Pipeline corrosion resulting in leaks is very common. There are only a few current methods to detect defects before they cause leaks. Often, the pipe is repaired and re-inspected after a leak occurs.
Now, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has created the next generation of transducers that use ultrasonic-guided wave technology to detect anomalies in pipes, enabling users to prevent leaks before they start.
Originally developed by SwRI in 2002, the technology is known as a Magnetostrictive Transducer (MsT) Collar. The updated version has a flat, thin design, which allows it to be used on pipes in tight spaces. The new MsT design also features eight sensors that give the transducer the ability to consistently monitor the pipe’s condition and accurately identify where the pipe corrosion is occurring, hopefully preventing leaks from happening in the first place.
The device can withstand heat up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit in custom configurations. The device utilizes the SwRI-developed Magnetostrictive Sensor (MsS), which generates and receives guided waves that propagate along an elongated structure, guided by its boundaries. This technique allows the waves to travel long distances with little loss in energy. In some cases, hundreds of meters can be inspected from a single location, though obstacles such as couplings would require an additional sensor.
“Instead of using one sensor to cover an entire pipe circumference, allowing only the axial location of an anomaly to be measured, we now have eight sensors in the transducer,” said SwRI Staff Engineer Sergey Vinogradov, who developed the technology with Staff Engineer Keith Bartels and other SwRI staff members. “Each of the sensors is independently connected to the electronics so that all possible guided wave signals can be acquired. Algorithms combine this information to better detect and locate the anomaly both axially and circumferentially, and the growth of the corrosion can be monitored by examining data sets acquired over time.”
The MsS system can send data to a remote terminal via a wireless transmitter unit or by means of a wired connection. It is designed primarily for oil and gas transmission pipelines to prevent costly and damaging leaks before they begin. However, the technology is versatile and has been used for other industrial pies, such as those used for water, heating, or in chemical plants.