New Corrosion Detection Technology Can Catch Pipe Leaks Before They Happen

The Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has created the next generation of transducers that use ultrasonic guided wave technology to detect anomalies in pipes, allowing users to prevent leaks before they start. The device, which uses the magnetostrictive sensor developed by SwRI® (Mrs S®), will be presented at the American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT) annual conference in Nashville, Tennessee, October 31-November 3.

“Pipeline corrosion leading to leaks is very common,” said SwRI staff engineer Sergey Vinogradov, who developed the technology with staff engineer Keith Bartels and other SwRI staff. . “There are only a few current methods to detect defects before they cause leaks. Quite often the pipe is repaired and re-inspected after a leak has occurred. We have developed technology that can continuously monitor the condition of the pipe, hoping that leaks happen first.”

The technology is known as the magnetostrictive transducer (MsT) collar. It was originally developed by SwRI in 2002. The updated version has a slim, flat design allowing it to be used on pipes in tight spaces. In custom configurations, it can withstand heat up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The new segmented MsT design also includes eight sensors that allow the transducer to more accurately identify where corrosion is occurring in the pipe.

The MsT collar uses magnetostrictive sensors, which generate and receive guided waves that propagate along an elongated structure, guided by its boundaries. This technique allows the waves to travel long distances with little loss of energy. In some cases, hundreds of meters can be surveyed from a single location, although obstacles such as couplings require an additional sensor.

“Instead of using one sensor to cover the entire circumference of a pipe, only measuring the axial location of an anomaly, we now have eight sensors in the transducer,” Vinogradov said. “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 corrosion growth can be monitored by examining the acquired data sets over time.”

The MsS system can send data to a remote terminal via a wireless transmitter 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 occur. However, the technology is versatile and has been used for other industrial pipes such as those used for water, heating or chemical plants.

Vinogradov and Bartels will be showcasing the MsT Collar at the ASNT Annual Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, October 31-November 3 at Booth 1219.

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Material provided by Southwest Research Institute. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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