Pipeline in-line inspections (ILI) are one of the primary methods used to assess the integrity of operating oil and gas pipelines. Conventional ILI technology is based on ultrasonic testing (UT) or magnetic flux leakage (MFL) sensors. Although these technologies are suitable for most pipeline inspections, there remains an opportunity to expand ILI technology and application. ExxonMobil and Innospection Ltd. are working to develop a new ILI sensor technology based on a combination of Magnetic Eddy Current (MEC) and multi-differential eddy current. This new technology provides the potential to detect small volumetric features, inspect heavy wall gas pipelines, and inspect pipelines with corrosion resistant alloy (CRA) or non-metallic liners.
Initial feasibility trials were conducted with a prototype ILI MEC tool. Tests were conducted on an 8.625” (219 mm) X65 carbon steel pipe lined with 0.118” (3 mm) of Inconel 825 pipe. Four types of defects were machined into the pipe to represent natural defects anticipated in service:
• Metal loss features from 3 to 24 mm in diameter on the external surface of the carbon steel base pipe
• Erosion on the internal layer of the CRA liner
• Internal girth weld crack-like defects
• Metal loss defects at the interface of the CRA and carbon steel
Over 80 pull tests were conducted to determine the detection capabilities and speed sensitivities of the tool. Defects were detected by the sensors including the very small (<10 mm) pinhole-type features. Signals were analyzed by a preliminary sizing algorithm to demonstrate proof of concept. Detection performance was not affected at speeds up to 0.75 m/s. Since detection capabilities exceeded expectations, future development will continue based on the current prototype.