Adding value for customers by proving GRP/FRP equipment is fit for service
UltraAnalytix licensee Tank Inspections Ltd. is a sister company of Forbes Technologies Ltd., the United Kingdom’s largest and oldest manufacturer of FRP/GRP and thermoplastic tanks. The Forbes Group has decades of experience in tank design, manufacture, installation and testing of composite vessels and scrubber systems.
We sat down with the company’s Design Manager David Jones to talk about his experiences working with UTComp and the impact of UltraAnalytix NDT in the UK, particularly in the water industry. Jones said the technology has been a game changer that has allowed clients to extend the life of older GRP/FRP tanks after UltraAnalytix inspection has proven they’re fit for service.
Q: What impact has UltraAnalytix NDT had on the industry and your customers? How is it different from what you were doing before?
A: UltraAnalytix has made quite an impact by improving how we inspect tanks and assess whether they’re fit for service. In the past, we relied primarily on visual inspections, often involving confined space entry, we could spark test them to identify leaks and cracks or see other damage to the tank lining. But, then the only way to assess the residual strength of a tank was with destructive testing, where we cut a piece out of the tank, take that piece away for testing, then repair the tank. Destructive testing works but it’s time-consuming and expensive, and not as repeatable as you’d like. You can’t go around cutting holes in the side of tanks every year or two years to find out how the tank is doing. The UTComp method allows us to continually inspect tanks and get some meaningful results, which wasn’t really possible before. It’s a bit of a game changer for inspecting GRP/FRP tanks.
Q: Is there a particular UltraAnalytix NDT inspection job that stands out for you? Why?
A: There’s not really one inspection that stands out. What does stand out is that with the UTComp system, we can inspect tanks which are beyond their design life. This is especially important for our clients in the water industry. A lot of tanks are located inside buildings — for both practical and aesthetic reasons — they’re difficult to remove and replace. Being able to extend the life of these tanks, by proving that they are still fit for service, has been a big help to the water industry.
Q: Is there an example of an assessment that clearly shows the value of the UltraAnalytix system in terms of insights for the customer compared to other methods?
The main difference with UTComp inspections is that you don’t have to get inside a tank. The UltraAnalytix system allows you to determine the condition of the corrosion barrier ultrasonically. If you do the inspection, and you find everything’s fine, then there’s no need to get inside. There’s no confined space entry, there’s no emptying a tank, and you can still be in operation while you’re doing the inspection, which is very, very handy for clients. If the results show there is some damage to the corrosion barrier that might need attention, but the tank is still fit for service, then more testing and possibly repairs can be planned into the maintenance schedule. We can work with the client to get the tank emptied and cleaned at a convenient time so we can get back inside to have a look to see what’s happening before any problems develop.
Q: What’s it like working with UTComp as an UltraAnalytix licensee? What impact has it had on your business?
A: Working with UTComp is excellent, really. If I’ve got any questions or problems that have cropped up with inspections, then Geoff and the people there are always very quick to get back to us and help out. As a UTComp licensee, we can give added value to the customer by quantifying what’s going on with their equipment. We’ve inspected tanks for clients and told them the equipment is still fit for service, they just need to monitor these bits and pieces. Whereas other inspection companies would have scrapped them purely on the basis of a visual inspection. So that’s helped clients save money and gain confidence in the inspection results because what they’re actually getting isn’t just a subjective look of the tank.
Q: Are there any new developments for your business that you’d like to share?
A: We’re really busy at the moment, busier than we have been for a good number of years. As Tank Inspections and Forbes, we manufacture, design, and install tanks, and the inspection side of it is helping us have a more rounded business. Currently we’re building an 860m² extension to the factory at the Kelso works with an extra-high bay to accommodate demand for our manufacturing services.
As a result, we like to think that we can provide clients with a more comprehensive understanding of GRP/FRP tanks and tank inspections. As an UltraAnalytix licensee, we’re able to provide an extra level of service that helps us stand out from our competitors in the inspection field.
Q: What new developments, challenges or opportunities do you see ahead for the industry in general?
A: The main challenge we’re finding now relates to ensuring that inspection methods keep up with new manufacturing techniques for equipment made from composite materials. We design and build glass reinforced plastic (GRP) tanks, which UTComp’s method can help us inspect. But we also produce thermoplastic tanks, helically wound high-density linear polyethylene (HDPE) tanks. Currently, there are not many ways to inspect this material. So that’s something that I am hoping that Geoff and the team can be looking at to see if there are methods to progress inspection of those tanks further.