Transforming Pipeline Inspection with Digital Radiography

For many years, equipment manufacturers have worked to develop radiographic systems that take film radiography to the next level. Their goal was to increase the functionality of these systems by incorporating the benefits of digitization in data processing, analysis and storage.

Digital radiography (DR) composed of both computed radiography (CR) and digital detector array (DDA) technologies is now fast assuming the role once held by film radiography in industrial and process segments, including the oil and gas industry, where non-destructive testing (NDT) is applied.

The technology benefits of digital radiography that are driving this transition include efficiency, enhanced image quality and dynamic range. Advances in wireless technology are also a contributing factor, as it makes digital radiography more portable than ever. Further, a change in industry standards has both allowed and encouraged digital radiography to be used for new applications which have been formerly exclusive to traditional film inspection.

In the oil and gas industry, there are a number of important considerations that impact how NDT is carried out, including safety, quality, production, cost and environmental issues. Pipelines represent a significant financial investment and are considered critical business assets. They are responsible for transporting very high value fluids and any fracture or leakage can result in a damaging financial loss— not to mention environmental issues and detrimental effects to a company’s reputation. Consequently, it is essential that pipelines are inspected for integrity during manufacture, installation and service.

Inspection is carried out to ensure the on-going integrity of welds in-service, as well as to identify and monitor any pipe wall-thickness changes and metal loss caused by corrosion or erosion, and to locate any cracks which may develop in welds, pipe walls and the heat affected zone.

DDAs are now helping to streamline weld inspection processes. With the development of more versatile and higher resolution detectors there is a reduction in wait time for results as a radiographic image is produced in real time directly onto a connected display screen. In the past, the use of digital radiography has been limited due to size, weight and connectivity of the equipment. New technology solutions give users the benefit of shorter shot times, minimal radiation exposure and can easily connect to a laptop and produce images for instant review.

Digital X-Ray Image 1

In summary, the primary benefits of the latest CR/DDA technology for pipeline field inspection are:

Increased inspection productivity;

  • Improved deep-water inspection;
  • Reduced inspector and inspection materials costs;
  • Improved safety and reduced environmental impact due to reduced radiation and chemicals; and
  • Enhanced data management for effective review, collaboration and long-term storage.

With the field-ready inspection technology available, the significant productivity advantages and the relevant inspection standards ready to go, digital conversion will change the way industrial radiographic pipeline inspection is performed going forward.

For more information on digital radiography transforming pipeline inspection, read Richard Mills’ GE article in Inspection Trends – Transforming Pipeline Inspection with Digital Radiography.

By Richard Mills, Senior Radiography Technical Support Manager, GE