Continuous wall-thickness monitoring via installed sensors – benefits and limitations
A number of new technologies are emerging to enhance integrity testing and inspection using installed sensors to measure wall thickness and monitor corrosion rates. These new methods are destined to play an important role in the development of corrosion management in the refinery environment. However, it is important at the outset to recognise the potential benefits and limitations of installed ultrasonic corrosion sensors for thickness monitoring.
A refinery looking to implement continuous monitoring will typically assess the value across several potential areas of benefit:
Risk minimisation and productivity enhancement: achieved by lowering the risk of unplanned outage, maximising plant availability and production rates
Enhancing Safety: achieved by reduced manual operation, continuous asset monitoring, and minimising risk of loss of containment
Cost optimisation: Balancing overall installation, operating and capital cost of implementing continuous monitoring against the current cost of inspection, complementing current integrity testing and inspection procedures
Increased intelligence: Optimising asset integrity management decisions such as maintenance and corrosion inhibition strategy
On the other side there are potential limitations to the use of current installed sensor technology for integrity testing and inspection. These include limitations in addressing localised wall loss, such as pitting, for detecting cracking mechanisms, in relation to atmospheric or surface induced corrosion, and for unpredictable corrosion mechanisms such as biologically induced corrosion.
One aspect which has been a limitation until recently, was in relation to monitoring in extreme environments such as high temperature. However recent technical advances are opening up the use of permanently installed sensors in high temperature environments allowing benefits to be realised across a wider range of critical refinery measurement locations and processes.
Specialist hardware is required to operate in extreme environments and comply with hazardous environment certification. Only a limited number of sensors are available which can truly survive the harsh conditions of long term permanent installation on plant.
Ionix Advanced Technologies was formed with the aim to develop the next-generation of non-invasive, permanent ultrasonic wall thickness monitoring technology capable of providing accurate measurement over the wide temperature ranges found in a refinery.
Conventional transducers used in ultrasonic thickness applications suffer from an inherent lack of stability at high temperature (above 400oF/200oC) with short lifetimes and variable response. Ionix has invented a series of proprietary high performance piezoelectric materials which enable it to produce sensors that can serve in a range of demanding environment applications.
Ultrasonic transducers have been designed to operate continuously in extreme environments. Powered by Ionix’s novel piezoelectric technology, HotSenseTM transducers produce reliable, stable and cost effective ultrasonic measurements at temperatures from –40°C up to +380°C.
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