Inspectioneering Journal

Digital Radiography: Advancements in Utilization, Benefits, and Overall Inspection Reliability

Increased benefits for process and personal safety

By Richard Mills, Vertical Oil and Gas Leader at GE, John T. Iman, Vertical Oil and Gas Leader at GE Oil and Gas Measurement & Controls-Inspection Technology, and Martin Sauerschnig, Senior Product Manager at GE Oil and Gas Measurement and Control. This article appears in the November/December 2013 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.


The oil and gas market has used X-ray inspection to improve the quality of products and services for more than 100 years, dating back to the discovery of X-rays in 1895 by Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen and radium in 1898 by Marie and Pierre Curie. Due to constant innovation in techniques and technologies, X-ray continues to play a crucial role in the industry for determining the integrity of welds, structures, and overall asset conditions.

The adoption of X-ray inspection by the oil & gas market led to the development and use of various non-destructive testing (NDT) techniques. X-ray inspection technology has made vast contributions in determining the integrity and viability of welds and in the provision of localized corrosion information via profile shots. The innovation for field use of X-ray continues to evolve and improve for the oil and gas sector as the need for clear, accurate images of difficult to access or highly-sensitive areas in equipment continues to foster innovation applications to x-ray, particularly when it comes to accessing (imaging) and measurement of localized forms of corrosion and other damage mechanisms.

Over recent years large strides have been made in application, development, and utilization of Digital Detector Arrays (DDAs) in field radiography environments (an application previously limited to film and computed radiography [CR] techniques). The use of DDAs for these applications shows benefits of significantly reduced exposure times versus traditional film and computed radiography techniques. These results were made possible by technology investments with a focus on image quality at lower radioactive exposure dosage. Unlike cabinet-based radiography, where dose is less important as humans are shielded from the x-ray exposure, field and medical applications must take this into greater consideration. This was a major factor in DDA design and choices for photodiodes, scintillator, and display electronics.

Application development efforts have included, and have been successfully implemented in, a wide range of field cases for the oil and gas industry. Significant reductions in exposure times have been realized in this industry, with better image quality. The reduction in exposure time not only enables productivity through shorter shot times and the instant availability of images for review and analysis, but also improves overall safety for radiation workers and other employees. This is achieved by decreasing radiation source deployment, and in some cases allows for a decrease in energy or source strength (for review and analysis).

Figure 1. Average Film Process for Profile X-ray
Figure 1. Average Film Process for Profile X-ray

Figure 2. Digital Radiography Process (Using DDA-Digital Detector Arrays) for Profile X-ray
Figure 2. Digital Radiography Process (Using DDA-Digital Detector Arrays) for Profile X-ray

Applications of Interest

The digital detector technology can be used for many oil and gas applications and particularly complements the Small Controlled Area Radiography (SCAR) system, low strength isotopes, constant potential X-ray generator, and even “Pulsed” X-ray cameras to provide safe, rapid, and environmentally friendly inspection options. Applications continue to be developed and to date include:

  • Corrosion and Erosion
  • Corrosion Under Insulation (CUI and corrosion “scabs”)
  • Flow Assisted Corrosion, Detection, and Measurement
  • Determine causes for valve operational issues (Block, Control, and Heavy Wall Valves)
  • Blockages in pipes (Standard Wall Piping, Boiler Tubes and Water Walls, Overhead Lines)
  • Liquid – vapor interfaces (Product Filled Lines)
  • Corrosion under Pipe Supports
  • Corrosion at Tees
  • Weld Integrity (Weld Quality)

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