Industry Collaboration Results in More Reliable ILI & NDE Verification Research

Tue, March 24, 2020

Aligning field NDE data to indications reported by ILI systems is an integral element of all pipeline operators’ integrity management programs, and a current focus of pipeline research. Understanding the performance and improving the capabilities of inspection technologies were driving factors that led to PRCI investing in a state-of-the-art pipeline test facility at the Technology Development Center (TDC) and establishing an inventory of test samples that are used to support pipeline research. There is also growing interest in the industry for utilizing the TDC for testing, training, and technology development as an outcome of the research. With ILI pull test and continuous flow loop systems at the TDC, the pipeline industry now has the ability to perform tests of ILI systems on a repeatable basis, under varying conditions, for a range of pipeline features that can be challenging to detect, identify/discriminate, and characterize.The TDC also provides the opportunity for NDE technicians using various technologies to inspect the same pipe under the same or similar conditions, continuing to improve the understanding of the critical link between ILI and NDE data. 

While ILI and NDE data from operating pipeline systems have numerous reference points to support the alignment of NDE and ILI data, alignment of data during tests at the TDC can be challenging, as most of the ILI/NDE test samples are from many different pipelines that are amalgamated into a test system/string (i.e., member contributions and fabricated samples). To address complexities that researchers face with regard to the replication and verification of NDE and ILI results, for research completed at the TDC,PRCI members, research contractors, and ILI inspection technology companies came together to find a solution. The Mechanical Damage Strategic Research Priority champions, Tim Burns of Shell Global and Mark Piazza of Colonial Pipeline Company, worked together with research contractor BMT Canada to  collaborate with ILI service providers for their input on how to ensure measurement accuracy during test programs, despite the many variables that are often involved in any test at the TDC (tool speed, sensor orientation, human factors, etc.).  The outcome of those discussions resulted in the five-dot landmark (pictured above). 

The landmark pattern will be milled into each unique joint of pipe to be tested. It is expected that the landmark will improve the accuracy and efficiency of data alignment and analysis, as it is easily detected by ILI tools and also serves as a visual landmark for external NDE testing.