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YOUNG TECHNOLOGY SHOWCASE

Subsea Corrosion/Erosion Monitoring

Detection and monitoring are important


prognostic means in preserving material integrity and reducing the life cycle
cost of industrial infrastructure, ships,
aircraft, ground vehicles, pipelines, oil
installations, etc. Having better control
of your infrastructures condition will
enable you to optimize profitability and
lower maintenance cost. Hence, monitoring an oil and gas pipeline will not
only work as a precaution, but can also
give information on when replacement
or repair is necessary, thereby maximizing uptime. There is a huge need for
reliable monitoring of pipe wall thickness, both topside and subsea. Even in
topside applications, the conditions
of operation may be hostile and problems such as large temperature variations, lack of space, fluid loading issues,
and a host of other factors make development of such a tool a challenging
task. Going subsea makes it even more
demanding when you have to take into
account factors such as high pressure
and limitedaccess.
Over the past years, ClampOn has
offered a corrosion/erosion monitor
(CEM) for topside installations. Major
advantages of this technology are its
noninvasiveness, high repeatability, lack
of any transducer movement, and high
coverage. The measurement principle is
based on dispersion of ultrasonic-guided
wave modes, and by using electromagnetism, these waves are transmitted along
the pipe wall without the sensor being in
direct contact with the metallic surface.
This makes it an excellent candidate for
subsea use. It is installed on the outer
pipe wall to produce real-time wall thickness information, not as a spot measurement, but as a unique average path wall
thickness. With several successful instal-

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lations topside, the ClampOn CEM has


also found applications subsea, with the
first unit installed at 2300 m in the Gulf
of Mexico in February and another 10
units to follow in the future.
Corrosion and erosion in subsea installations is detected by several
methods. In topside applications, the
alternatives are both more reliable and
many. In subsea applications, the more
hostile environment makes the detection of corrosion and erosion a more
challenging task. Piggable pipelines are
normally inspected at regular intervals
and tracking of pipeline integrity is in
general not problematic. Some unpiggable pipelines can be inspected using
cable-operated tools, but such inspections are expensive and may require a
shutdown of production. Subsea production templates, flow jumpers, manifolds, and flow lines can today only be
inspected by preinstallation of corrosion/erosion sensors or by use of sensors controlled by remotely operated
vehicles (ROVs).
Current preinstalled sensor systems
for monitoring pipeline integrity have
proven to be of limited value to operators. ROV-operated sensors only provide indicative and unreliable readings.
A major challenge is that hot spots
(i.e., areas particularly susceptible to
erosion-corrosion) are often detected
after the template has been in operation for some time. Accordingly, the
ability to retrofit a corrosion/erosion
monitor on identified hot spots subsea
is crucial. As an alternative, ClampOn
has developed a CEM that uses dispersion of guided waves to track changes in
pipe wall thickness using only a limited
number of transducers. The transducers are fixed at predetermined spots on

the pipes outer wall to monitor the loss


of wall thickness in longer stretches of
the pipe. The absence of any transducer
movement or mechanical motion adds a
high degree of robustness to the instrument. As it is permanently installed and
needs no recalibration, the CEM will be
both more cost-effective and reliable
than ROV-controlled methods. A variety of system configurations are available, ranging from stand-alone monitoring stations with data logging to
full real-time integration into existing
datainfrastructure.

Working Principle
For decades, guided lamb waves have
been known as a robust alternative for
characterizing material integrity. With
increased computer power in the 1990s,
they got more widespread use. Unlike
traditional ultrasonic testing, lamb
waves use wavelengths that are more
comparable with or are greater than
the thickness of the structure. At these
wavelengths, the attenuation is much
less, meaning that guided wave inspection has the potential to extend measurements of ultrasonic corrosion in
pipes over greaterdistances.
The CEM is installed with transducers working in a pitch catch mode
of operation covering stretches of several meters, giving the average wall
thickness between the transducers. The
robust thickness assessment procedure involves a comprehensive analysis of the phase and group velocity dispersion characteristics of appropriate
wave modes. The choice of modes for
the analysis constitutes an important
part of the design, as not all modes are
equally sensitive to variations in wall
thickness. Also, complications arising

JPT DECEMBER 2012

System Operation
The most obvious use for the CEM is
monitoring of pipe wall thickness, but
it can also find applications in several other areas such as tanks and separators. In practice, all metal structures
that satisfy operational conditions (such
as wall thickness and temperature) can
be monitored. In many ways, it is a flexible system, especially in system configuration. Typically, the system is set
up using eight transducers and an electronics unit that handles all signal acqui-

