Advanced X-Ray Technology In Pipeline Inspection:
The regular use of pipelines in the construction industry has made it an essential part of many construction projects.
Its use for transporting fluids from one point to another across varying head levels is a regular feature in both the construction industry and other industries like the oil and gas industry.
Since pipelines’ structural integrity is critical to their effective use at any point, it then means that organizations and industries need to put in place an effective method to ensure their quality.
Consideration for pipeline inspection method
Inspection of the pipeline’s critical components like the pipe thickness, quality of welds, and obstructions to flow within the pipeline are often carried out using a standard inspection method.
Various standard methods exist for checking and ascertaining the quality of individual work items in the manufacturing, installing, and maintaining pipelines.
These methods, including visual inspection, optical inspection, and X-ray inspections, have different advantages.
However, X-ray or radiography test for welding inspection of pipelines is still the method that delivers the most benefits – especially for welding. Its advantages include increased inspection speed, reduced human errors, and accurate analysis. It is a non-destructive method that means test samples are reusable if found satisfactory after the test or inspection.
Furthermore, modern advancements in X-ray inspection technology for pipelines have grown in leaps and bounds over the years.
X-ray inspection technology advancements and benefits
One such advancement in X-ray technology is the use of ROVs (Remote Operated Vehicles) with integrated X-ray capabilities to carry out pipeline inspection.
This technology’s benefit is primarily the ease of inspection of hard-to-reach areas in pipelines, like T-junctions and bends. This benefit is massive considering that most pipelines are buried or installed in places that are difficult to access and use bends to change the direction of the flow of fluids.
But make no mistakes, the challenges of conventional x-ray methods are more than this, and the ROVs are quite capable of solving them.
One of the solutions in using ROVs is their portability, as it is easy to transport them for use in the field. This feature solves the challenge of heavy conventional X-ray machines, which are most suitable for laboratory usage.
Another solution to this modern X-ray weld inspection technology is their remote operations, as it does not require an operator’s physical presence. This development also reduces operational stress while increasing accessibility all at once.
The X-ray’s source energy is another important factor since it determines the X-ray projected quality and the image’s quality on the detector.
X-ray sources with low voltages often generate low X-ray photons and will not effectively penetrate certain pipe thickness for an accurate analysis.
However, advanced X-ray weld inspection technology has voltages as high as 2MeV compared to conventional X-ray systems that have between 300 to 700 keV. This extra voltage makes the modern X-ray weld inspection system more accurate for both thin and thick welds in pipes.
The housing and the quality of the modern X-ray detectors have also seen significant improvements over the years and have enabled better image resolution. The high radiation-resistant housing has also increased the level of safety for operators and image analysts. This design, coupled with operators’ remote proximity, ensures they have no exposure to the harmful effect of long-term radiation exposure.
Finally, the tomography analysis software has also seen a significant upgrade in modern X-ray weld technology systems. The integrated algorithm is well advanced to determine pipe wall thickness which is vital in pipeline inspection. These algorithms give more precise results when compared to the conventional tangential method of pipe thickness check.
In all, the advancements in modern X-ray weld inspection have helped reduce radiation risk to operators and workers, improve the image quality, and hence, more accurate analysis and result. With its ability to detect and quantify defects in 3-dimension within a short time, this technology has increased productivity and reduced production and maintenance costs.
As technology continues to advance, more works are ongoing to increase the ease and accuracy of X-ray weld inspection in the pipeline. Some of these include software development for tomographic reconstruction using algorithms that need few projections and algorithms for evaluating weld seams. These ongoing works have the potential to end the conventional method of X-ray weld inspection with better results and less effort.