletest system

Figure 6 (a) Third generation MK3 Teletest system (b) MK3 Teletest system in operation

TWI has exploited GWU technique through their subsidiary Plant Integrity Ltd. Figures 4, 5 and 6 illustrate the first, second and third generation of Teletest guided wave ultrasonic equipment [2, 3] developed and marketed by Plant Integrity Ltd (Pi Ltd).

Some case histories drawn from the service records of Pis Teletest instrument
Figure 3: Long range ultrasound defect echo from a corrosion defect of 3%CSA at a depth of 100m in a pipe of 10inch diameter and 6mm wall thickness in a Alaskan oil field - obtained with the Teletest MK2 system during a service inspection.

Pi Ltd have provided service inspection in the pipeline sector with the Teletest system since the late 1990s and during this time have gained vast experience of the growing potential of the GWU technique globally [3].



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A particularly interesting case was inspection of CUI in the pipelines around an oil field. In such an environmentally sensitive region (as the North Slope of Alaska) requires constant surveillance to prevent leakage (Figure 7). After a brief and successful trial in the autumn of 1998, Teletest surveys have been carried out for ConocoPhillips Alaska Inc. (formerly ARCO) at their facilities in the Greater Kuparuk area on the North Slope of Alaska during summer campaigns from 1999 to date. During this period almost 900 inspections of road and caribou crossings (pipes in culverts) have been undertaken. A particular concern is CUI at junctions between the factory-applied insulation and the weld packs (insulation installed on site at the weld positions). Pipe diameters cover sizes from 3" to 30", and the road crossings range in span up to 70 metres. Teletest was very successful used for this application, although the pipes are insulated with sound-attenuating polyurethane foam and the required inspection range was very demanding. Of particular importance to the client was Teletests ability to clearly see the girth welds as they provide excellent markers. If present, CUI at weld packs is usually located about metre either side of the weld.

Another interesting result was obtained from the inspection of cryogenic jetty lines (Figure 8). The GWU technique was used on two cryogenic jetty lines at 18 and 3 diameters. Each jetty line was approximately 2km in length with several expansion loops and pipe bridges. Several anomalies were identified during the inspection and follow up was conducted whilst the operators were still on-site. The first anomaly was located during the opening shot of the inspection; this was of upmost interest to the client as the location was in a difficult to access area Figure 8(b). Further examples of Guided Wave Ultrasonics inspection can be found in [3].

Current State of the art

Ordinarily with ultrasonic techniques, defects need to have dimensions greater than a wavelength to be detectable so the low frequencies and correspondingly long wavelengths used in guided wave ultrasonics might be perceived as restricting the sensitivity of the technique, limiting it to the detection of gross defects. However, the advantages described, such as its global monitoring

Figure 7: Road crossing CUI inspection on the North Slope of Alaska.

Figure 9: Modelling of time delay focussing technique.

capability from a single position outweigh that sensitivity drawback. All things considered, a couple of points should be noted: (i) that the technique can detect defects from one position in a long pipe run well before the defects reach the size that would lead quickly to pipe failure - it is a case of better late than never;

(a) Inspection of horizontal pipeline. (b) Inspection of at 180 pipeline Figure 8: Inspection of cryogenic jetty lines.



(ii) often, for the variety of reasons already given, it will be the only means of defect detection. Work is well in hand to move this technique in the direction of a high sensitivity technique as well as global screening tool by using focussed waves. The Teletest Focus system includes focussing facility i.e. a long range phased array (Figure 9). In addition, research is also being carried out with this instrument into a novel focusing method called time reversal focusing [1 ,2 ]. From initial experimental results it is expected that corrosion defects as small as 1% CSA with a 95% POD will be detectable with this approach.

In order to provide a means of identifying defects which are potentially significant in terms of the integrity of the pipe it is also necessary to examine how localised the response is in terms of the pipe circumference. This may be obtained from the focused tests and is plotted on a polar response chart shown in Figure 11. A B C

Evaluation method
Indications identified on the new A-scan plot of Teletest Focus are evaluated on the basis of a combination of: The signal amplitude (Figure 10) and The directionality of the focused response (Figure 11). This takes into account that large amplitude responses will be from a large cross-sectional area defect. Small defects cannot produce large amplitude reflections. However, the converse is not always true; A small amplitude response does not necessarily mean that the defect is small, as the response may be affected by a number of factors. Figure 10 (a) shows the A-scan of a weld defect at -10.2m together with other features (e.g. pipe supports, pipe bends, etc) in the pipeline. These features are clearly highlights in the A-map. The map also shows the actual circumferential position (y-axis) of the anomalies (as indicated in Figure 10(b)).

Figure 11: The collection of focused data from suspected flaws is an integral part of the test regime. The results from focused tests on each flaw are analysed in terms of the directionality of the response. (a) Polar plot shows a high level of directionality, indicated by a single peak in the plot at one focus angle; it is classed as Category 3. This indicates that the flaw is highly localised on a narrow part of the circumference, so that it is likely to be deep for a given amplitude of response (b) Two adjacent high amplitude responses it is classed as Category 2. This suggests that the flaw is localised, but has some circumferential length and (c) non-directionality is classed as category 0, which corresponds to the approximately uniform response around the circumference obtained from a weld.

