While traveling recently on business in the Middle East, I was fortunate enough to hook up with John O’Brien, formerly of Saudi Aramco, and now starting up his own business called IRC (Innovative Research Consultants). In addition to NDE consulting and NDE vendor representation, John intends for IRC to fill what I think is a real niche in our industry by acting as a knowledgeable broker between companies that need NDE tools and techniques, and companies or groups that are interested in doing R&D to fill those needs. The value that John intends for IRC to add to the process is for the sponsor of NDE R&D to get more value from the R&D project while the R&D organization stays more tuned into reality for the end use of the NDE tool under development. I think this is a very interesting concept, as I have seen and experienced the situation where the user knows what he needs, but is unable to effectively communicate it to the NDE technocrats, and unable to stay on top of the project to make sure it stays on track and well focused on the user needs. But more on that later.
I spoke with John one evening about a number of interesting applications of new NDE technologies that are being tested and used at various sites in the Middle East. The following is a brief summary of our discussions. I thought many of you would be interested in the topics and might also be able to add to the discussion, which I invite you to do by making use of the IJ forum website.
Acoustic Emission for Tank Bottom Screening
Some Middle Eastern and European operators are now using AE successfully to screen tanks for internal inspection by listening for active tank bottom corrosion, and then grading the tank as high, medium or low need for internal inspection. This is an on-line AE assessment that is completed within an hour or so after the tank has been valved shut and allowed to settle for about 24 hours. The AE signals do not distinguish between top side or bottom side corrosion but detect both, which is what we want out of such a screening methodology. If the tank has an FRP liner, then some adjustment to the signal interpretation is necessary. One company did 100 tanks in 1998, which were due for inspection by normal interval setting techniques, and was able to extend the internal inspection interval on 63% with the application of this technique. It should be noted that the operators are NOT listening for leaks with this method, but rather, as I mentioned before, are listening for active corrosion.