Researchers have developed the next-generation magnetostrictive transducers that involve ultrasonic guided wave technology to detect anomalies in pipes to prevent pipeline leaks
Currently, there are only a few highly reliable and precise pipeline corrosion monitoring systems to drive safe and efficient operations of oil and gas pipelines. To avoid this issue, Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has invented the next level of transducers that use Magnetostrictive Sensor (MsS) technology with ultrasonic guided wave technology to detect anomalies in pipes. This empowers users to avoid leaks before they start.
“Pipeline corrosion resulting in leaks is very common,” said SwRI Staff Engineer Sergey Vinogradov, who developed the technology with Staff Engineer Keith Bartels and other SwRI staff members. “There are few current methods to detect defects before they cause leaks. Quite often, the pipe is repaired and re-inspected after a leak occurs. We’ve developed a technology that can consistently monitor the pipe’s condition, hopefully preventing leaks from happening in the first place.”
The researchers improvised SwRI’s previously developed magnetostrictive transducer (MsT) collar in 2002. The new transducer has a flat, thin design, enabling it to be used on pipes in tight spaces. It can be customized to withstand heat up to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. The new, segmented MsT design also features eight sensors that allow the transducer to identify where in the pipe corrosion is occurring more accurately.
The MsT Collar is configured with magnetostrictive sensors, which produce 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 in energy. In some cases, hundreds of meters can be inspected from a single location, though obstacles such as couplings would require an additional sensor.
“Instead of using one sensor to cover an entire pipe circumference, allowing only the axial location of an anomaly to be measured, 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 the growth of the corrosion can be monitored by examining data sets acquired over time.”
The system can send data to a remote terminal via a wireless transmitter unit or using a wired connection. It is designed specifically for oil and gas transmission pipelines to avoid costly and damaging leaks before they begin. However, the technology is versatile and has been used for other industrial pipes, such as water, heating, or chemical plants.