CM in the oil & gas sector

During a break in one of the meetings that I recently attended, we were casually discussing the oil & gas situation, especially relating to Aberdeen, and the need for condition monitoring (CM) was raised. One of the persons in the discussion stated that the price of oil and gas has been too high for too long and that the industry had become used to funds being available to replace items that were no longer deemed fit for purpose. With this attitude the need for condition monitoring was much less of a priority, but now with the greatly reduced cost of oil and gas there will be a greater need to use condition monitoring techniques to increase plant and asset life. Will the oil & gas industry employ more CM practitioners and will this reduce the operating costs? PCN NDT has introduced a specific ultrasonic testing certification programme for the inspection of pipework in the oil & gas sector and there is more discussion on plant asset management/structural health monitoring. Will this lead to a different appreciation of both NDT and CM?

It has been known for some time that the Forth Road Bridge is failing and the construction of its replacement has been ongoing for a good while. CM is being used on the existing bridge to listen to the cables that support the roadway and record the failures of the strands. The recent failure that necessitated the total closure of the bridge appears to have been a structural failure in the metalwork. Chartered Engineer Mark Arndt, Maintenance Contractor at Amey, described the fault as a failure of the ‘inner link support beam to the north-east tower truss end link’, explaining how a crack of about 20 mm in width had appeared in the load-bearing link. Is there any merit in employing techniques such as guided wave ultrasonics, which could be used in a CM role, and visual inspection using aerial drone technology, which could be employed in the inspection of such structures? Is it time to return to the principles of over engineering, such as the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which was finished in 1864 and now carries four million vehicles every year, a fine achievement for a bridge designed for horse-drawn vehicles and constructed partially out of second-hand wrought iron chain links from the demolished Hungerford Chain Suspension Bridge. Or should the collapse of the historic stone bridge at Tadcaster due to the flood water be an example of why we need to engineer better structures?

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