Is there still a need for NDT?

It doesn’t seem that long ago since the UK was heavily dependent on fossil fuels for power generation. Recently, however, the UK did not use any electricity generated this way for a short period and overall the amount generated has been significantly reduced. There is currently a programme to reduce the number of fossil fuel power stations, which has a knock-on effect on the outages and associated NDT inspections.

The replacement ‘green’ energy generators are not regulated in the same way that the old technology was. Wind turbine generators require inspection and the standards are currently evolving and being written. Part of the challenge is for the manufacturers to understand which manufacturing flaws are acceptable and which are not; there is also a challenge to develop criteria around in-service flaws. The inspection technologies are still maturing and there is minimal guidance on the personnel certification required.

While driving around I am seeing more fields and rooftops that have been given over to photovoltaic panels, which require little or no NDT input while generating electricity.

Condition monitoring is changing the need for outages and NDT, as the in-service condition of a plant is continuously monitored, avoiding outages and NDT inspections caused by time or usage.

The change in heavy engineering is also affecting the requirements for NDT; the mining industry has decreased in size along with the oil & gas sector, which has resulted in reductions in the metal manufacturing industries. We are at the dismantling stage and the Pioneering Spirit is a 382 m-long and 124 m-wide ship built specifically to lift and remove the ‘topside’ of oil rigs in the North Sea. Once free of the rig legs, the platforms, weighing as much as 30,000 tonnes, are being transferred to Teesside where they will be scrapped in a custom-built yard. Each, in turn, has reduced the need for conventional NDT in the UK.

Is there still a need for NDT? The answer has to be yes, but we will need to adapt to different engineering technologies and NDT methods to ensure our industry is recognised for the safety and value it brings to all of our lives.

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