JPT DECEMBER 2012

2.0
1.8

Normalized Phase Velocity

1.6
1.4
1.2
1.0
0.8
0.6
0.4
Symmetric modes
Asymmetric modes

0.2
0.0

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Frequency x Thickness, MHz mm6


1.2
Symmetric modes
Asymmetric modes
CGV point

1.0
Normalized Group Velocity

from mode overlapping and distortion


have to be handled and overcome. Longterm monitoring may reveal local thickness variations that are a significant percentage of the average wall thickness.
Most guided wave modes do not display the robustness required to smoothly integrate these changes into a quantitative, rather than qualitative, thickness assessment. The CEM system algorithm incorporates a patented use of
so-called constant group velocity (CGV)
modes that provide maximum sensitivity to changes in wall thickness within the
constraints imposed by the necessary
robustness required by the technique.
In other words, the presence of highly localized damage and defects will be
quantitatively incorporated into a robust
average thickness measurement, with
the use of an effective spectral and temporal dispersive analysis of the generated and received waveform. Fig. 1 shows
the phase and group velocity dispersion
curves for lamb waves in steel. The fundamental flexural mode (A0) is especially well suited for wall thickness measurement in the vicinity of its CGV point, as
marked in the figure. The position of this
peak is decided by the frequency multiplied by the thickness product, meaning
the inspection frequency will be dependent on the wall thickness of the inspected pipe. This CGV measurement is a relative measurement, meaning that the
system needs an initial thickness value
(measured during/prior to system installation), which it uses as a baseline reading, and calculates changes in average
thickness from this initial value.

0.8

0.6

0.4

0.2

0.0

10

Frequency, MHz x Thickness, mm

Fig. 1Phase and group dispersion curves for guided wave modes.
The green circle indicates the constant group velocity point at which
ClampOn operates.

sition and processing. The transducers


work in pairs in a pitch catch mode of
operation giving the average wall thickness of the area between them. By choosing the transducer positions with care,
normally unavailable areas can be monitored (e.g., buried parts of a pipeline).
Requirements imposed by important factors, such as mode separation and spurious arrivals, place limits on the maximum and minimum distance between
transducers. These limits are functions of
pipe thickness and diameter, and need to

be decided for each installation to maximize coverage area. Most commonly,


transducers will be placed on two rings
around the pipe as illustrated in Fig. 2,
and set up to monitor the area between
the rings and, if possible, the area along
the ring. Because of wave diffraction,
the covered area stretches beyond the
physical dimension of the transducers.
Clearly, with the transducers being permanently installed, the coverage area of
the system will be a fraction of the area
over which the system is deployed. Typ-

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YOUNG TECHNOLOGY SHOWCASE

ically, this fraction will be greater than


0.65, or 65%, and can reach 100% of a
selected area.
The transducers can be set up in
such a way that several paths monitor
the same area (i.e., they are crossing each
other). This makes it possible to extract
some additional information from the
measurements. By combining wall thickness data with information on the transducer positions, a picture can be created
showing both the position and the severity of damage. The more measurement
data (i.e., transducers) that are used in
the calculation, the higher quality of the
picture. Fig. 3 shows results from a demonstration using 16 transducers on a
plate. Both the maximum depth and the
location of two defects were calculated
and found to be in good agreement with
actualdata.
Once installed, wall thickness trends
are generated automatically and can be
observed in real time on a computer running ClampOn CEM software, or logged
internally in a data logger. The instrument, topside, is usually hard wired to
a power supply and a computer in a safe
area. At many subsea locations, it may
not be applicable, or possible, to hard
wire the instrument to existing infra-

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Subsea Development
There will always be uncertainties when
adapting a proven topside solution to
the subsea environment. Both the guided
wave technique and the transducer technology used by ClampOn give the instru-

ment a good starting point by avoiding some of the commonly encountered


challenges. Without the noncontact feature of the transducers, this instrument
would not have been feasible for subsea applications. Based on our knowledge and experience, the main reason
for the problems with other retrofitted
systems is the piezoelectric transducers
themselves. Such transducers are highly
affected by temperature, aging effects,
and the acoustic coupling between the
ultrasonic sensor and the pipe wall. Lack
of long-term stability is the key issue.
In order to maintain the repeatability
of the system, frequent recalibrations
are needed. This is unsuitable for longterm subsea monitoring. In order to
overcome this stability issue, ClampOn
Electromagnetic Acoustic Transducers
(CEMATs) have been developed. CEMATs
allow ultrasonic waves to be created and
picked up without being acoustically coupled to the pipe wall, making this a very
stable solution that will not change over

