Ultrasonic inspection technology keeps pipeline clear


Sediment blockages in pipelines can disrupt cleaning operations. In 2013, a pipeline company discovered that a section of pipeline in Minnesota had been blocked by excessive sediment build-up. Enough sludge had gathered to completely block the progress of the pigging tool. The company considered using X-ray technology to remove the blockage, but realised that this would not provide all the information it needed and would not allow timeline goals to be met. After considering other available technologies, it decided to use SGS PfiNDE’s ultrasonic inspection technology to solve the problem.

SGS inspection technicians travelled to a rural area of Minnesota, where they were able to use ultrasonic inspection technology to determine the volume of the sediment and its exact location. Based on an analysis of the results, the pipeline company developed a strategy for effectively and efficiently removing the specific section of the impacted pipeline. After the section was removed, it was replaced and normal operations were resumed.

Typically, pipeline companies only consider ultrasonic inspection technology for high-end weld investigations and when looking for cracks and dents. However, this technology can also be used to provide other information that would be more time-consuming and expensive to obtain with radiographic inspection. For example, ultrasonic inspection technology is useful for checking fluid levels and checking for the presence of sludge.

SGS PfiNDE Pipeline Integrity Services supports pipeline operators’ in-line inspection programmes by providing in-trench evaluation of pipeline anomalies. SGS PfiNDE provides accurate identification of anomalies using non-destructive examination (NDE). Unlike other NDE providers that also do pipeline work, SGS PfiNDE is a pipeline inspection company that provides high-quality NDE, with technicians trained in pipeline-specific techniques and field conditions.