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New Tool Inspects the Uninspectable

May 12, 2010 (DHAHRAN) - Saudi Aramco, in cooperation with American technology developer Quest Integrity Group, has successfully demonstrated a new flexible In-Line Inspection (ILI) tool designed to comprehensively inspect some of the company’s "non-scrapeable” pipelines, those that cannot be inspected by regular ILI tools. 

The demonstration involved the Inspection Department’s Inspection Technology Unit and North Ghawar Producing Department (NGPD).  To ensure the safe operation of its huge pipeline network, Saudi Aramco engineering groups work diligently to maintain the integrity of the pipelines by performing periodic inspections.  

Internal inspection of non-scrapeable pipelines is a major challenge for Saudi Aramco, and ILI is one of the most comprehensive and effective methods the company employs to inspect pipelines for integrity.  In-line inspection devices, informally known as "pigs,” are inserted inside pipelines to inspect their interior conditions and to scrape away build-up. Unfortunately, not all pipelines can accommodate pigs.  The company’s new ILI tool, called InVista™, was piloted at NGPD to test-inspect two 8-inch flow
lines in Abqaiq field. 

The data collected by InVista showed corrosion at several locations along both flow lines. Selective locations were later excavated, and field verification was performed using conventional inspection techniques to examine InVista’s performance.  The verification study showed an accurate match between the tool’s predictions and the actual corrosion locations on the pipes.

"This tool uses ultrasound to determine the corrosion damage areas. Generally, ultrasound is a very accurate method to measure the remaining wall thickness in pipes, and it only requires the presence of a one-phased liquid in the pipe to perform the inspection,” said Dr. Ali Minachi, lead engineer for this project. 

"This tool can easily be launched through a flange or a temporary attached spool and has the ability to pass through a 30-percent reduction in a pipe’s diameter,” he added. "This will allow inspection of pipes with reducers or valves. Also, the modular design of the tool allows passage through very tight bends.” Although the InVista tool can only inspect 3-inch to 12-inch pipes currently, the Inspection Department is working with Quest Integrity to design larger sized tools for different sized pipe used by Saudi Aramco.  

"This breakthrough technology will address one of the most critical inspection challenges facing Saudi Aramco operating facilities, namely the inspection of non-scrapeable pipeline,” said Nabil K. Al-Dabal, manager of the Inspection Department.  

"This technology is timely, tested with the cooperation of the Inspection department in addressing one of our major challenges in managing our off-plot crude lines, which includes more than 17,000 kilometers of pipe within Southern Area Oil Operations,” Al-Dabal said. 
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