With over 200,000 miles of hazardous liquid pipeline spanning the US, the need to ensure the integrity of these pipelines is tremendous. Pipeline operators are under pressure to perform meticulous in-line inspections and accurately collect data in order to maintain the security of crude oil, refined petroleum, and biofuel pipelines.
Using funding from the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, ULC will study the feasibility of using guided wave Electromagnetic Acoustic Transducer (EMAT) technology to create an enhanced dual-purpose in-line inspection tool. Able to integrate with existing internal cleaning systems, the tool will streamline inspection and maintenance operations into a single process.
EMAT technology uses a permanent magnet and electric coil to generate ultrasonic waves, allowing it to measure wall thickness and detect, assess, and characterize defects or material properties. Over the last five years, ULC has made significant advancements in the research, development, and commercialization of this technology. Most notable is the integration of wall thickness measurement EMAT technology into ULC’s CIRRIS XI™, an in-line inspection robot for cast iron natural gas distribution mains. Since then, ULC has continued to develop expertise in guided wave EMAT for the inspection of steel and cast iron pipelines to identify corrosion and cracks.
Through further research, design, and testing ULC will work to maximize guided wave EMAT sensor sensitivity to defects and produce live inspection data for immediate remedial action. The resulting dual-purpose tool will enter the pipeline through existing pig traps to simultaneously perform cleaning operations while inspecting for defects such as wall loss and cracks, presenting a low-cost, lightweight solution.
By integrating such an inspection tool with an existing cleaning system both processes will be completed in a single pass, reducing operating costs while performing critical maintenance and providing unparalleled insight into asset health. The tool will ultimately enable pipeline operators to ensure the safety and integrity of their mains and prevent potential hazardous leaks and spills.