Proving Reliability of FRP

September 1, 2015

Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP) has been used successfully to reduce corrosion losses, which include total cost of failure (lost production, safety risks, repair costs) and ongoing repair and replacement, since the 1950’s.  Many chemical process industries depend upon it to ensure safe and reliable operations.  In many cases, FRP tanks, vessels and piping will meet corrosive process requirements at lower initial cost and with longer life than stainless steel.

A major barrier to effective use of FRP in many process applications has been availability of inspection and evaluation methods that provide repeatable and reliable results for use in standard codes such as API 653, “Tank Inspection, Repair, Alteration, and Reconstruction” or API 570, “Piping Inspection Code”.  For metal equipment, these practices provide the basis for determining on-going fitness for service.  Furthermore, conventional and ordinary FRP inspection almost always requires intrusive inspections where the equipment must be emptied and companies and personnel are exposed to significant risk from entering confined spaces in process equipment.

FRP Inspection has finally caught up with steel. Now there is a tested and proven non-intrusive and non-destructive method for inspecting FRP which is used world-wide to provide the same level of structural information.  In addition to validation during development, the UTComp® System has been investigated by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, USA, and York University in Canada.  Both Universities report agreement of the UTComp® System results with results obtained from comparative destructive tests.  The UTComp® System has passed rigorous scientific testing, unlike any other method used to inspect FRP.

FRP can usually be inspected using the UTComp System while it is in operation and, of course, without entry into the equipment.  Inspections provide repeatable and reproducible quantitative information about the following:
• Corrosion barrier condition at and beneath the surface.
• Structural FRP condition for mechanical integrity.
• The actual strength and thickness of the FRP for determining its structural capacity.
• The rate of change of its structural capacity.
• Estimated remaining service life.
This information now allows users of FRP process equipment to manage FRP assets with the same discipline and scientific approach as for their metal assets.