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Crack Detection Inspection That is Changing the Game

Author: Rogelio Guajardo, Head of Analysis, Ultrasonic Crack 

NDT Global inspects several vintage pipelines that have been in the ground for 40 years or longer. Older pipelines typically contain multiple manufacturing related anomalies such as hook cracks in the long-seam area. This area happens to be the weakest part of the entire pipeline, so it is crucial to be able to precisely detect and size features that exist in vulnerable zones.

In the conventional ultrasonic crack detection technology, there are certain limitations that make it impossible to size hook cracks due to the complexity of their geometries.

When crack inspection technology was first released to the market, pulse echo was capable of accurately sizing cracks that were not tilted. During that time, it was simply enough to detect most of the immediate threats of pipelines. However, pulse-echo's detection and sizing capabilities reached its limits, and injurious features remained.

What was needed to detect these injurious features including manufacturing-related anomalies that have grown over decades? A new and improved technology was the only solution.

With enhanced capabilities in Eclipse UCx, we can incorporate a technique that records two signals and three methodologies instead of one signal and one methodology. Let me explain.

When creating Eclipse UCx, our objective was to provide detailed information on at-risk features in at-risk areas. Eclipse UCx analysis is performed in tandem, evaluating pulse-echo while also assessing pitch and catch signals. These signals complement one other, so when pulse-echo reaches its limits, the Eclipse UCX signal jumps in and picks up any lost depth. This ensures the depth for complex geometry features is recorded. The technological addition has immensely accelerated operators' standards throughout the industry. 

Let's take a step back and reiterate the significance of this innovation. Prior to this advancement, we could identify a feature as crack-like but were unable to provide insight into the specifics of this crack-like feature. How do you prioritize a data list that simply says 'crack-like' features? It's nearly impossible.

With Eclipse UCx, we can put our finger on exactly what features exist by providing sub-features. We can tell an operator that a crack in their pipeline can be branching or hooked and see under the surface within that feature. With a subtype category, operators can have transparency into the real challenges of their pipeline and focus their efforts on the features that matter most.

I recently had a conversation with an operator who has been running our tools since 2009. We have analyzed large amounts of their data over time and we were discussing how we could leverage Eclipse UCx for a specific pipeline of theirs. Based on the historic data, it was clear that their features were not growing. So why would it be beneficial to run an Eclipse tool?

With Eclipse, this operator would be able to distinguish (out of their universe of features) the difference between each crack features, i.e. hook cracks versus lack of fusions. This allows them to incorporate this additional data point into their pressure calculations, ensuring they are taking the proper safety measures while simultaneously improving their overall integrity program.

As we stand today, there are currently no assessments outside of NDT Global that are conducting a sub-type category analysis. Eclipse UCx has significantly increased the POX (probability of detection, identification, and depth sizing) standards throughout the inline inspection industry and serves as motivation to continuously expand our on our capabilities.

If you'd like to learn more about Eclipse UCx, feel free to send me an email at Rogelio.Guajardo@NDT-Global.com

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