Permanently installed
Plant Integrity Limited has developed a permanently installed tool-head called Teletest Perm-A-MountTM (Figure 12). This device consists of a transducer array attached directly to the pipe surface providing all the benefits of Teletest Focus Guided Wave Inspection without the problems of access. Perm-A-Mount is a low-cost, long-life tool installation intended for regular monitoring of piping systems in environmentally hostile, safety critical or difficult to access areas. Typical applications of Teletest Perm-A-Mount include: Road or River Crossings Elevated lines Insulated lines Offshore risers Buried lines Sub sea lines The installation process was developed in conjunction with TWI Ltds surfacing and corrosion departments and tested to ensure that the tool will not be a future source of corrosion in piping systems.

Figure 10: (a) Schematic of the new Teletest Focus A-scan, showing the amplitude categories. Below the Green line is category 1, between the green and red line is category 2 and above the red is category 3 and (b) A-map - a 360o illustration of pipe condition.



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The tool head is connected to existing Teletest Focus Units via an external communication box that can be located up to 20metres from the tool head. The data collection is very simple to execute and can be either be analysed on site by a CSWIP trained operator or remotely. Automated 3 mouse-buttons click data collection. Provides the flexibility for on-site analysis or remote analysis by CSWIP Trained operators. Low Cost Multimode Wave Form: Transducer arrays are optimised for pipe diameter, wall thickness & contents, maximising detection capabilities. Excellent Data Stability & Repeatability: Data collected from Perm-a-mount tool heads is highly repeatable allowing very small changes in pipe condition to be detected. Wide Temperature Range: Perm-A-Mount can operate across a wide range of temperatures from -400C to +1250C. Pipe Size Range: ASME Schedule 2 to 36 Unique Serial Numbered Tool Heads Improved detectability - Overlay of scans allows improved analysis and earlier detection of defects. Low Profile: The tool is only 15mm thick & 150mm long. Mechanically Robust Construction - Fatigue testing showed no degradation of tool after 4.1 million cycles Environmentally Robust - No degradation of signal after salt spray testing

Teletest (a GWU system marketed by Plant Integrity Ltd) is such a system capable of 100% direct assessment for pipe lengths of typically 30m in either direction from the test position, although in ideal conditions significantly greater lengths of pipeline can be inspected from a single test point. Whilst GWU technologies are thought to be inherently insensitive, recent developments, such as the ability to focus the ultrasonic waves, have added a further dimension to the techniques potential.

[3] C. Ennaceur, P. Mudge, T. H. Gan, Long range inspection of different engineering assets using guided waves; 17th WCNDT conference 2008, China. [2] C. Ennaceur, P. Mudge, T. H. Gan, Long range inspection of different engineering assets using guided waves; CM 2008 and MFPT 2008 The Fifth International Conference on Condition Monitoring and Machinery Failure Prevention Technologies, Edinburgh UK. [3] http://www.twi.co.uk/j32k/unprotected/pdfs/lrut_brochure.pdf [4] C Ennaceur, P. Mudge, B. Bridge, M. Kayous. Application of Time Reversal Technique to the Focussing of Long Range Ultrasound in pipelines, Insight, Vol 49, No 4, 2007. [5] C. Ennaceur T. H Gan, R. Sanderson, P Mudge and B. Bridge, Modelling of Time Reversal Focussing in Straight Pipes. [6] S. Soua, S. Chan, T. H. Gan, Modelling of long range ultrasonic waves in complex structures, CM 2008 and MFPT 2008 The Fifth International Conference on Condition Monitoring and Machinery Failure Prevention Technologies, Edinburgh UK. [7] T. H. Gan, G. Edwards, M. Kayous and B. Bridge Pipeline Corrosion Control: A Historical Perspective and a Long Range Approach to the Future, World Pipeline Journal, May 2007. [8] P. Jackson and T. H. Gan, The New Age of Pipeline Inspection, Inspectioneering Journal, Vol. 13, Issue 4, Pp. 2-9, 2007. [9] T. H. Gan, Advanced Long Range Inspection Systems for Corrosion Detection: A Review, Advanced Corrosion Management, 11-12 December 2006, Abu Dhabi, UAE.

TWI have been pioneering the GWU for defect (i.e. corrosion, erosion and metal loss) detection and monitoring which in principle allows inspection of long runs of pipe from just one access point. This provides the ability to inspect complete pipelines, rather than just those regions accessed by pigs and crawlers. Whats more, the inspections are cost effective and reliable, and are done with the minimum of disruption. The benefits of guided wave ultrasonic testing are: Rapid screening for in-service degradation of CUI. Cost reduction in gaining access to the pipes for inspection. Avoidance of removal and reinstatement of insulation or coatings (where present), except for the area on which the transducer tool is mounted. The ability to inspect inaccessible areas, such as at clamps or sleeved or buried pipes. The whole pipe wall is tested, thereby achieving a 100% examination.

PetroMin Pipeliner would like to show appreciation to Dr. Tat-Hean Gan, TWI Ltd, Granta Park, Great Abington, Cambridge CB21 6AL, UK for this article. Dr Gan is currently the Head of Business Development at TWI NDT Technology Group. He has also been appointed as a Professor at Brunel University and referee for various journals e.g. Institute of Physics (UK), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (USA), Journal of Food Engineering (UK) and the Ultrasonics journal. He is also an International Scientific Advisory Committee of the Condition Monitoring conference organized by BINDT. His wide experience involved in: innovative sensors and NDT system using guided ultrasonic wave technology; guided wave propagation in pipes and plates; Long range Ultrasonics R & D. He was also involved in the development of a novel focusing method for guided waves in pipe using combine time reversal and phased array methodologies. Other than guided wave focusing, he also researched into advanced signal processing for guided wave applications. These techniques include wavelets, correlation, and split spectrum. PP