Predictive maintenance for FRP composite equipment

March 6, 2023

Evidence-based predictive maintenance tools are game-changers for asset integrity management, including for FRP composite tanks, ductwork, piping and other equipment assets. 

What is predictive maintenance?

According to ReliablePlant magazine, “Predictive maintenance (PdM) is maintenance that monitors the performance and condition of equipment during normal operation to reduce the likelihood of failures.”

The ideal scenario is to obtain data that provide a clear, complete, ongoing picture on the current condition and the mechanical integrity of each asset in the plant – without shutting down operations, without cleaning out processing equipment and without risky confined space entry.

UltraAnalytix NDT by UTComp is the first predictive maintenance inspection system for FRP composite tanks, vessels and other equipment assets. A proven non-destructive method, it uses external visual inspection and analysis of ultrasonic data (collected from the external surface of the asset) to assess unseen damage mechanisms. 

Innovative post-processing of the raw ultrasonic data with a proprietary algorithm pinpoints changes to the asset condition that are invisible to the human eye in order. This allows us to determine Fitness for Service and accurately estimate Remaining Service Life.

FRP composite damage mechanisms

For FRP composite tanks, piping, ductwork, reactors and other equipment require evaluation of mechanical and chemical damage mechanisms.

Mechanical damage mechanisms include high stresses, bending movements, fatigue, compression loads, and defective installation.

Chemical damage is the main risk factor in FRP chemical processing equipment such as reactors, scrubbing columns and piping with injection points where chemical reactions are taking place. In some cases, damage due to chemical attack is also magnified where damage to the protective inner surface has occurred due to leaks along internal bonds, leaks in thermoplastic lining welds, cracks and abrasion.

Why is predictive maintenance important?

Armed with data, reliability managers and operators can confidently schedule asset repairs, replacements and any necessary intrusive inspections during planned outages, meeting their uptime goals while avoiding failures that can have serious consequences for human health and environmental sustainability.

Planning a predictive maintenance program for FRP assets

Identify condition monitoring locations

UltraAnalytix 4 step process graphic

UltraAnalytix inspection 4-step process for non-destructive testing.

The first step to inspect an FRP asset is to prepare a plan based on the actual equipment configuration. This plan identifies condition monitoring locations (CMLs) for ongoing, periodic inspections. The locations to be inspected are chosen to provide information for trending areas that can be tracked and allow prediction of remaining service life. The plan must also provide guidance to operators and inspectors for future inspections.

Effective inspection of FRP process equipment requires scanning/ assessment of the FRP at locations that will provide information on the active damage mechanisms (damage to the matrix or resin, damage to the reinforcement fibers or damage to the interface of the matrix).

This is similar to the well-established systematic approaches for inspection of steel piping and vessels that are contained within a system of consensus codes such as API 570[1], API 510[2], and API 653[6], which specify in-service inspection and condition-monitoring programs to determine the integrity of storage tanks, piping, and pressure vessels. 

Consult original design codes

The inspection results are used with the original design codes to evaluate whether the assets are able to continue in service safely and reliably. Inspection planning for FRP using this technology does require some assessment of damage sources expected. 

Although each situation is unique, inspection plans should consider accelerated chemical damage near injection points and beside joints. Magnified mechanical damage should be expected beside anchors and supports. These damage sources are often exacerbated where abrasion can occur.

Watch for damage from defective installation work

At the time of the inspection, a systematic, external inspection scan should be completed that focuses on damage that often develops from defective installation of the FRP vessel or piping. This inspection should look for damage or defects in support structures, FRP condition, component damage, flanges and fittings. Many near-term failures can result from defects detected at this stage.

Predictive maintenance reporting

UltraAnalytix NDT reports include a detailed overview of the asset condition, an estimate of the remaining service life, plus additional recommendations to ensure safe performance and avoid unnecessary replacement costs.

The evaluation covers:

  • corrosion barrier condition
  • structural changes occurring within the composite structure
  • composite strength
  • composite thickness, and
  • damage caused by abrasion, corrosion and mechanical loads due to impact, poor supports, earthquakes, hurricanes and other factors.

Our clients are therefore able to schedule any needed repairs during planned shutdowns, while avoiding asset failures and unnecessary replacement of assets that have years of remaining service life. 

Questions about your FRP composite equipment?

Get in touch.

Questions about your FRP composite equipment?