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Innovative technology simplifies inspection of insulated piping

Industrial research program to detect corrosion in insulated pipes

San Antonio -- September 3, 1996 -- Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) engineers have launched a multiyear cooperative industry research program to develop a cost-effective and efficient field instrument to detect corrosion in insulated pipes. The instrumentation currently under evaluation uses magnetostrictive sensor (MsS®) technology for inspection.

Corrosion of insulated steel pipes can cause safety and operational concerns that have become more frequent as the piping infrastructure ages in the U.S. and elsewhere. At present, inspection of these pipes requires equipment shutdown and insulation removal, which are both time consuming and expensive.

"Defects in pipes, such as corrosion or cracking," says Dr. Hegeon Kwun, a senior research scientist in the SwRI Nondestructive Evaluation Science and Technology Division and manager of the cooperative program, "are identified using MsS instruments which launch elastic waves in frequencies up to a few hundred kHz and detect the signals reflected from any defects. The entire cross section of the pipewall can be inspected for inside and outside surface flaws. A section of piping up to one hundred feet can be surveyed from a single sensor location, providing a fast and efficient means of 100 percent volumetric inspection."

In the first phase of the joint industry program, now in progress, MsS sensors are being used to test various grades of ferromagnetic piping materials up to 16 inches in diameter, at temperatures ranging from minus 55 to plus 850 degrees F, and at operating pressures up to 1,500 psi. The results of this first phase will be used to define specifications for the field instrument to be developed in the subsequent program phases involving specific instrument design, field trials, and commercialization.

Current members of the consortium include Chevron Research and Technology, Richmond, California; CTI Alaska, Inc., Anchorage, Alaska; the Electric Power Research Institute, Palo Alto, California; TEAM, Inc., Alvin, Texas; the Texaco Group, Inc., Port Arthur, Texas; the CXR Company, Ltd., Hiroshima, Japan; and the Tokyo Gas Company, Ltd., Tokyo, Japan.

The cost of membership is $30,000 per year for three years. All research information shared between members is confidential and proprietary. Companies that participate in the program derive the following benefits:

  • They can accelerate the commercialization of the technology for oil and chemical industry applications;
  • Participating operating companies will secure royalty-free rights to use SwRI patented technology (U.S. Patent Nos. 5,456,113 and 5,457,994) in company plants worldwide;
  • Participating service companies may recover their membership fees through royalties paid to SwRI for the use of the patented technology;
  • They can influence the directions, scope, and priorities of the program through active participation on the Technical Advisory Committee.

For more information about the industry consortium, contact Deborah Deffenbaugh, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, P.O. Drawer 28510, San Antonio, Texas 78228-0510, Phone (210) 522-2046, Fax (210) 522-3547.

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