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Title: Innovative Sensors for Pipeline Crawlers: Rotating Permanent Magnet Inspection

Internal inspection of pipelines is an important tool for ensuring safe and reliable delivery of fossil energy products. Current inspection systems that are propelled through the pipeline by the product flow cannot be used to inspect all pipelines because of the various physical barriers they may encounter. To facilitate inspection of these ''unpiggable'' pipelines, recent inspection development efforts have focused on a new generation of powered inspection platforms that are able to crawl slowly inside a pipeline and can maneuver past the physical barriers that limit internal inspection applicability, such as bore restrictions, low product flow rate, and low pressure. The first step in this research was to review existing inspection technologies for applicability and compatibility with crawler systems. Most existing inspection technologies, including magnetic flux leakage and ultrasonic methods, had significant implementation limitations including mass, physical size, inspection energy coupling requirements and technology maturity. The remote field technique was the most promising but power consumption was high and anomaly signals were low requiring sensitive detectors and electronics. After reviewing each inspection technology, it was decided to investigate the potential for a new inspection method. The new inspection method takes advantage of advances in permanent magnet strength, along with theirmore » wide availability and low cost. Called rotating permanent magnet inspection (RPMI), this patent pending technology employs pairs of permanent magnets rotating around the central axis of a cylinder to induce high current densities in the material under inspection. Anomalies and wall thickness variations are detected with an array of sensors that measure local changes in the magnetic field produced by the induced current flowing in the material. This inspection method is an alternative to the common concentric coil remote field technique that induces low-frequency eddy currents in ferromagnetic pipes and tubes. Since this is a new inspection method, both theory and experiment were used to determine fundamental capabilities and limitations. Fundamental finite element modeling analysis and experimental investigations performed during this development have led to the derivation of a first order analytical equation for designing rotating magnetizers to induce current and positioning sensors to record signals from anomalies. Experimental results confirm the analytical equation and the finite element calculations provide a firm basis for the design of RPMI systems. Experimental results have shown that metal loss anomalies and wall thickness variations can be detected with an array of sensors that measure local changes in the magnetic field produced by the induced current flowing in the material. The design exploits the phenomenon that circumferential currents are easily detectable at distances well away from the magnets. Current changes at anomalies were detectable with commercial low cost Hall Effect sensors. Commercial analog to digital converters can be used to measure the sensor output and data analysis can be performed in real time using PC computer systems. The technology was successfully demonstrated during two blind benchmark tests where numerous metal loss defects were detected. For this inspection technology, the detection threshold is a function of wall thickness and corrosion depth. For thinner materials, the detection threshold was experimentally shown to be comparable to magnetic flux leakage. For wall thicknesses greater than three tenths of an inch, the detection threshold increases with wall thickness. The potential for metal loss anomaly sizing was demonstrated in the second benchmarking study, again with accuracy comparable to existing magnetic flux leakage technologies. The rotating permanent magnet system has the potential for inspecting unpiggable pipelines since the magnetizer configurations can be sufficiently small with respect to the bore of the pipe to pass obstructions that limit the application of many inspection technologies. Also, since the largest dimension of the Hall Effect sensor is two tenths of an inch, the sensor packages can be small, flexible and light. The power consumption, on the order of ten watts, is low compared to some inspection systems; this would enable autonomous systems to inspect longer distances between charges. This project showed there are no technical barriers to building a field ready unit that can pass through narrow obstructions, such as plug valves. The next step in project implementation is to build a field ready unit that can begin to establish optimal performance capabilities including detection thresholds, sizing capability, and wall thickness limitations.« less
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Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Battelle Memorial Institute
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Country of Publication:
United States