If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.
Reliability engineers depend on data and systematic approaches to ensure the safe operation of the facilities and processes under their care. These professionals follow codes and standards that describe inspection technologies and methods to monitor the status of equipment to determine fitness for service and predict when maintenance is expected in order to preserve mechanical integrity.
Their work culture is evolving from reacting to emergencies to scientifically identifying actions to protect human and environmental health and safety and avoid unplanned repairs, with corresponding cost savings and availability increases
But reliability engineers and facility operators also struggle with a frustrating problem: a lack of data to work with when it comes to inspection of Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP) equipment.
Traditional FRP pipe inspection: hunches, intuition and guesswork
Traditional inspection of FRP focuses on the state of the inner surface of the corrosion barrier. Based on its appearance, assumptions are often made about the capability of the FRP to perform its function. Furthermore, there has been no research or published material that provides any scientific connection between the appearance of FRP and its reliability.
Without data and good information, backed by verified research results, decisions based on a visual inspection of the corrosion barrier rely by necessity on hunches, intuition and guesswork.
The way to obtain more information — according to traditional theory – is to perform destructive tests, thus damaging the asset that reliability engineers are trying to preserve.
For most piping, it is not even possible to make these inspections unless a piece of the FRP is removed. Cutting a piece from process piping and repairing it usually requires that the work be completed according to a piping code such as ASME B31.3. After the damage has been repaired, a hydrotest is required. The total cost to the facility can be enormous, considering downtime, engineering, and repairs even before any evaluation of the pipe has started. Finally, any conclusions about piping condition hinge on the specific samples removed; if only one sample is removed, let’s hope it comes from the right place!
Historically, reliable operation has been preserved by repairing or replacing FRP from these subjective inspections, although the maintenance costs have been high and I have seen more than one shutdown extended because of extra time for FRP repairs.
The UltraAnalytix® solution for non-destructive, non-intrusive FRP testing
Reliability engineers now have a better way to thoroughly inspect FRP piping using proven non-destructive and non-intrusive ultrasonic methods.
UltraAnalytix® by UTComp® uses conventional ultrasonic test equipment to take readings from the outer surface of piping at key locations where chemical attack and stress combine to weaken the pipe. The ultrasonic readings are then post-processed to determine how the pipe has changed and to identify if action is required.
UltraAnalytix® has been tested by many universities, equipment owners and large manufacturers. All tests have shown that the UltraAnalytix® system provides reliable results.
Furthermore, these tests can be completed while the facility is operating, so there need not be any interruption of production.
What about cost? Our results show the total cost of UltraAnalytix® frp pipe inspection is less than 10% of the cost of the conventional inspection methods when premature repairs and replacements are included. This means a steep reduction in overall inspection costs. Based on the engineering results that are provided by UltraAnalytix®, we are also seeing that FRP lasts longer than the traditional approaches claim, often at 90% reduction in maintenance costs. This data-driven approach is increasingly being used worldwide to provide accurate and reliable service-life forecasting for FRP assets.
– Geoff Clarkson, P. Eng, FEC
President & CEO of UTComp
Want to know more? Email Geoff at G.Clarkson@UTCOMP.com or call 519-620-0772.