Wall Thickness Loss [mm] Maximum Depth 0.55714 mm;


Average Depth 0.38684 mm

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Y-axis, cm

Fig. 2An example of


transducers set up with six
sensors. Usually the transducers
are installed on two rings,
andthe area between the
transducers is monitored. The
red portion indicates the size
of the areamonitored by one
transducer pair.

structure, and the only option will be


to use a battery pack and an industrial
computer with internal logging. A battery pack is usually designed to last 5
years and will then have to be replaced
by a ROV to secure continued operation throughout the instrument lifetime.
Data will be saved to internal memory and can be retrieved by an acoustic modem, which allows for two-way
communication. Inherent limitations
imposed by transducer sensitivity limits,
coupled with the CEM ultrasonic technique, indicates that the system will perform as expected on thicknesses varying
from 5 mm to 35 mm, giving a sensitivity
between 0.1% and 1%, depending on the
temperature variations of the pipeline.

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20

10

0
30

20

10

10

20

30

X-axis, cm

Fig. 3Travel time tomography can provide more information on


systems in which several transducers are covering the same area. The
results are obtained from a demonstration using 16 transducers to
detect two damages and showed both localization and the extent
of damage.

JPT DECEMBER 2012

ROVCEMThe BP System

Electronic canister
Transducer clamp

Battery pack
Acoustic modem

Fig. 4A ROV installable solution of ClampOns subsea CEM used


for the first project in cooperation with BP. The unit consists of a
main clamp that holds the electronics unit and battery pack, and a
transducer clamp.

time. The CEMATs have been designed


with increased sensitivity to make them
less vulnerable to installation deviation,
and to make it possible to place them
on the outside of the pipe coating. The
existing surface coating on the pipe can
remain in place and does not have to be
modified in any way.
Some challenges cannot be so easily
avoided. An instrument based on ultrasound means we also have to take into
account changes in the acoustic premises (e.g., much better acoustic coupling between pipe wall and water than
pipe wall and air). Limited access to
the instrument after installation means
fewer opportunities for troubleshooting
and repair compared with first installing an instrument topside. With this in
mind, many of the solutions selected for
the subsea CEM are inspired by other
proven ClampOn products. The electronics are based on the solution used
for the topside CEM version, and the
housing design is based on the companys existing deepwater model, rated to
more than 3000 m.
Much of the development work
on the subsea CEM has been related

JPT DECEMBER 2012

to mechanical work (i.e., subsea clamp


design and design of electronic housing). Two solutions have been proposed:
one ROV installable and one preinstallable solution. There will be no difference in the way they operate and they
will give the same reliability and repeatability of measurement results. They
differ in the way they are installed, with
the ROV installable system being a fully
ROV installed system based on a clamp
design. Depending on the system setup,
the ROV solution can consist of a main
clamp containing the electronics and
one or two separate transducer clamps.
The transducers are based on a wetmateable design and only need a clean
spot or location before being installed
on a pipe structure. This is achieved
by running a cleaning tool to remove
any fouling. The ROV installable system is flexible and installation in both
bends and straight sections is possible.
As an example, compare the first subsea
CEM with a ROV clamp that was developed in cooperation with BP, as shown
in Fig. 4.
The preinstallable type has the
transducers installed topside before

Fig. 5A preinstalled solution set


up with six transducers.

being deployed subsea, meaning it can


use approximately the same mounting
mechanism as the topside version. Still,
the electronics unit, and if required the
battery unit, will be made ROV replaceable. All transducers can be put underneath the coating for better protection
if desirable. Fig. 5 shows an example
of a topside installable solution using
six CEMATs to monitor an 8-in. bend.
As part of the development effort, it
has been imperative to design and conduct representative experimental work
to verify design assumptions and to test
the functionality of the ROV installable
clamp, and data acquisition and acoustic
properties. In February, the first subsea
CEM was installed as the final part of the
development process. The monitoring
system is now available on the market,
and won an Offshore Technology Conference Spotlight on New Technology
award in Houston this year.JPT

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