By Bob Ward, Senior Product Manager at GE Digital Solutions
Corrosion and erosion represents a tremendous cost to process industries in the form of lost production and unplanned repairs. In the worst case scenario unchecked corrosion can lead to catastrophic equipment failure. A well-known study published the National Association of Corrosion Engineers (NACE) indicates that the direct cost of corrosion is more than 3% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Regularly scheduled nondestructive corrosion inspections can validate corrosion rates, identify areas of concern and allow engineers and operators to better plan for maintenance. While conventional ultrasound thickness (UT) readings can be of use with regularly scheduled inspections, they do often not provide enough precision to adequately determine wall thickness losses from corrosion. Pitting cannot be reliably detected by conventional UT methods simply because the size of the defect is small compared to the area inspected.
Advances in phased array ultrasound (PAUT) techniques have now been developed to achieve the needed precision while inspecting large areas efficiently. In order to implement these techniques on a large scale the industry must find ways to overcome the high cost of training technicians, improve consistency between tests and reduce equipment costs. Fortunately, the ultrasound equipment industry is responding to these challenges.
The high cost of training technicians is the most pressing issue, since phased array UT instruments can be complex and time-consuming to operate. Fortunately, more training institutes and colleges are incorporating phased array ultrasound technology courses, and the great benefits of phased array have resulted in more companies investing in training.
Equipment manufacturers, such as GE Inspection Technologies, are developing new “smart” inspection devices that allow the experts to simplify and customize the user interface of UT instruments so that a less experienced technician can learn and operate them quickly and easily. These devices use touch-screen “apps” to walk technicians through instrument setup, calibration and inspection procedures, which improves inspection consistency.
If a technician does not understand a step or a data signal, he or she can push a button on the device and wirelessly stream their inspection to the PC, phone, or tablet of a remote expert. These new technological developments are making it possible to realize the benefits of phased array corrosion inspection on a global scale.
The direct and indirect costs of corrosion can be staggering. With advances in inspection technologies and improved maintenance schedules, equipment manufacturers and providers are helping organizations control costs and safeguard the health of their assets.